Rethinking Rejection

How personal could it possibly be?

via Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Rejection sucks.

It’s probably the biggest hit to the ego that a person can face. After getting rejected, people are often left wondering where they went wrong, and whether there is something wrong with them.

Say you get rejected by your dream job or dream school. You’ll inevitably go down a rabbit hole of self-doubt, wondering whether you’d answered an interview question differently, or took a different extracurricular, or scored higher on a test, then maybe you would’ve been accepted.

While getting rejected from a job or a school is rough, it can still be compartmentalized into being a “professional” or “academic” rejection. You can still take pride in the fact that you are kind, funny, interesting, and/or beautiful outside of your academic or professional resumé. This is what makes rejection from an individual person a lot different.

When you get rejected by a person, especially one who you allowed to get to know you, it’s hard to compartmentalize because it feels like you got rejected for all of you: the funny, the smart, the ugly, the sad, the temper, the charm, the good, the bad. It feels like you have nothing left. They got to know you on an intimate level and then decided to reject you. You’re just not good enough.

And from there is a different rabbit-hole of self-doubt, where you wonder if you hadn’t said that one stupid thing, or if you hadn’t gotten so upset that one time, or if you handled that one situation better, it would’ve all been different.

While it’s difficult to not take a rejection personally, there’s one thing that all different types of rejection have in common:

Misalignment.

When you get rejected by a school or a job, it’s typically over a misalignment of values or interests. It’s not “you’re bad and they’re good”— it’s more like, you’re one degree left and they’re one degree right. By this I mean, you aren’t the focus of the rejection — you’re just in the peripheral. It’s not that you’re what’s being rejected, but moreso the other party’s interpretation of who you are plus their personal vision of where and who they want to be.

Even if it was personal, it’s not for the reasons you think.

When we take things like this personal, we tend to hyper-fixate on our innermost insecurities. We allow the rejection to validate our insecurities, making them seem a million times more real, overpowering, and perceptible than they actually are. This is inaccurate because we are perceiving our shadows through the filters of our own experience and interpretations of the world around us. Moreover, it’s almost narcissistic to think that someone else even has the ability to think about us as deeply and negatively as we think about ourselves after a rejection. If anything, they are thinking about themselves that deeply, and the Rejectee is, again, simply in the peripheral.

Even if a rejection is personal, the specific reasons have been filtered through the rejector’s perception and experiences, making it less about the person being rejected and moreso the person who is doing the rejecting. The misalignment has been projected onto the Rejectee through values that have been attributed based on the Rejector’s filters.

This only re-emphasizes my main point: It’s still not about you.

Lastly, the post-rejection downward spiral that occurs where you beat yourself up over every little thing is a product of Rejection itself — it has very little to do with the person or entity you were rejected by. Like I said before, any type of rejection will open up a portal of humility that you can choose to not give in to.

The depths of despair after a rejection is an interesting place. One reason is because it feels like such a unique, personal attack. Another reason is that no matter how confident and self-assured a person is, anyone can end up there. Finally, because these depths are completely created in one’s own mind. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Becoming aware of the mental and emotional effects of rejection itself and acknowledging them as separate from the entity that is rejecting you is essential to preventing yourself from taking a rejection so personally.

Next time you feel yourself stumbling down a spiral of self-doubt, remember that your experience is not unique nor is it personal, and you do not have to give in.

Have a blessed day.