Like most writers, I’ve long since lost count of the number of rejections I’ve received. Rejections for written pieces (“This does not suit our needs at this time.”), rejections at job interviews (“You’re very intelligent and seem like you would be an asset, but we’ve decided to hire someone else.”), and even rejections in my personal life (“You’re a sweet guy, J.S., and I like you a lot, but…”). Rejections for this, that, and the other thing. If there’s one thing I know really, really well, it’s rejection. I also know the slow-burning anger in the gut, the frustration, and the despair that comes with it. If you’ve ever been rejected and felt like you wanted to throw a full-on three-year-old temper tantrum, install a new skylight by Hulk-smashing your couch through the ceiling, or just sit in a corner and cry until your body shrivels up into a mummy, then you know exactly how I felt, and you know that I know just how you feel.
Rejection is an unfortunate but necessary part of the human experience. Everyone experiences rejection at some point in their life, whether they realize it or not. What many people who experience this don’t ever realize are the benefits of rejection. While this may sound self-contradictory, ask anyone who’s ever been turned down for a job or had someone they cared about say they weren’t interested in the person that way. Most of the time rejection can actually be a very positive thing, if you just look at it the right way. Here are 10 benefits of rejection to consider the next time you find yourself in this position.
1. Rejection motivates us to do better.
“The position’s been filled.” “This isn’t what we’re looking for right now.” “You’re a sweet guy/girl, but…” Ouch! We’ve all been there and done that at some point, and it’s unquestionably frustrating. When confronted with rejection, this can be a sign that you need to be doing something you’re not, or stop doing something you are. Figuring out what that is will put you on the path to doing better, and experiencing less rejection in the future.
2. Rejection reminds us we’re human.
Everyone’s the star of their own movie, and this can lead to an understandable but inaccurate sense of one’s own importance in the larger scheme of things. Rejection is actually a good thing because everyone at some point could stand to be taken down a peg or two. Rejection helps us here because it reminds us we’re all only human, no matter how extraordinary we’d like to believe we are.
3. Rejection teaches patience.
Some kinds of rejection can be hurtful, while others can be outright devastating. Not landing that job you’ve spent a month sending resumes, emails, and faxes back and forth about can be one of the worst rejections because the bills and the cupboard don’t care about your hurt feelings. However, this is one time when rejection can actually help you by teaching you to be patient and keep moving. You may not get what you want right away, but if you’re willing to work hard and be patient, you will eventually find yourself where you want to be.
4. Rejection causes us to explore different paths.
Sometimes rejection is life’s way of telling us we need to look at a different path to get where we want to be. Maybe the path we’re trying to take to get to our goals is all wrong for us, or maybe there’s a better way and we just haven’t realized it yet. Rejection can be a positive experience if you’re willing to take another road or try a new way of achieving the same thing.
5. Rejection forces us to reevaluate ourselves.
Many people deal badly with rejection. This is natural. Rejection is a painful experience. However, when someone hears the same thing enough times, they generally start to listen. “You have great skills with numbers, but you’re not too hot at dealing with other people,” is an example of such a rejection. Learning how to remake ourselves to be more goal-oriented, more people-oriented, or tweak aspects of our personalities to get along better with those around us is an important benefit of rejection people tend to overlook.
6. Rejection makes us reconsider our goals.
As a species we tend to ignore warning signs that are there for our benefit, like the person who struggles through an MBA program because they’ve been told their whole lives that’s the ticket to money and power, when what they really want to do is play the violin in an orchestra. Then the person gets a job interview and is told they were woefully underqualified. At the same time, the local orchestra is looking for a third-chair violin player. Your passions will always shine through, and sometimes rejection is a way for the world to force us to consider that impossible dream we’ve always wanted to chase rather than the “safe goal” that’s going to make us miserable in the long run.
7. Rejection creates opportunities for change.
Think about the last time someone said, “I would never have found this job/met this person/moved to this place if the other place hadn’t refused to hire me/person hadn’t refused to marry me/town had more jobs available.” Rejection can be a powerful force for analyzing why we go for the goals we do and what it is about these goals that drives us on, or away. It can also be a good time for introspection and considering one’s reasons for going after certain things, people, jobs, or situations. If we would only take the time to listen to ourselves about these things, as a race we’d be a lot happier and a lot more confident in ourselves and our instincts.
8. Rejection gives us new ways of looking at things.
Everybody gets tunnel vision once in a while. We focus on one goal, one person, or one dream to the exclusion of all else. Rejection can give us a time to pause and take another look at our objectives and how we’re trying to meet them. In this case, the idea is to look around with new eyes and consider, not only new ways of getting to the same goal, but how we view our goals and dreams.
9. Rejection makes us stronger.
There’s an old saying: The strongest fish is the one that swims upstream. Rejection can often feel like it brings you to a complete halt, but in reality it gives you something to push against. People do not grow stronger when everything is working for them, but when they are forced to cope with the unexpected or the undesirable. In this way, rejection helps us by showing us just how strong, resourceful, and capable we really are when the chips are down.
10. Rejection is an opportunity for growth.
Rejection does not have to be an automatic negative. Instead, try looking at rejection as a chance for you to grow and learn as a person. Maybe you learn from rejection that your aftershave gives people sinus headaches, or that your demeanor in a work environment puts people off. The lessons you learn from rejection can be applied to just about any facet of your life, making you a stronger, kinder, more “polished” person.
While rejection can be painful, you can see it can also be a blessing in disguise. The question now is, how will you deal with rejection? Will you take the opportunity it’s giving you…or install that skylight in your living room? The choice is yours.