F. Scott Fitzgerald once received a rejection letter that said, “You’d have a decent novel if you got rid of that Gatsby character.” Of course, not every rejection leads to wild success, but why can’t yours? If you want to be able to succeed in all of your endeavors, then you have to learn how to accept rejection, grow from your setbacks, and to come back with more strength and passion than ever. So how do you accept rejection instead of dwelling on the anger or bitterness that you experience after not getting what you want? See Step 1 to find out.
Having a More Positive Mindset
Don’t let it define you. One way to have a more positive mindset as you learn to accept rejection is to not let it tell you who you are. Whether you got dumped by your girlfriend or were denied a job offer or rejected from your top choice college, you can’t let whatever happened let you feel like you’re not worth it. Sure, being rejected is never easy or pleasant, but it only has to do with one specific situation at one given moment and does not define you as a person.
Instead of saying, “I was rejected by my top college,” say something like, “I was denied acceptance.” Don’t think of it as you being rejected as a person, but as you not getting the circumstances you wanted.
If the rejection makes you feel like a worthless loser, then it’ll only make you destined to fail again. Instead, focus on the circumstances of what happened, not on the fact that it happened to you.
Be proud of yourself for trying. Another way to put a positive spin on rejection is to think about all of the people who never even got the courage to try what you attempted to do. Maybe you put your heart out there and asked your crush out on a date. Maybe you emailed a query letter to a literary agent to see if he or she wanted to take a look at your novel manuscript. Maybe you applied for a job that you knew was a reach. Even if it didn’t work out the way you wanted, you should pat yourself on the back for having the courage to put yourself out there.
Don’t be bummed that you got rejected. Be excited that you had the guts to embrace a unique opportunity. Think about what else you can achieve or try to achieve. The sky’s the limit.
Don’t catastrophize. People tend to take one rejection and let it make them feel completely inadequate, like it means that they can never do anything right in that arena again. If you got rejected by a girlfriend, you need to look at it as an isolated situation, not a sign that you will never find love. If your book proposal got rejected by three agents, don’t let it make you think that the next thirty won’t have any kinder words for you. Think of all the future husbands/writers/geniuses who never would have accomplished anything if they stopped after hearing just one “no.”
Instead, look at it as an opportunity to grow and try again. If you let just one, or even just a few, or even a few dozen, rejections make you think that this is the way things will always be, then you’ll have a hard time finding happiness or success.
Focus on the positive aspects of the rejection (if there are any). Okay, so let’s face it: sometimes, rejection is just rejection, and there is nothing good about it at all. However, there are some times when a silver lining can be drawn out, if you look hard enough, or even if you don’t look all that hard. You might have been rejected from a job, but told that you should apply again in six months because you were a strong candidate; though this is still a rejection, you can also think of it as a way of getting your foot in the door. It’s all in how you choose to look at it — do you want to think of the glass as completely empty, or at least to search for a few precious drops of water that can help quench your thirst?
If you were rejected in a relationship, you may not think that there is anything good about this at all, at first. However, you can also choose to look at it as a chance you had to fall in love, and the opportunity to see that you can find it again. This is far better than just looking at it as a rejection with absolutely nothing in the “plus” column.
If an agent rejected your manuscript, maybe he also happened to tell you that you have a lot of talent and that you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out again with a revision or a future project. Though you didn’t land the agent of your dreams, you did get someone’s attention, and have heightened your chances of getting noticed the next time around.
Don’t take it personally. Another way to be more positive when it comes to rejection is not to take things so personally. If you get rejected for a job, or if you don’t get into your dream college, try not to make it all about something being wrong with you. You never know why you got rejected for a job — maybe someone was hired internally, maybe they were looking for someone who could relocate more immediately — and it’s unlikely that it’s because you’re an unqualified loser with no future. Know that rejection happens to the best of us, and that it has nothing to do with you as a person. Okay, so if you get dumped by your significant other, then it’s hard not to take it personally. But try to step back and look at the bigger picture. If you were rejected, it’s because something about the relationship just wasn’t working. It doesn’t mean that you’re not right for anybody — it just means that you weren’t right for this particular person, right now.
Think positively about the future. Another way to be more upbeat when it comes to rejection is to always look to the future, instead of wallowing in regret or trying to figure out why the present is so awful. If you get rejected by a job, think of all other jobs and opportunities out there for you. If you get rejected in a relationship, think of all of the other exciting people you have yet to meet. If your first novel gets rejected by fifty agents and you feel like you’re losing faith in it, think of all the amazing words you have left to write. If you let your rejection define everything in your life and don’t see that there is so much more out there, you’ll never be able to move on from it.
When you get rejected from something, think about all of the untapped opportunities still out there. Write them down and look at them. If you truly feel that there’s really nothing out there, ask a friend to help you brainstorm. It’s pretty unlikely that there’s nothing else to look forward to.
