Seeing Rejection As Redirection: What We Gain When We Lose

“Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” ~Steve Maraboli

Rejection hurts. Whether it is from family, friends, co-workers, or a new company, when we experience rejection it hits us right in the heart—the control center to our emotions.

We may wonder, what is wrong with me? We might begin pulling ourselves apart with self-criticism. However, rejection also has a way of teaching us, redirecting us, and ultimately making our lives better.

I have learned to look at rejection differently these past couple of years. Actually, many of my greatest blessings have come out of what I perceived as rejection. Yes, there have been many painful experiences, but then again, I always have been one to learn more through pain than through pleasure.

When I was younger, I faced rejection daily. I was an overweight teenager with crushes on any boy who looked at me. Other kids would constantly make fun of me, and no boys dared to show me any bit of interest. I was bullied and rejected simply for being me.

I experienced rejection around relationships several more times as I grew older. There was a period when I was so afraid of rejection, I clung onto friendships and relationships that I intuitively knew were not healthy for me.

Unsurprisingly, these relationships eventually died out. This, of course, validated my beliefs that I was unworthy and that I would always be rejected. More so, it led to significant feelings of loneliness, even surrounded by bodies of people.

As I got into my career, there were several times I did not get the job I had hoped for.

I did not receive my professional counseling license in the time I wanted and planned for. I did not get that promotion I had worked so hard for. The rejections just kept piling on.

Finally, it was like a light bulb went on. These things were all happening for a reason, and they were all perfectly timed.

I began to spin the way I viewed rejection. I started to see it as an ability to reassess and become more acquainted with different parts of myself. In some situations, I was able to see that maybe I was not on the right path. Or, if it still felt I needed to be there, I was able to look within and see where I needed to improve in order to make it happen.

My perspective became clearer. Every job I was denied for, opened the door to new (and better) opportunities. Every relationship that hurt me, led me to my true love (and husband-to-be). Every mistake I made, guided me to look within.

I was able to learn, grow, and ultimately make changes. I forgave myself for not knowing what I did not know until I learned it. I found myself thanking all of the people, places, and things that rejected me. They led me on a process to being the person I am today, a woman of integrity, grace, resilience, and strength.

But, let me warn you, this epiphany did not happen overnight. Slowly, I began to see my perception and my beliefs were no longer serving me. I started to look at situations differently, and began searching for the blessing in disguise. I know, it sounds easier said than done, but there are some tools we could use to help quiet the inner critic that shows up during these times of distress.

1. Treat yourself with compassion.

If there’s anyone that knows the dialogue “You deserve bad things because…” it's me. But, research shows negative self-talk is destructive and ineffective.

If I believe I deserve bad things, I will start to attract people or things that validate that belief. What we feel on the inside, manifests itself on the outside.

We need to work on responding to our inner critic with kindness and compassion. A helpful way of doing this is communicating with yourself like a dear friend.

When a girlfriend went through a job denial, I encouraged her to trust that new opportunities would evolve. I also acknowledged her courage for just showing up and interviewing. I would never have said she’s hopeless and she ought to give up.

When friends have gone through terrible breakups, I have always done my best to remind them they are worthy of love, and to help them find the lesson in the situation. I wouldn't have told them it was their fault because there was something wrong with them.

2. View rejection as getting outside your comfort zone (where all the magic happens).

If we never experience rejection, we are probably not taking many chances, and therefore, not making many changes.

When we get rejected, we can at least be comforted in knowing that we are taking risks. These risks help us better understand who we are and where we are going. More so, they help us build strength and develop skills to deal with inevitable adversity life brings, which helps us build up resilience.

I worked hard to obtain a professional license, which was denied to me when I first applied due to a history of being dishonest. At the time, this broke me. I felt so ashamed and scared. However, this allowed an opportunity to really challenge and get honest with myself.

My use of alcohol was starting to have consequences that I attempted to hide. It was beginning to slip into other areas of my life. Ultimately, this rejection directed me to a life in recovery, which constantly gets me out of my comfort zone.

Not only am I living present and sober, it has taught me to get out of myself and be of service to others. Fast forward a year, I got my license. Boy, did it mean way more to me then than it would have the year before, as I put in a lot of hard work to making changes and re-aligning my life.

3. Don’t let rejection define you.

Many times when we face rejection, we personalize it. We make the event of rejection far more than the event. We begin to identify with it. This is a failure, therefore I am the failure. It is important to separate what happened to us from who we are.

Rejection isn’t always personal. Oftentimes when someone rejects us, it has nothing to do with faults on our part; it just means we weren’t a good fit for that person, job, or opportunity.

If we take rejection to mean we’re unworthy or unlovable, it’s likely because the rejection is triggering an existing belief formed earlier in life—which is a good thing, since this points toward something we may want to address and release.

