Learning Through Rejection


“Beat it kid, ya bother me!”

“The answer is no, and that’s final!”

“Thank you for your proposal. Although it has great merit, we regret to inform you that our committee has formally rejected it.”

Nobody enjoys rejection, no matter what the situation may be. Even though it happens in all of our lives, it is always painful and difficult to accept. Rejection is the most common emotional assault we sustain in our daily life. And now with the advent of social media, electronic communications, and apps that help us find soul mates, people are exposed to the risk of rejections from any number of sources.

More consequential rejections resulting from marital break-ups, getting fired, being snubbed by friends, or being ostracized by family and/or the surrounding community  because of our choices can inflict paralyzing pain. Whether the rejection we experience is large or small, one thing remains constant — it is always painful, and it usually hurts more than we expect it to.

So what makes one person more resilient than another in the face of rejection? Part of the answer to this question has to do with a person’s mindset. Psychologists have studied personality traits and have evidence that people tend to have either growth mindsets or fixed mindsets, and that these traits shape how people approach and make sense of their social world.

People with fixed mindsets persistently judge themselves and tend to see the results of their efforts as evidence of who they are and what they are capable of doing. For example, getting a bad grade on a test leads them to believe they are not smart. People with more of a fixed mindset are more likely to worry that there is something wrong with them. They experienced more negative emotions, such as shame, embarrassment, anger, and frustration. Channeling rejection inward toward self-blame only exacerbates the pain and does nothing to achieve goals

People with growth mindsets see outcomes not as evidence of who they are but as evidence of what they can improve in the future and what challenges they can overcome to produce the positive results they are seeking. They understand that some change is necessary to bypass future rejections.

Rejection is part of growth, whether it happens at work, personal relationships or in life. It’s impossible to avoid rejection if you want to truly develop as a person. Rejection helps you to uncover blind spots, learn more about yourself and ultimately to grow as a person.

There are constructive ways to respond to rejection—things we can do to curb the unhealthy responses, soothe our emotional pain and rebuild our self-esteem.

Don’t take it personally

When you approach someone, you become vulnerable, so getting turned down naturally makes you feel like they’re rejecting you. Your request is merely an extension of your thoughts; it does not represent you as a person. Both are two entirely separate things. It’s important to recognize that the rejection is of the request, not of you personally. It is usually more about the other person, and why the request doesn’t meet his/her needs, than it is about you.

Expect rejection

Rejection is lurking around every corner, so be prepared. By anticipating rejection beforehand, it challenges you to set a high benchmark in everything you do. Expecting  too be turned down forces you to push your boundaries and put your best foot forward, increasing your chance of success. Secondly, if you are refused, you will handle it better since you were prepared for it. Use rejection as a driving force to become better.

Learn from the rejection

Every rejection has an underlying reason. Maybe it was a lackluster idea, a mismatch of needs, a bad presentation, a poor approach, an incompatibility of values, or a even miscommunication. Understanding the reason behind the rejection is important so you can do things differently the next time. This will be immensely helpful in your growth.

Follow up and ask why. Make it known that you accept the rejection and you sincerely want to learn what went wrong, so you can improve. When done in an appropriate and sincere manner, the other party will often be more than willing to discuss it and help you learn from the experience. Why did the person reject this? What was the person looking for? Did the request not meet his/her needs? What could you have done better?

Rejection is progression, not regression

Contrary to what you may think, rejection is progression, not regression. All the fears about rejection are in your head, because it is actually a step closer to understanding what people want, what’s out there in the reality, and how to improve and achieve our goals.

In fact, the more times one gets rejected, the better!  You will have such an extensive understanding of your blind spots and what people are looking for, that nothing can take you by surprise anymore. Think of rejection as your best friend and partner in growth. If you learn to handle rejection, it will become a vital tool to your growth and success.