I have a very impressive roster of rejections. It includes hundreds of jobs, dates, programs, agencies, volunteer positions… I’ve been rejected by people as formidable as an Airbnb co-founder and as humble as the cute French guy I had a crush on in college (well, he was anything but humble, but you get my drift).
Every single one of those rejections hurt. Every single one felt like a referendum on my self worth, a sign that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, skilled enough, attractive enough. I was convinced that together, all my rejections added up to irrefutable evidence that I was fatally and irreversibly flawed.
I thought it was just me. Then I started talking to other people about rejection, and it turns out everyone feels this way.
I don’t know if it’s neuroscience or human evolution or simply a consequence of consumer society, but everyone takes rejection personally. No one feels like they’re good enough.
Now, here’s the real rub:
As painful as rejection is, as long and hard as it stings, rejection is not about you.
Say what? How could rejection not be about me? I’m the one getting rejected, after all!
Think about the last time you rejected someone. Maybe you rejected a vendor because their style didn't resonate with you. Perhaps you turned down a friend’s invitation because you were too tired. Perhaps you swiped left on Tinder because he posted too many pictures of his cats.
In every case, this tells me a great deal about the person doing the rejecting… and little to nothing about the inherent worthiness and qualities of the person being rejected.
That old adage, "It's not you, it's me," may be clichéd, but it's true!
Rejection isn’t about you. It’s about the person doing the rejecting.
Does this mean you're powerless in the face of rejection? Does it mean you should give up? Does it mean you can't influence people at all or decrease your odds of getting rejected?
Of course not! Rejection can give you valuable information about the needs, priorities and preferences of your audience. Knowing this, you can tailor whatever it is you're offering to better meet those preferences, as well as learn who is most likely to respond favorably.
Hear that? Rejection is power! How's that for a reframe?
What is the story you tell yourself around rejection? How well does that story serve you?