5 Tips On Handling Rejection Well

It is impossible to avoid pain and rejection while simultaneously wanting to pursue your true self.
— J A Santosa
Enough said. 

Enough said. 

LENGTH: 12 minute read.

 

SO, I know what you're thinking.

 

Christmas is in a few days time, so why write a blog post on Rejection? Having worked as a Social Worker/Youth Worker for the last 5 years, accidental counselling became part of my job, especially to teenage girls and younger women.


It turns out that things like relationship endings, dashed hopes or dreams and unmet expectations, happen 12 months of the year, not just in July or when people go on holiday.

(Sorry to be sardonic. Perhaps I'm annoyed at how many people repress the sting of rejection and think they can avoid inevitable pain throughout their lives just by putting on a 'brave face'...)

END OF RANT. Moving along!

So recently I was asked the following question from Lydia*, a 23-year-old Art Director and Copywriter from Sydney:

How do I deal with rejection in a classy, graceful and mature way?

 

To give a bit of back story, Lydia* was seeing a guy she met on an online forum. On Facebook chat/FaceTime/Phone they hit it off superbly. However when it came to their day trip to Palm Beach, he told her they weren't compatible. Lydia was hurt. 

With her permission, I have turned-her-anon, thrown in subheadings, incorporated gender neutrality and voila! 

Together, we thought we'd share:

5 Tips ON Handling Rejection Well

 

Dear Lydia*, 

I feel for you – this is not an easy situation to be in. The fact that you are taking it as a lesson and allowing the experience to shape you is maturity.

Class is evident in your ability to still chat with him every now and then, despite your dashed hopes of wanting things to go further. 

Gracefulness is also already there – given you are open to the option of staying friends and accepting the outcome.

 

I say this because most girls would have cut the guy off immediately, completely disregarding the friendship-connection-value he was adding to their lives. There are varied schools of thought on this which I will write about in another post. 

To answer your question though:

 

1. WE HAVE TO ACCEPT THAT REJECTION IS AN INEVITABLE PART OF LIFE.

And rumination is DEFINITELY not allowed! Photo and quote credit: Haruki Murakami

And rumination is DEFINITELY not allowed! Photo and quote credit: Haruki Murakami

Let's start with some good ol' rhetorical-question-comfort:

Is anyone immune from the sting of rejection?

Is anyone exempt from romantic rejection?

Is anyone exempt from rejection in life?

Does his rejection of you signal flaws in your character?

If yes, are you willing to change for him?

If no, does it just mean he wasn’t meant for you in the first place?

 

Assuming we agree that friendship is the best foundation for a relationship, trying to avoid rejection is just plain impossible…unless you don’t mind settling for a surface-level, shallow relationship where you are constantly bending your identity to suit the other person's needs. 

To go for a coffee with someone, date someone, and see it ripen into 'true love' requires that pesky thing we call vulnerability. It’s love’s currency. For without it, how may we be known? How may the waters be tested of how well another can understand us?

 

Or, as C.S Lewis beautifully puts it:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… [for] to love is to be vulnerable.” (emphasis added).

 

It is impossible to avoid pain and rejection while simultaneously wanting to pursue your true self, as well as be empathic, socially functioning, and emotionally healthy. It makes sense from a rational stand point - the fact that you will only marry ONE person immediately subtracts EVERYONE ELSE whom you will meet, see, develop a major crush on, date and NOT MARRY. 

Enough said. I am assuming you are sold on that rejection is a normal and inevitable part of life.

And now for the fun part – how to ease the accompanying pain? How to overcome this pain? How to not come off like a whining loser and be classy, graceful and mature?

 

2. Deal with your emotions privately and allow them for a season.

Unless you're Obama and you've got no shame to cry in public. Photo credit: The Atlantic

Unless you're Obama and you've got no shame to cry in public. Photo credit: The Atlantic

Similar to schooling good conflict resolution, both parties will get what they want if they are able to communicate effectively with each other, untouched by consuming emotions, and are past catharsis.

However in the heat of an argument, with bruised egos and unmet expectations, proper judgments are cloudy. We cannot see the sky from the clouds (or however the saying goes).

So instead of resolving conflict, we play the Blame Game - "You never remember to fill up the petrol!" "You're always late!","You are so selfish!".  Or we give the Silent Treatment. I won't go into that analogy too much, but when it comes to romantic rejection, the rejected plays the "Oh it's cool" game, pretending they are not hurt because they want to cover their embarrassment.

One party wants to be friends after rejecting the other party as a Lover. However the Rejected is reeling: their expectations were warmed up for love and coupledom. Said expectations became a fully grown dendrite inside their mind, because chatting to the pending-relationship-candidate grew into a daily ritual. Now, they have to uproot what was pretty much a flourishing organism. 

This friendsis why it takes time to properly get over someone. So be kind to yourself. Allow the mourning season to come and pass. 

 

So what do we do? We allow the wealth of our emotions to spend us. Go to your room and cry. Go to a green field with nobody on it, and cry. Go to the beach and climb to the peak of the rock cliff and cry. Bring your journal, pen and write out everything you are feeling, and let your tear drops stain the ink of your words while you write furiously and cry.

Talk to a friend whom you trust and cry to them. Write poetry about it, harness all that gritty, messy emotion into your creativity and turn it into art. And cry some more.

