J. Maureen Henderson, Contributor
Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia
Passed over for a job. Disqualified for a bank loan. Turned down for a date. Rejection happens to the best of us on occasion. Yes, even those of us who are pitching pros sometimes get red-carded, as evidenced by the two “thanks, but no thanks” responses I got to queries I sent out last week.
But rejection isn’t the end of the world. In fact, there are ways to evaluate the experience of being frozen out for a few key lessons that will put the ego undermining in perspective and help you cope with the next time someone opts not to buy what you’re selling:
Decide if it’s you or them
Most people fall into the two camps – they internalize rejection as a function of their personal shortcomings or inadequacies or they assume that they’re doing everything right and it’s the rest of the world that has a problem. The reality is never so binary. Sometimes, it’s you. Sometimes, it’s them. Sometimes, it’s Mercury in retrograde. The trick is to figure out whether your natural tendency is to internalize or project and to keep this knowledge in the forefront of your mind when coping with a rejection. Acknowledge your instinct, but then take a step back to interrogate the situation as objectively as possible.
Realize that what you want to sell might not be what someone else wants to buy
I like to write what I want to write and how I want to write it. I am not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. People do not pay me for what I decide to give them. They pay me for what they want me to produce. If I want to be paid for my prose, it’s my job to understand what that is and to give it to them or to find other clients who will pay for exactly what I want to produce and never hold me to any standards (Ha!). We all have to figure out where our individual boundaries are in this regard and negotiate the trade-off between personal integrity and public acceptance. Tailoring your resume for a job outside your field is one thing, pretending to like country music or cats to impress a date is another. Rejection allows us to revisit this issue to decide whether we need to increase our flexibility and get better at reading our desired audience or whether we’ve reached the limits of how and what we’re willing to compromise and repackage and maybe it’s time to cut our losses and move on. Speaking of which…
Know when to cut your losses
Just how much effort are you willing to expend on a given endeavor? Deciding that in advance helps you to put rejection in perspective and prevents you from continuing to bet on a losing horse. Maybe it’s 25 casting calls before you re-evaluate moving back to Omaha, or five interviews that don’t net job offers before you hire a career coach, or 10 rejection letters from agents before you take a long hard look at the merits of your Great American Novel. If you’re currently at three rejections, you know that you still have some leeway left, but there’s also a relief in being at #9 and knowing that it will soon be time to switch focus and try a different tactic.
Mine the experience
As a writer, it makes perfect sense that after being rejected, I’d write a piece about how to deal with rejection. That’s my process. Not everyone is a wordsmith (Thank God, I don’t need any more competition), but everyone can find a nugget of useful intel in each rejection if they’re willing to stop licking their wounds long enough to seek it out. Maybe a string of dates that go nowhere forces you to reconsider your readiness for a relationship. Maybe your lack of enthusiasm in job interviews is a red flag that you’re pursuing ill-suited opportunities. Dig deep and apply the insight you glean to making your next kick at the can a more accurate one.
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