In the cold, analytical light of day, rejection is a simple matter of a decision taken, but as the rejected, our reaction to it is very much an emotional one. If it weren’t, we’d scarcely need to think of how to deal with it, for there’d be a logical answer to it. In fact, there is; Not one answer, rather a bank of answers depending on the circumstances, but neither you nor I are likely to see it clearly in the emotional charge of it all. This makes it all the more important that someone lays out the analytical point of view for dealing with rejection. Emotional advice such as being yourself, picking yourself up from the purported disaster, and other such platitudes you can find plenty of on inspirational posters everywhere. However, once you’ve indulged in all the love, healing and angst you can (which I recommend if you find them helpful), perhaps you’d like to know what to do next.
Rejection, beyond the broad linguistic meaning, is always connected to the creation of something new. Sometimes it is a personal relationship, at others it is an assignment, a job, or an admission into something you were looking forward to. When we are refused a physical object, we feel a deep disappointment at worst, but rejection is the quashing of a dream; Something that could have been, and that which could have been is always for a deeper motivation. How you deal with it has a lot to do with that motivation.
‘Dealing with it’ means different things to different people, ranging from scholarly debate to throwing fragile objects against a violent wall. When some talk of dealing they mean fixing and others mean coping. Th difference can be either subtle or vast, and most of us would like some mixture of the two extremes that is unique to their temperament, when dealing with rejection. To find your own personal panacea, you must understand the way these two extremes, coping and fixing, work.
The original motivation is key, because there are many reasons we want something. We want things for the sake of achieving, possessing, or for a favourable association; Often it’s for an emotion or a chance to get one step closer to some long-held ideal. Ask yourself whether you wished for the denied thing itself, or for what it would lead to and mean for you. This is quite difficult to answer honestly, because we often mistake our own intentions. We project our ideal outcome or goal onto the person, organization or entity that rejects us, but often the rejecter is just a means to an end. That end is what you need to wrestle from your psyche. Was what you were denied what you were truly after, or was it merely a step forward, a vehicle for your dreams?
Fixing things after rejection depends on this crucial question of motivation. If the rejecter truly was your aim, your end, rejection means a re-evaluation of the association is called for. If they are the important element, there is often an alternative association, a different relationship, a different equation than the one you imagined that might be more readily approved than the one you imagined. Sometimes plan-B can even be better.
If the denied thing or the rejecter was merely a step forward, a conduit towards what you are seeking, then as disappointing as the rejection is, you must recognise your true goal and find an alternative method, a new means, a different path to reach your end. The goal on the horizon hasn’t rejected you or dashed your dreams, you’ve just been refused by the ferry captain who you thought would provide you safe passage on your journey. The journey is not at an end yet and there are ever more ways to cover Earth and sky and ocean.
Coping with rejection is a confusing house of mirrors that is not open to cold analysis, but it is also not as insurmountable as it first appears. Disappointment is a clawing feeling that causes our already tenuous grasp on self-confidence teeter on the edge of oblivion. We are social creatures and to be rejected, even if not in a personal circumstance, is a painful lack of acceptance by others that gnaws at our most basic pack-animal fears: that of being alone, unappreciated and unimportant. It is the metaphorical staring into the vast abyss of the universe and realising the universe may not think we are the greatest thing ever. It may not even know that we exist. Rejection makes us feel like our existence is under question. Only, it is not.
Here again, recognising your motivation beyond the obvious helps in accepting rejection on a personal level, without taking it as a failure of all you stand for. If what you were denied was not your true goal, you should be thankful for not getting into an fulfilling, unappreciated association. Another means to your end might better recognise what you bring to the proceedings, your uniqueness, your reason for existing. You cannot please everyone all the time and shouldn’t try. An unfavourable relationship, personal or professional, can mar more than make, and you have much to make of your dreams and horizons.
If what was denied truly was your ultimate goal, a rare event, recognise the ends, dreams and needs of the other party. Find another equation that will work mutually, with a regard for the aims of all parties involved. To not see their side, their individuality, their dreams, and their reason to exist, is to reject the importance of their existence. You are not the unfeeling universe; Feel and understand, cope and create anew.
P.S. The skeleton of this post was written almost two years ago based on a discussion and a request from a friend. While the thoughts were shared privately then, I never got around to finishing it to my satisfaction for public consumption. When inspiration rejects us, sometimes we simply have to be patient and wait for the mental weathers to change.