Go to a green field and cry, baby. Photo credit: Chai Kuang Lim

Go to a green field and cry, baby. Photo credit: Chai Kuang Lim

Please note: the mourning season cannot pass unless it's allowed full throttle, so don't pretend you're not in it if you are. You'll just delay the process even longer. On the contrary, let it pass when it wants to pass. Don't stay there and wallow. 

Emotionally unhealthy people repress. They ‘bottle things up’ by not talking about stuff immediately, then they act like everything is normal. This may be necessary in a work context, or with people you don't trust, but the mask needs to come off at the end of the day so you can breathe

Then when things get really bad, emotionally unhealthy people yell and scream underpinned by the belief that because they tolerated so much crap, their occasional volatile tantrums are justified. (No shame – this used to be me until I got some serious counselling and shifted a few things around in my life.)

3. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL.

Rejection isn’t fun. It hurts. And you have every right to speak the truth about the situation to yourself. Put simply, it's this: “I have been rejected. I don’t understand why. It hurts.” 

It sounds obvious, but I spent the bulk of my life denying my true feelings even to myself. It came to a point where I didn't know what I thought anymore. This is called repression. 

I just knew what I was supposed to be thinking. Mark Manson, in his article "Your Two Minds" discusses the Thinking Mind and the Observing Mind. For example, The Thinking part might default on feeling nervousness and say "Oh my gosh I'm so nervous!" whereas your Observing Mind is able to say "I am experiencing the feeling of nervousness." 

On the same plane, we can practice with our feelings of rejection with our Thinking Mind, whom we acknowledge will say "It hurts so much that I got rejected!" Our Observing Mind is like a babysitter to the Thinking Mind, or a Police Officer - who might intervene with "Yes, the pain is real. But you will get through this."

 

To take stock so far: accept rejection as an inevitable part of life, deal with your emotions separate from the person who has caused you pain. While you are dealing with your emotions with yourself, trusted friends and God (if you roll that way), be honest with yourself about how you feel, and please, for the love of Jesus Christ who pursued your soul - expect hope!

4. CONSUME AS MUCH PERSPECTIVE AS POSSIBLE.

Perspective is everything. Photo credit: Paige Overturf

Perspective is everything. Photo credit: Paige Overturf

By this I mean – allow the experience to shape you to become more resilient. But trust in the process – there is a beautiful love story ending waiting for you.

My theory about romantic rejection for the single woman or man who loves and values her or himself is this: they probably weren’t meant for you anyway.

Photo credit: Hannah Patarini

Photo credit: Hannah Patarini

Think about your best friends. Did you use techniques, tips and tricks to hook them in? Do you force them to come to things with you? Is conversation stilted and formal with them? When you met them, did you have to use pick-up lines? When you gave them your number for the first time, did you wait by your phone obsessed with the next time they would text you?

Did you have to convince them to stay in a friendship with you?

 

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Having read eternal reams of dating advice myself (and I do advocate for reading up on ANYTHING if you feel like a noob about it), I conclude that investing in yourself; that is, placing higher importance and genuine thrill and excitement about your own life, above finding a partner, will free you from scarcity mindset.

In other words, you currently may feel that Jeremy* was super compatible with you, but truthfully, there are many other ‘perfect-fits’. Fabulous suitors are a dime a dozen.

Too right! Photo credit: Culips

Too right! Photo credit: Culips

We just make a choice to marry ONE of these people. And this decision should be made slowly, with much research done on their character and ground-stomped evidence that the two of you have what it takes to last the distance. (Read my favourite article about this here.)

In your season as a single woman or man, the key to making the best possible choice is to fall in love with yourself... and your own life. My dating coach uses terms like “build a wonderful life” or “raise your personal value”. These things are mostly true, but it wasn’t until I quit my job to pursue full time writing and threw myself into the terror of becoming an online entrepreneur, weighed up the 2 possibilities; that I subsequently hit the nail on the head:

 

Possibility One: What if I find a man who loves Jesus, me, wants to marry me and I reciprocate?

OR

 

Possibility Two: What if I become a highly sought after Freelance Writer, Published Author and Speaker and get paid for doing what I love for the rest of my life?

 

I get so excited about the second option that finding a man pales in comparison. For if he finds me, he might distract me from my goal and I won’t respect myself. And if I don’t love and respect myself first, I will cling onto his view of me and let it define who I am, because we reinforce what gets rewarded. And in love, our partners become priority over our own goals. Further more, God and I authorise my identity, not anyone else.

5. Take as much time as you need to heal.

Photo credit: doctorramey.com

Photo credit: doctorramey.com

So all this to say: while rejection definitely hurts, time heals. It will help you gain perspective and process it in your mind, so your head wraps around new truths which will add to your arsenal to overcome potential heartbreak. Or, you'll just get smarter about what you want and how to go about it.

Time is like a free sample giver at your local supermarket, showing you other possibilities of the pleasures that could mark your life. Or if that analogy confused you – time will give you perspective. Rejection is inevitable because marriages aren’t arranged anymore. Many candidates for ONE Mr Right means all the Mr Wrongs will either be rejected or do the rejecting.

So how do we deal with rejection in a classy, graceful and mature way?

 

We:

accept the inevitable,

allow the emotions for a season,

speak truth about the situation, 

consume as much perspective as possible and

give ourselves the time we need to heal.

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