How To Deal With Setbacks And Rejection
This post is directly linked to my previous, ‘Rejection Stings To The Core‘
My palms were sweaty as I moved my mouse in an uncoordinated zig-zag across the screen. I swung my feet front to back nervously as they failed to meet the floor as per usual. The nerves piled on like laundry that had been forgotten and abandoned, and I for one wanted time to skip straight ahead like a clumsy finger was passively scrolling through an old long boring footage.
I’m not a very patient person. I mean I can agree it’s a virtue, but not one I possess no matter how hard I’ve tried. Nevertheless, there I was twiddling my thumbs as patience was being forced on me begging me to suppress my most anxious self. The timestamp on the right corner of the monitor looked as though it was glued to the screen as time seemed to not be passing at all so I’d doublecheck every few seconds by tapping on my phone to verify they were still in sync. Well, they were but I was just – you guessed it – impatient.
The call I was waiting for was yet to happen, and all the anticipation was building up to a dramatic defining moment, one that could change what my life would look like in the future and where I’d be a few months from then. It was the kind of moment that would make anyone feel like the lead character of their life as it carries a bit too much weight to be brushed off as anything less. Now, it’s all you and you either shine in the spotlight or play a role in the background like a backup singer on the right side of the stage. Needless to say, I wanted centre stage…
And then the call came and before I could wish the clock would rewind back those precious minutes I wished away so I could gather my thoughts, I was already engaging in a full-fledged conversation with two people across the large monitor. I could not see the looks on their faces but they had suppressed the seriousness behind the tone of their voices with a friendly one. I had now come to myself, slapped back into reality by the importance of that moment in time. I was ready to do my best – and that I did.
The anticipated outcome came in a couple of days later, and if you read my previous blog post ‘Rejection Stings To The Core’, well you’d already know how it went.
In its purest form, that’s how I wanted to write about rejection and so I did. I excluded the aftermath, the growth and the lessons as I chose to dwell on the feeling itself – the pain, the anxious fear, the bleeding heart that remains unseen by the stranger you smile on the bus.
Rejection leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of whoever gets stung and shook up their feet in the worst way, left to deal with the cruel aftermath. Sadly, it’s a brutal occurrence that will happen countless times in one’s lifetime, and learning to stitch up the deep cuts will become an essential skill for survival. So how does one deal with the setback of rejection in a healthy way? Well, it’s never easy, but this is what has been working for me…
LET IT STING.
The first thing we tend to do when faced with rejection is devalue the pain rejection brings. A war quickly breaks out in our minds between emotion and level-headed reasoning; like we are trying to fool ourselves into believing we really didn’t want what we craved anyways.
When I finished reading my letter that began with the words ‘unfortunately’, my head shaped denial into these kinds of thoughts: “Oh well, it’s not that big a deal”, “Maybe, next time I’ll do better”, “I’ll try again next time… there’s always a next time”.
I kept projecting into the future instead of experiencing the emotions of the now.
It was then I felt the urge to run away from my feelings and take shelter in my high school WhatsApp group where I’d hoped my friends will feed me back the same sentiment – mission accomplished – they did.
What I should have done instead, was what I did only later that evening when I was finally brave enough to sit with myself and the chaos boiling up on the inside. Only then I got to acknowledge how defeated I actually felt; sad and lost, unsure of what my next move would be. It felt liberating to process those mind-boggling thoughts alone and admit that right then and there I was not okay.
IT’S BOUND TO HAPPEN.
When we experience failure or a setback, it’s really easy to get caught up in the raw emotions of it all we forget, in most cases, rejection is just a necessary part of the big picture.
As a writer, I never get tired of people’s stories in whichever form they come in. Whether it be told while flipping through rusty pages or in a casual conversation on a culture podcast, unheard stories fill my soul like nothing else.
One will find there are a lot of things humans have in common when they walk in the shoes of others through the tales about their lives. For example, we are all looking for some sense of fulfilment in our everyday just as much as we all want nice things – I mean, who wouldn’t?
Setbacks and disappointment are some of the inescapable heartbreaks we all experience as humans. Everyone has felt rejected at a point and we will all continue to experience rejection for as long as we continue to try our lives out. Understanding it’s all part of the bigger picture is essential, although it may not bring about immediate relief at the moment.
The fact that rejection is sometimes bound to happen will not make it any less a bitter pill to swallow, however, while the pill itself may be hard to swallow, that fact alone does not reduce its effectiveness in making you better and stronger.
MAKE A GAME PLAN.
After rejection slaps you in the face and leaves its mark imprinted in your memory, the next step is an important one. For me, dealing with the aftermath meant coming face to face with myself and reflecting on all the steps that led me to my setback. Yes, I had done my best even though my best did not bring me success, but I had discovered I could then do even better.
There’s always room for improvement I believe, and perhaps setbacks can teach us to make more strategic moves in the future. Looking inwards to find your shortcomings can be hard to do because it requires honesty to a painful degree and not many of us are used to that kind of self-analysis, but that’s the only way we can truly grow to use rejection to our advantage.
STEP OUT THERE AGAIN.
It can be scary to put your bare feet back into the water that nearly drowned you, but at some point, you may have to.
There’s this common saying, ‘It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react’, and when you’re learning to deal with rejection, well, this is the most important part.
Rejection can be very crippling in itself. Think about it; if we already had a fear of failure, gathered up the courage to throw ourselves into a vulnerable situation only to be rejected, it would not be surprising for our moral to be lost along the way. Have you ever wanted something so bad the fear of stepping out of your comfort zone kept you firm in one place?
Growing from rejection means being able to put yourself back into those unpleasant situations that may have broken you down for a while. It means trusting a timing that perhaps you could never control as some things you want may be good at the worst time for you. Lastly, it means taking the toughest lesson into account, that you were rejected may be a blessing in disguise.
And you, how do you deal with rejection?
Your restless romantic roamer
This is so important – and I’m really grateful you’ve shared how you’ve been dealing with setbacks and rejection. I’m in an odd period at the moment, trying to work out where I’m going job-wise and whilst I think I’ve settled on the kind of thing I’d like to do – at least for now – I am very much aware that there will be rejection ahead. Like you say, it’s a necessary part of the big picture. I think what will help me is asking why I have been unsuccessful in applications, and the like. Then I can take that information, be objective and focus on that to improve. Sometimes we’re just unlucky, or we don’t have exactly what is needed, and it’s helpful to know where we stand!