“Live your life for you not for anyone else. Don’t let the fear of being judged, rejected or disliked stop you from being yourself.” ~Sonya Parker
Hearing this word probably makes you think of not being good enough or not reaching certain standards. As unpleasant as it is, rejection is part of life, and my life is no exception.
From being the last to be chosen to join the volleyball team to receiving a college admissions response in the dreaded “thin envelope,” I quickly learned that not everybody thought the highest of me.
As years went by and I took on more risks, I invited more rejection into my life. The boy I crushed on for months only wanted to be friends. Another candidate was selected for my dream job. Many literary agents thought my manuscript wasn’t a good fit for them.
And eventually, I endured the ultimate form of rejection: The man who promised to be by my side till “death do us part” changed his mind.
One of the most famous statements by renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow is that self-actualizers are “independent of the good opinion of other people.”
Even though so many of us have heard Maslow’s or a similar statement, rejection continues to bring up our most negative emotions. We feel ashamed and inadequate, and wonder whether something is seriously wrong with us.
A recent social research study shows that the same regions of the brain that become active during painful sensory experiences are also activated when we experience social rejection.
Rejection literally hurts.
What to do? How do we lessen the pain? How do we join the ranks of Maslow’s self-actualizers?
Here is what I’ve learned.
Rejection is negative judgment manifested, and judgment is subjective by nature.
This means you can decide to interpret rejection as evidence of someone’s perception rather than as evidence of your flawed nature.
The area rug that is beautiful to your best friend might be hideous to you, and that’s okay. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but an opinion doesn’t determine whether a rug is truly pretty or ugly. The rug just is.
The same principle applies to opinions about everything else, including people’s opinions about you.
People who reject you are the minority.
Estimate how many people you’ve met in your entire life. Count the number of people who have severely rejected you. Divide the second number by the first, and you’ll see how the result rarely exceeds 1%.
Is 1% significant? If you only drink 1% milk, you feel your diet is healthful because after all, 1% milk fat is almost nothing, correct?
I’ve met thousands of people throughout my life, and even though I have received a fair deal of moderate rejection, only a couple of people have rejected me in such a way that seriously challenged my self-identity.
Bottom line, extreme rejection is usually the exception.
The intensity of your negative emotions will depend on the degree of attention you place on the rejection.
You can be aware of the unpleasant experience, but if you don’t focus on it, you’ll take away its power.
Place your attention on the positive feedback and support you receive from others. Being consciously aware of the people who have encouraged you will allow you to align with high-energy emotions and positive situations.
Rejection can be an instrument for learning and growth.
Although rejection is subjective, you could decide to use the experience as an opportunity to contemplate your current behaviors, and determine ways to grow and become a better person.
Rejection from potential employers became my motivation to review my resume and enroll in professional development courses.
The feedback I received from literary agents propelled me to bring my writing craft to the next level.
My husband’s decision to leave our marriage moved me to help others going through a similar situation.
Rejection is a sign you’re experiencing life to the fullest.
Chances are, if you had chosen to hide under the covers and had not pursued the friendship, career, contest, or relationship, you wouldn’t have experienced rejection.
But you wouldn’t have completely experienced life either.
Learn to see rejection as proof that you’re brave enough to take on risks and to participate in the wide realm of experiences available on this planet. Feel empowered by what you have accomplished.
The only approval that truly matters is your self-approval.
Your self-love and respect for your uniqueness will trump the negative emotions brought up by rejection.
Once you’re conscious of your magnificence, rejection will lose its power.
You might not feel happy about being rejected, but you will bounce back quickly.
Most importantly, you’ll continue embracing life, pursuing your truth, and focusing on the many gifts in your past, present, and future.