Why rejection isgood for you
Don’t let knock-backs get you down – Christine Fieldhouse explains why being given the cold shoulder can help you harness the power of ‘no’
K aty’s hands are shaking and she is close to tears. Earlier in the week she had an interview for a teaching position at a local primary school and she was convinced it had gone well.
Now the head teacher has called to say she wasn’t successful. A candidate who has more experience with children with special needs has been offered the position and she has accepted it. The head teacher stresses that Katy must apply next time there is a vacancy, and ends by saying how much the panel liked her energy and sense of humour.
“As soon as the call was over, I burst into tears and cried for what felt like an eternity,” recalls Katy, 23. “I felt useless and a failure. I kept sobbing over and over: ‘If I’d been any good, they would have hired me. Nobody’s going to employ me. I’m a rubbish teacher.’ I then went through all the things I’d failed at, from being in my school quiz team and not winning the area title, to my first driving test, and the boy who changed his mind about taking me to the school dance when I was 17.
“By the time I’d finished, I felt absolutely dreadful. I had no hope for a future in teaching and I didn’t even think I was a decent person. I felt like a no-hoper.”
Katy has just suffered rejection, which according to experts is something that pops up in all our lives from time to time. Some of the most successful people have been the receiving end of a ‘No’. The Beatles’ audition tape was rejected by a record company boss because he thought guitar groups were “on their way out” and the author JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books after losing her job as a secretary. Madonna went into the music business after being fired by a doughnut company in New York, while Walt Disney was sacked by a newspaper editor because he was said to lack imagination!
But it’s how we handle rejection that matters. We can choose to crumble and crawl under a duvet and cry, or we can learn from the experience and move on and get even stronger as a result.
Hypnotherapist Annie Ashdown (www.annieashdown.com) says our number one mistake when handling rejection is to make it personal. “People make it about themselves,” says Annie, whose book
‘I went through all the things I’d failed at… by the time I finished, I felt absolutely dreadful’
‘Just as not every film reviewer loves every movie, not everyone is going to like you’
The Confidence Factor was published in September last year. “Then they gather evidence to convince themselves there is something wrong with them because somebody has rejected them. They remember all the other times they failed and this prods the wound and reinforces what they already suspected – they’re not good enough. That’s going to hurt a lot.
“But it’s complete craziness. Rather than saying: ‘I didn’t get that job, but there are plenty of others I can go for,’ they chase all the things in their lives that aren’t working now and make themselves feel much worse. In the end they have a list of things, from as far back as their school days 20, 30, 40 years ago when they weren’t picked for the athletics team.”
o rather than going back through her CV of failure, what could Katy do after discovering she hasn’t got the job? Life coach and Neuro-Linguistic Programming trainer Phil Parker (www.philparker.org) recommends she interprets the head teacher’s phone call differently.
“Rejection doesn’t exist, apart from in our own heads,” says Phil, author of Get the Life You Love Now.
“This school isn’t rejecting Katy, it is choosing someone else. She just didn’t fit in with what they were looking for at that time.
“It’s a natural response to think they didn’t like you. If a relationship ends, you feel you weren’t good enough. If you lose a job, you feel as if you didn’t measure up, but reacting like this doesn’t serve you in any way. By interpreting the decision differently, you can avoid the pain of rejection.”
The good news is rejection is fairly rare – yet that’s why we don’t have a developed method of dealing with it. We all remember being last to be chosen for the netball or football team, or being missed off the invitation list for a swimming party and because it hurt so much when we were children, we often don’t take many risks as we get older. Our sense of self-protection stops us popping our heads above the parapet – just in case we get knocked down again.
But how do we turn The Big No into a positive, so that we start putting ourselves out there again, and taking some chances? After all, if we don’t apply for jobs or university places, or go on dates, or enter races, how can we ever hope to succeed and add some sparkle to our lives?
Phil recommends we start by asking ourselves how old we feel when we’re crying and feeling rejected. The answer’s usually under 10 – because that’s when we experience our earliest feelings of rejection – and, no matter what our present age is, we deal with rejection as a small child would.
“Remember a time when you were the person picking people and saying no,” continues Phil. “It may be that you ended a relationship, because you didn’t think it was working, or you weren’t suited to each other. When you didn’t pick a colleague to be in your communications team, it probably wasn’t personal, but just that you thought you’d work better with someone else.”
Annie says when we’re obsessing with rejection, we often miss the really valuable message. In Katy’s case, while she was crying about not getting the job, she completely forgot that the head urged her to apply for other jobs at the school.
“See the positives. If you get an interview, somebody likes the sound of you and knows you’re worth seeing,” says Annie. “Just as not every film reviewer loves every movie they see, not everyone you meet is going to like you. But if you keep your head above the parapet, one day you’ll go out there and get some yeses.
“Next time you feel rejected, say to yourself: ‘SW, SW, SW, TL, NEXT!’ This stands for: ‘Some will, some won’t, so what, their loss, next!’
“This in itself will free you fromthe pain of rejection. If you can get some feedback, or challenge the reasons you’ve been rejected, do so. There may be a simple reason why you didn’t get the place at that particular university, or why the landlord didn’t choose you to lease his apartment. Knowing the reason – if there is one – could help you next time you want a home or a promotion. After all, it’s just one person’s opinion.”
F or many of us, when we look back at past rejections, we see that something better came along. We realise the boyfriend who rejected us when we were 19 wasn’t husband material, or the apartment we desperately wanted and didn’t get was in an area that wouldn’t have been great for raising children.
“Trust that the decision not to pick you is part of a bigger plan,” says Phil. “You might not see the reason immediately, but over time you will. When people go back to college reunions, they see the guy who stood them up at age 17 is now fat, bald and has no teeth, and they go home to their gorgeous husband and children!
“You often hear the company that turned you down has crashed, while you’re now rising through the ranks in a different organisation.
“Taking the risk of being rejected can be a sign you’re stretching yourself. So many successful people have multiple rejections, yet they dust themselves down and go back to work, trusting there’s something else out there for them. From the outside we see just their brilliance – we’re not aware of the number of times they’ve been turned down.”
Finally, to stop us thinking we’re an out and out failure, Annie recommends we write a success list – a running record of all the good things we achieve every day – that we can turn to, when our mood is low after rejection.
“You may have made someone laugh, or baked a cake someone loved. It doesn’t have to be rocket science – just a list of little accomplishments throughout the day. It’s all about taking a different approach!”