Learning from Rejection
Think of it as cutting your teeth. One way to look at rejection is to think that it is inevitable on your path to success. After all, how many actresses got the leading role after their first auditions? How many writers got their book published on their first attempt? You may think that success either comes naturally to people or it doesn’t, but the fact of the matter is that rejections should be worn as badges of honor and signs of your commitment, not as indicators of your future success. Whenever you get rejected, just think of it as an inevitable step on the way to success.
If you’re a writer seeking publication, tell yourself that you won’t even have a chance to publish one of your short stories before you get 50 rejections. Every time you get one, just think of it as a step on your way to success.
If you’re seeking a new job, you should consider the fact that you’ll get at least 5 or 10, or even 15 rejections for every time you’re asked for an interview. Be proud of all of those rejections because it means you’re trying and that you’re closer to acceptance.
See what you can do better the next time. Use the rejection to help you think about your future and the next attempt you make at whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. If you didn’t do well in an interview, ask yourself if you can improve your communication style or your body language — or even if you can rack up more experience before you try to follow the same path again. If your novel manuscript was rejected, ask yourself if it could stand another revision that cuts some of the meandering scenes or sharpens the dialogue. Think about the improvements you can make before you try again the next time, and work to achieve them.
If you’re lucky enough to get constructive feedback, then use it to help you move forward. If an employer told you you need to improve your writing skills, then get a tutor or ask a well-versed friend for help. If an agent told you your protagonist isn’t original enough, see if you need to make him or her stand out.
Of course, some of the feedback you get may be worthless or completely missing the point. You don’t have to change yourself or your work to meet another person’s notion of success unless you agree with it.
Look at how much you’ve progressed since the first rejection. If this is your first time being rejected, then hats off to you — welcome to the club. Most of us have been rejected many times in one way or another, if you’re anything like this, then you probably have a stack of rejections stored away somewhere. Don’t look at this as something sad, but be proud of yourself for all of the rejections you’ve racked up. Then, take a look at some of your earlier rejections and see if you can chart how much you’ve progressed since then, whether we’re talking professionally or personally. You’ll see that you’ve grown so much as a student, writer, human, or whatever the case may be.
This works especially well if you’re a struggling writer. Take a look at your earlier stories and compare them to the ones you’re working on now. Sure, if you’re still facing a lot of rejection, then you may have doubts about your work, but don’t let it get to you. Instead, think about how much you’ve progressed since that first rejection, and be proud of yourself for plugging forward.
If we’re talking about romantic rejections here, then yeah, it may not be easy to “rack” them up. Still, thinking about that first failed relationship, and consider how much you’ve grown as a person and how much you’ve been able to open up. Remember that not all rejections are created equal, and that you’re always progressing, even if you feel like the rejection never ends.
Know when it’s time to move on. One of the hardest parts of accepting rejection is having to consider whether or not the thing you’re pursuing is worth pursuing. Though you shouldn’t let rejection get you down or keep you from fulfilling your potential, there’s a time and a place for everything, and if you’ve had an endless string of rejection, it may be the moment to ask yourself whether the thing you’re pursuing is worth pursuing, or whether you should go about it a different way. Insanity has been defined as trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you feel like you’ve been trying the same approach again and again and keep getting rejected, it may be time to follow a new path.
There’s a really fine line between being persistent and being stubborn. If you really believe that your book is polished and ready for an agent, then you may keep trying to find the right agent for your work after the first sixty rejections. But if all of the rejections are telling you that the book needs a lot of work, then your time may be better spent in revising your manuscript than in facing the same form of rejection again and again.
If you’ve been asking out or trying to win back the same girl for months, and you feel like you’re going nowhere, then it may be time to accept what happened and to move on. Use the experience to help you find a person who will like you for who you are instead of trying to force it.
Know that everything happens for a reason (most of the time). Sure, “everything happens for a reason” may be one of the most annoying things you can possibly hear, especially when you’ve just been devastated by a rejection. You may think that this is just an empty phrase that people use to comfort each other and that it has no real substance. Of course, there are times when something really crappy happens and you have to lick your wounds and move on. But if you think about past rejections or setbacks in your life, you may see that they actually led to something wonderful. Even if it may not seem that way right now, accept the fact that this rejection could lead to something positive that you can’t yet imagine.
Let’s say you got rejected from the tennis team. You may have been training all summer for it and banking everything on it, but now, you can still try out for the volleyball team. And who knows — this sport may be a better fit for you, after all.
You may feel like your college experience won’t be the same if you don’t go to University of Michigan like you always wanted, but once you do get to college, you wouldn’t be able to imagine your life without any of your new friends by your side. You’ll look back on the day when you thought that UMich was your dream school and you’ll laugh. This may not be imaginable now, but really, it’ll happen.
Maybe you’ll get rejected from what you thought was your dream job. Well, the rejection may lead you to take your career in a slightly new direction — and to find a new path that you never would have otherwise considered.
Going the Extra Mile
Talk to your friends about it. Another way to accept rejection a little more easily is to talk to a trusted friend about how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling low about being rejected, whether it’s in a professional or a personal setting, sometimes nothing can make you feel better than talking to a trusted friend about it. Don’t keep all of your angry or hurt feelings inside and stop dwelling on what might have been. Instead, call up an old friend or set up a coffee date and talk about your feelings. You’ll instantly feel better and you’ll be able to move on faster because you’ll have someone to talk to about your problems.
