How to stop taking rejection personally

Published on January 16, 2024

Every time I get a no, or an opportunity closes, I dive head first into a river of misery and gloom.
And that’s despite knowing all the tools, all the psychology, all the things about how NOT to do that. 

Except now, I swim in the river of misery for less and less time.

Every time it happens, I get over it faster.

Even the misery is less…miserable.

And I’ve noticed this difference in my clients as well, depending on how long we’ve been working together. The new ones feel it harder. The ones who’ve been with me 6 months and more know exactly what to do not to feel crushed by defeat and give up. 

So I thought it might be useful to share this with you so you can try it on.

Like all things, this is not an overnight magic pill.

It’s a practice. 

It goes like this:

First, allow yourself to feel upset, disappointed, angry, hopeless, crushed. That will probably never go away. 

Then pick one of these three mindsets as the lens through which to review what happened:

1. The scientist mindset

Scientists usually follow a simple process. They have a theory, or a hypothesis, and they conduct experiments to prove or disprove it. 

For example, if you apply for a role, you start with the theory that you’d be really good for that role.

Then you do a bunch of things: you apply, you speak to people, you send your CV, you do a presentation, you present your plan (depending on what level the role is at), etc. 

If you get rejected, your theory (that you’d be really good for that role) gets disproved - temporarily.

Or, in other words, your first experiment failed.

The scientist doesn’t take that personally. 

They evaluate the experiment, what they did, what they want to tweak, and they test again.

And again. And again.

Until the theory is proven or completely disproved.

I would argue that when it comes to a role, only you can decide whether to disprove the theory that you are good at it. You may not be good at it YET but you can certainly experiment and figure out what you need to do to become good at it.

The point is to experiment and tweak.

2. The artist mindset

Artists treasure their creativity, uniqueness, their quirks, their personalities- they embrace their originality. They don't try to do all the things everyone else does, even when they get rejected, critiqued and criticised, demolished, crushed, get laughed at.

They don’t take rejection as a sign their art is wrong. 
They know their art is subjective and not everybody will resonate with it and love it.
If you go to an interview and the interviewer doesn’t resonate with you, that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. They may think you’re too much or too little. But that doesn’t make it true. 

It is essential that you don’t alter your personality to fit a job. 

You keep being who you are until you find the place that welcomes you and your personality.

3. The monk mindset

Monks view rejection as an integral part of their journey, a lesson to be learned. They detach themselves from immediate outcomes, focusing instead on blogger picture, the deeper meanings and lessons each experience brings. 

Monks seek to understand what each rejection teaches them, using it as an opportunity to grow, recommit, and deepen their mastery of the process.

So if you get a rejection, the question is: what is here for me to learn?

How can I evaluate this? What worked? What didn’t work? If I believed this rejection was a gift, what is the gift in it?

It could be that the organisation or role really wasn’t the right fit.

That the hiring manager didn’t tell you everything and you actually avoided a disaster of a job.

It could be that the feedback you got, if acted on, will be crucial to getting you the next role.

It’s your job to reframe your thinking and the rejection in a way that moves you forward, not in a way that makes you give up.

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