It’s that time of the year again when prospective college students are waiting to hear their college decisions, students that are looking for employment or a summer stint have applied to internships and jobs and are waiting to hear back. Now, let’s say that things didn’t, in fact, go as planned and as if the anticipation-induced anxiety wasn’t enough, we also find ourselves dealing with disappointment and dissuasion. It’s natural, it is a human tendency, rejection is a hard pill to swallow but hopefully this article helps with that.
1. Come to terms with it
This might sound a bit crude, but grief and heartbreak are inevitable, unescapable negative emotions that everyone, EVERYONE has to deal with in their life. So how can you expect it to never happen to you? Even if you did anticipate getting rejected, it still hurts. The most common mistake people make when they’ve experienced rejection is blaming: blaming the situation, blaming the person who broke their heart or blaming themselves for not being good enough. This is a very pointless and very damaging exercise because it leads to harboring false beliefs, rumination, self-sabotage and makes recovery very difficult.
Instead, you must take your time: allow yourself 2-3 days to digest the outcome and the pain. Whether your application gets accepted, what someone else thinks of you is not in your control—but how much effort you put in and how you deal with your emotions—is solely and entirely in your control.
You have a real power that cannot be diminished by what someone sitting in some corner in the world of 8 billion people thinks of your application or by what someone you know for a year thinks of your worth. Once you have relinquished your locus of control you have come one step closer to developing a growth mindset.
A fact about pain:
You don’t want to hurt, but pain isn’t all that bad. In fact, it is essential to learning and a sign of neurological development. Multiple studies have demonstrated how people who make more mistakes, and often experience pain, are able to acquire skills faster, develop deep knowledge of a certain area tend to be more intelligent and advance faster in their professions. A simple example is learning to do the splits. It’s painful at first, but the more you try, the less it hurts. This is entirely a neurological process; you can achieve flexibility by increasing your pain tolerance.
Recovering from rejection isn’t that simple but involves and activates the same ‘pain pathway’ in the brain- the same neurological process. Studies found that activation of this ‘pain pathway’, reinforces or strengthens the neural circuitry related to the memory of experience leading you to either getting better in that skill or improving memory of aspects of an event/experience to avoid in the future. The latter gives you a guide on how you ‘learn from your mistakes’.
So, while you may think that you’ve encountered a great loss because of rejection, your brain has actually experienced a great gain. #Pain_rewires_the_brain
2. Adopt a Growth Mindset
Having said, your internal brain mechanics can’t help you if you don’t consciously try to better yourself or change your mindset. Focusing on the big picture, counting the positives while allowing space for mistakes with learning as the goal of your endeavors rather than of success is growth mindset behavior. Don’t get me wrong —you must plan for success. But, you must also recognize that you might not get it right all the time, helping to amend your strategy. Adopting a growth mindset is employing a trial-and-error approach and ditching the all-or-nothing approach.
Now let’s say you did everything according to your plan: put in the time, effort and money, applied to a job or a university —and got in. Are you able to pinpoint why you were accepted? You’re so happy that it doesn’t even cross your mind, does it? Can this success guarantee that you won’t experience rejection again?
No, you can’t make that prediction because you don’t have adequate data. It’s as good as saying that you got lucky. But, when you focus on learning by adopting the trial-and error approach, you can anticipate errors better, and the errors you come across give you a lot of data, creating accurate predictions. This way, you’ll statistically improve your chances of being successful.
3. Put yourself out there: Effort > Expectation
Adopting a growth mindset and the trial-and-error approach demands trying. So take your time to recover but don’t quit trying. Move on to your plan B, C and D, but also remember that putting in the effort is fully in your control, so while you strategize, also make sure you are giving it your best shot. A common problem with rejection is de motivation. People take great efforts and make many sacrifices to achieve something and when they are rejected, they feel like none of it was worth it, this is especially damaging when you tie your self-worth to your efforts.
To add to it, society often projects hard-work as a disease and touts smart-work, as if they are not dependent on each other. “How do I fast-track my education so I can start earning faster?” “How do I make money without putting in the time and effort in med school or law school?” This narrative may originate from an ideal situation and is a good starting point but is not a good goal since it motivates horrible practices which can lead to horrible consequences.
To benefit from this narrative, you should have a low effort to expectation ratio. This doesn’t mean that you must spend time that you don’t have, rather the “smart” in smart work comes from perfecting your work strategy in the time you have. Your success strategy will only work if your effort to expectation ratio is low.
4. Extra Self-Care
I don’t think you should only reward yourself when you succeed. That means you don’t deserve that reward if you don’t. You got rejected? Now is when you need to pamper yourself—sleep 8 hours every night, eat the food you want, go out and meet people—go shopping. Success does not define your worth, you must reward yourself for the effort you put in.
• Give yourself the time you need to heal
• Seek support to deal with your emotions
• Create a workout routine and exercise daily: Just as there is a “pain pathway” there is also a “reward pathway” that can alter your brain, which exercise activates. So, exercise can do wonders to boost your mood, morale, and the memory —or rather perception— of being rejected.
• Remind yourself of your strength and indulge in what you are good at!