I had a tendency to put my worth into external things, and in a sense, abandon myself. After patterns of rejection, it became apparent I wasn’t meeting myself with compassion. I was meeting myself with shame and attempting to shame myself into making changes.

I worked on consciously being mindful of my thoughts and shifting them to be more supportive. I learned that failure was an event, but not me as a person. Furthermore, I practiced trusting that things will work out at the right time. If it was not working out right now, I still had something to learn even if that was just to be patient.

4. Find the lesson in rejection.

We could easily focus on what we have lost when we experience rejection, but it's more useful to ask ourselves, “What have I gained?” This way we can learn from the experience. Rather than beating ourselves even more over the head, we can turn our adversity into self-growth and self-exploration. With each experience, we can grow stronger.

Personally, I have learned to look inside and identify what I need to work on. I have begun to see I am more capable to handling loss than I have credited myself. I have also found the ability to use rejection as an opportunity to humble myself, and move forward with wisdom to do things differently.

At twenty-five years old, I was divorced from my first marriage. I was in a space of regret and shame. I felt I’d deeply let down my family and friends. I found myself isolating from others and alone. I lost a relationship, a home, friendships, and predictability. But in hindsight, I gained much more.

I began to see I was codependent in the relationship. I was stagnant and not evolving as a person. Slowly, but surely, I began to learn to truly depend on myself.

I gained wisdom about healthy boundaries in a relationship.

I then learned to cherish true friendships. Friends who saw me at my lowest and still loved me without conditions.

Most importantly, I gained a relationship with myself. I learned to love the woman I am unconditionally. In doing so, I finally attracted real love. I learned to value, respect, and love my now fiancé unconditionally.

Our thoughts have a strong impact on our emotions. Our emotions, in turn, have a strong impact on our decisions and our behaviors. If you find yourself experiencing failure or rejection, ask yourself what is your interpretation of the situation. What meaning are you giving it?

If you have a tendency toward negative self-talk, you will find your energy draining quickly. This will eventually take you away from what is important. When we are in a battle with ourselves, we cannot possibly be present for others.

It could be helpful to create a new belief about the situation. On the surface, I may have a loss of relationship, but deeper down I am gaining a better understanding of myself. Train your brain to look for the blessing, not the curse. I, personally, believe I am always being protected. If you don’t believe in a higher power, you could still choose to understand rejection as redirection to something better.

I choose to trust the universe and that things are happening as they should for my highest good. It is crucial for me to have that faith in order to be with the sense of peace, I feel, we all yearn for in life. And, to be completely honest, I am extremely grateful for things not working out the way I once hoped they would.

About Lauren Golombek

Lauren is a therapist specializing in co-occurring disorders. She helps people process their shame and their pain, aids in stopping self-defeating patterns, and helps others build resilience and hope. You can find her on Psychology Today here.

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  • MJ

    In your first point, you might want to change that last sentence to “not have told them it was their fault.”
    Good article. I’m learning how to see direction in my frustrations and rejections too. This is a growth tool that I wish I had learned much younger.

  • Debbie

    I wish I could consider rejection as a positive experience, but to me it’s a huge festering hole in my soul, a huge weight I carry around wherever I go. Because of this, I’m sure I set myself up for more rejection, an albatross around my neck. At least I’m aware of it. I’m definitely not a risk taker, and have set up house in a big rut inside my comfort zone. It’s a comfortable rut, but still very painful and lonely at times.

  • Barry M

    I heard this in an AA meeting a long time ago; “When one door closes, another one opens; but it sure freakin sucks in the hallway”. Not knowing what is in store for us as we trudge through life’s ups and downs is all a matter of perception. If I can look at things through a “filter” of gratitude and excitement, many things that once seemed so dark and hopeless are really just boogy men disguised as wonderful new opportunities and experiences! Is it easy? Heck no! But having patience and continuing to be kind to myself (getting sober, exercise, eating right, helping others, etc.) all move me towards bigger and better things! Thanks for your post! It was great!

  • Lovely post Lauren. Full of words giving opportunity and growth to all of us.

  • drh

    Thanks, Lauren – it’s been a tough week for me as I’m running into road blocks in every possible endeavor I take on (various forms of rejection of my ideas and efforts). This is a message of hope! Thank you.

  • Lauren Michelle

    Thank you for reading. It will get better. I am grateful to be a spark of hope.

  • Lauren Michelle

    Thank you !

  • Lotus

    I really enjoyed this article. It was very insightful and I see that my feelings about rejection have a lot to do with my younger years. While I recognize this pattern within myself, I am not always sure how to move past this. I am wiling to try anything to heal!