“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” ~ J.K Rowling
Rejection. The word itself just stings, doesn’t it? There’s perhaps no greater human fear than being refused, denied, and dismissed — especially when we really care about what we’ve put out there (i.e., our hearts, our work, our ideas). I’ve been rejected on many levels and under many circumstances, both personally and professionally. It never feels like a good thing. Well, not at the time anyway.
What we often do not understand about rejection is that it is often simply temporary; sooner or later somehow helpful; or a simple course-correct. The problem with rejection isn’t the rejection itself, but the fact that we don’t understand the greater plan behind it in that moment. And how can we understand it in real time, frankly, when we’re too busy licking our wounds and cursing the person rejecting us/the world/our “bad luck.” Rejection only makes sense with hindsight.
Here are seven reasons why rejection (eventually) benefits us:
- There’s something better waiting for you.
How many times in life have you looked back and realized the job, the love interest, or the apartment weren’t meant to be yours because something much better arrived afterwards? I can say “absolutely!” to hundreds of these experiences. And looking back now, I smile and feel grateful for dodging a bullet in each of those situations.
- Perhaps you were thinking too small.
Last year, a good friend of mine moved to a new city where the only person she knew was her husband. But she did have a lot of contacts in the marketing world, as she’s been a marketing executive for close to ten years. She leveraged those contacts brilliantly to network and secure interview after interview. But despite the fact that she networked like a champ (#bosslady!), she spent a lot of time being (foolishly) upset about the folks who showed her the door. But in the end, she scored the perfect job. The big lesson? Those who rejected her made room for the right people who in the end hired her.
- It’s rarely personal (most rejection isn’t even real).
The truth is, when we’re blown off, the vast majority of the time it’s not even about us. The person who rejects us is simply focused on other things. What we perceive to be rejection is often not even actual rejection at all — just not the right timing.
- You learn a lesson and re-evaluate.
Sometimes rejection helps us evaluate. Have you ever been fired from a job? Chances are, the rejection made you realize what you’re not suited to, and also made you assess what you’re good at. And I bet your subsequent jobs/careers have been rewarding, fulfilling and awesome. In other words, that rejection was the wakeup call that you needed to move onwards and upwards!
- It makes you empathetic to others.
Experiencing suffering makes us kinder to others. Next time you need to let someone down – having experienced being let down yourself – you’re much more likely to be gentle. For this reason, as Oprah says, “No experience is wasted.”
- So what? You’re still alive.
The old saying that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger can be true particularly when pertaining to rejection. When I look back at the “nos,” the lack of responses, and the disappointments I’ve had in my life, I appreciate how much I’ve overcome. It makes me feel strong and more resilient in the face of more rejection (and in life, more rejection is always guaranteed). So, when you need a little perspective, ask yourself my go-to question: “So what?”
If J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 publishing houses, Anna Wintour was fired by Harpers Bazaar, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school’s varsity basketball team and Walt Disney was told he had no creative ideas, we can all suffer a little rejection, too. Often, it means nothing at all — especially when we trust there’s a greater meaning behind it which, in time, will be revealed to us.
Get back up, baby! And never, ever give up on your dreams!