Text Dominique Mkhonza
We spend a lot of time contemplating rejection from day to day. I don’t think there is anything more consistently wondered about and feared than rejection. Even before setting out to complete something, share something, or confess something to someone, many of us are struck with fear about rejection.
I do not wish to claim that rejection feels good. On the contrary, it has the power to make you feel like your world is ending, like your palace is on fire, like you’ve been driving down a desert highway shrieking happily with your foot on the gas only to all of a sudden hear that ominous sputter, the consequent slow-down. Rejection, when it happens, genuinely feels bad. It feels like all your coins missed the magic fountain. It can make us doubt ourselves and what we have to offer. It can make us feel embarrassed and doubt the value of all our efforts in the first place. It makes us doubt even what should come so naturally, which is trying again. Getting back out there. Sometimes back to the same scene, stronger and more prepared than last time, but also to new frontiers. Rejection can be the wind beneath our wings, it doesn’t have to shake us out of the sky forever.
Let’s look at three reasons why rejection could be exactly what you need right now.
First of all, rejection delivers us back to ourselves.
Look at this way. If you’re in a situation right now where you feel like you are overextending yourself for something or somebody, day-in, day-out, a situation where your energy is being funneled endlessly, aimlessly, ultra-passionately (sometimes, even pathetically) into some external cause that isn’t necessarily giving you back that same energy, you might start to feel—well. A little stretched thin. Whether you have been focused on gaining somebody’s affection, somebody’s attention, somebody’s congratulations or somebody’s faith in you, that is genuinely a lot of brainpower that you’re allowing to root itself in places that are not strengthening you, helping you, or fulfilling your vision in any way. When we’re rejected, when we’re played or passed on or ignored: these are situations that secretly bless us. We don’t realize at first. We’re submerged in our hurt, we’re wading out into the pond of our shame, embarrassment, and regret. But don’t forget, we were in the womb knowing how to swim already.
That’s a metaphor.
What I’m telling you is this: You’re born with your worth inherent. It’s already inside you and it doesn’t need props or kudos from anybody. When we’re rejected, once we agree to let ourselves see clearly again, when we hug ourselves, pat ourselves on the back, brush the dirt off of our knees, and say hello again to the large and spectacular and unknown world, that’s when we’re able to see rejection for what it is. A shallow ripple in the bigger scheme of all things. We can allow rejection to make us stronger, sharper, and even more loving. We become more loving and more proud of our efforts when we agree to never turn our backs on either of those things: Love and Effort.
No matter how often they are played, passed over, or ignored.
Two: Rejection gives us space for introspection and gratitude.
When we give ourselves that space away from constantly defining ourselves by what we want and what we don’t have yet, we allow ourselves to reassess what we do have, what we have wanted to do in the past and have successfully achieved already. It’s a chance to take note of all of the forgotten little positives that have remained by your side all this time even while you were so busy being blinded by that all-consuming sense of lack that you forgot to even look at those things and say thank you. Thank you to my heavy heart for loving so much, for being so invested in the world. Thank you to my disappointment for being present enough here to want anything at all. I awknowledge my pain but I don’t live in it. I awknowledge my bad days but I don’t let them create a narrative for my life. I accept the pain that comes from not being chosen, but I keep my eyes and heart open for the next door I see.
In the past, whenever I have experienced a situation where I was abandoned or led astray by my own desires, or when I ended up at the tail-end of a other-person-focused mission that I finally realized was actually making me hyper self-centered, hyper-anxious, and hyper-unaware of how great, lucky, and loved I actually am—each time, those mega losses that I believe I am experiencing never fail to reveal to me the glimmering, dazzling jewels embedded in the rocks of every rock-bottom.
Three: Rejection helps us define again with clarity what we want.
Not only that, but learning to metabolize rejection and internalize rejection not as an inherent reflection of our own worthiness but instead as something that must naturally and organically occur as a consequence of us putting ourselves out there—it’s just simply not mathematically possible to win every single time!—we build up an inner resilience. Resilience is the key to manifesting greatness. Every rejection just simply does not have to feel as crushing anymore. In fact, after exposing ourselves to that sting of rejection, we start to accept it for what it is. An ouch! moment, a stubbed toe. This is not to say that rejection can never feel devastating or like it’s in the end of the world. Of course it can, it has that ability. But we have the ability to be patient with “all that remains unsolved in our heart.” It was Rilke who said that, and I’ve been remembering those words whenever I’m going through a period of high-stress ever since high school. Rejection, in a way, reminds us that we don’t control the world, people’s reactions to us, or most external events. In doing that, it helps us remember what we do control. Our own commitment to life, to our families and friends, to new personal goals we have, to being better people in whichever ways we can. We begin to feel grateful and happy about the clarity that rejection provides us with, regardless of whether it’s a rejection done by a person, an employer, or even if it’s simply significant-at-the-moment life circumstance seem to blow up in our face at the very last moment.
That’s why I could never hate rejection, as much as I dislike it.
It’s sobering. It clears my mind and gives me that push to reassess. It pushes me to be more reinventive, to ask myself if I want something enough to try again in a different way. It pushes me, in personal areas, to practice more and prepare and do my homework. When it comes to rejection by people even, I just can never see it as a loss. I always think thank you for not wasting my time. You know?
What do you think about rejection?
Have you ever experienced a good epiphany on the other end of something that was difficult to go through at the time?
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