You may feel that the rejection was a catastrophe. However, a friend can give you a more rational, down-to-earth take on the situation.
However, don’t let this turn into you ranting about what happened to the five closest people within earshot. Having a friend’s unbiased and helpful opinion can help cheer you on, but complaining and rehashing the same problems over and over again can actually just make you feel worse.
Make sure you’re talking to someone who understands how much the rejection means to you. Having a friend say, “It’s not the end of the world!” when you feel like it is may be the last thing you want to hear.
Talk to other people about their experiences with rejection. Chances are that you’re not the only person in the world who has ever dealt with rejection. If you’re feeling completely low, talk to a friend, family member, or coworker about the rejection and see what these people have gone through and suffered. Sure, your friend may have an ideal marriage now, but you never heard about the ex boyfriend who broke her heart. Your writer friend may be at the height of his career, but you forgot about the four novels he had to write before having his work accepted for publication.
Talking to other people about their own experiences with rejection will make you feel like you’re less alone, and that everyone else has felt what you’re feeling, in one sense or another.
See how many successful people have dealt with rejection. The stories of how some of the most successful people in our culture faced one rejection after another before making it big. Knowing that you’re not alone in the world when you face a rejection can help you get more motivated to push forward. Though, of course, not all people who face rejection become wildly famous, it couldn’t hurt to reach for the stars. Here are some things to chew on: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind was rejected by 38 publishers before it found a home.
Marilyn Monroe was told she should quit acting when she first began. Modeling agencies told her she’d be better off as a secretary.
Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because he was told his stories lacked imagination.
Oprah Winfrey was fired from an early gig as a news reporter because she was told she didn’t know how to separate her emotions from her stories.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
Make a habit of getting rejected when it doesn’t matter that much. Another way to accept rejection is to learn to get rejected early and often. If you don’t get rejected very often, then that will make it sting so much more. But if you do it routinely, especially when you don’t really care all that much, then you’ll learn to accept it and to see it for what it is — no big deal. Depending on your situation, there are many ways you can regularly get into the habit of getting rejected — and therefore be able to accept it faster. If you’re upset about getting rejected by girls when you try to ask them out, make a habit of doing it more often. No, this doesn’t mean you should ask out every girl in sight, but let’s say you ask out girls 10-20% more often than you used to. If you keep getting rejected, especially if you know your heart won’t really be broken, then you’ll be getting into the habit of getting rejected and won’t see it as such a big deal the next time it happens.
If you feel devastated every time you try to send your stories out to literary journals and get a big fat rejection, then you should send your stories out to even more places. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should send them out before you feel that they are ready, but that you should send them out more often, so that you won’t feel the burn after you get the next rejection you’ve been waiting on for months.
Don’t dwell on it. If you want to accept rejection and move on, then you have to learn to stop dwelling on whatever bad thing happened to you. You should talk about it, write about it, make some pro and con lists about your future decisions, or do whatever you have to do to absorb and accept what happened. However, you should work on finding other enriching experiences, whether it’s spending time with friends or pursuing your love for photography, to keep you going so you don’t spend all your time dwelling on the rejection. Once you admit that it happened, the best thing you can do is to move forward. Easier said than done, right? It’s hard to stop dwelling on rejection, especially if you’re feeling bitter, confused, or hurt. But the sooner you make a goal to find other fulfilling ways to spend your time, the sooner you’ll be able to move forward.
That said, if we’re talking about a breakup, you should avoid having a set grieving period. Let yourself feel what you feel, spend some time crying, writing in your journal, and just dealing with your emotions, and only move on when you’re ready.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Another way to be more accepting of rejection is to try to avoid banking absolutely everything in your life on one result. This can mean getting into the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop if you’re a writer, getting married to your long-term significant other, or becoming the principal of the school where you work within five years. Though having goals, both personal and professional, is what keeps us motivated to move forward, you should avoid letting one thing matter to you so, so much that not getting it will truly crush you.
This isn’t to say that you won’t be deeply hurt if the person you’ve banked your future on rejects you. But it is to say that, while you can still be deeply in love, you should always feel like you have other things going on in your life other than your relationship. You can’t let it be everything for you.
Okay, so you may really be dying to go to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. You may think it’s your only path to being a published writer. But make sure you apply to at least a handful of other programs. You’ll find that you’ll be accepted somewhere, and that you’ll still have an enriching experience where you get to explore your passion. If you think it’s Iowa or bust, then yeah, you’re going to be incredibly disappointed when it doesn’t work out.
Consult a person you trust. This helps let everything out.
Imagine the person who rejected you and you guys talked it out into a way you like.
Don’t let bitterness dwell inside of you. It will only lead to no good.
How to Handle Rejection
How to Stop Fearing Rejection
How to Embrace Rejection
How to See the Positives of Rejection
How to Get Over Rejection
How to Respond to Rejection
How to Reject Someone Nicely
Sources and Citations