Handling Rejection

Today in my psychology class, we talked about overcoming anxieties by repeated exposure to those anxieties. One of the specific examples used was the fear of rejection. We talked for a while about how people overcome that fear, and it got me reflecting on what experience I have with it.

Looking over the blog, I’ve talked about rejection a lot. I’ve written about getting rejected by schools, by girls, by libraries, by publishers, and by readers. (It was interesting to go back and read some of the posts I’d written way back when–before I’d had much experience blogging–about getting rejected for Vodnik and being quite down about it.)

Interestingly, one of the things I haven’t written about is the first thing that came to mind to me in class today. I might have been rejected now and then over the years, but there was definitely a time in my life when I dealt with rejection every single day, for much of each day.

Two years as a missionary. Going around asking people if they’d like to hear a message about Jesus Christ. As I’m sure you can imagine, you get many (many) more no’s than you do yes’s. And when that’s just a steady occurrence, the fear of rejection goes down dramatically. You also begin to learn how to handle it better. Here are a few of the takeaways I had from my two years:

  • Having someone to share your rejection helps. A lot. On my mission, I had a companion at all times. When someone was rejecting me, there was someone next to me getting the same rejection. Someone I could talk to about it after it happened. Someone who understood exactly what I was going through. More than that, I had a whole friend group (all the other missionaries) who were also sympathetic. I didn’t feel like I was alone. Sometimes, we’d even share stories about the most brutal (or funny) rejections we’d had. When rejection is normalized, it doesn’t feel so sharp.
  • I realized people weren’t rejecting me as a person. They were rejecting the thing I was trying to talk about. Maybe that seems like a small difference, but it’s one of the big ways that softened the blow for me. Those strangers couldn’t be rejecting me. They didn’t know me. Their rejection ultimately didn’t affect who I was or how I lived. (Though obviously it still hurt from time to time.)
  • You really can develop a thick skin, and it helps if you get in the right mindset. Just because I was getting rejected all the time didn’t mean it never felt bad, but I found that if I could just get that first rejection out of the way each day, the others weren’t really that bad.
  • Fear of rejection is largely in your head. For me, it came down to the fear of feeling like people thought I was foolish. Or the fear of looking like an idiot. If you have a strong self-esteem, that rejection fear drops significantly. I guess this is a no brainer, but the more confident I grew as a missionary, the less concerned I became about those no’s.
  • Fear of rejection also never really goes away. Even with all that rejection, there would still be times that it would really make me hesitate and want to avoid doing certain things. Acknowledging it and then moving forward anyway is a skill that gets better with time.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have any fear of rejection anymore. As far as I can tell, that isn’t going anywhere. But knowing how to handle it can make all the difference. How about you? How have learned to deal with rejection? Any tips?


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