How to Deal With Rejection

Earlier this week, I got a rejection letter in my email saying that I wasn’t selected to be a TEDx speaker this year at the event coming this May in my area.

I had anticipated this response at some point, considering the week prior, I went to double-check to see the timeline, knowing I would find out sometime in February. It looked like there were interviews with final candidates in January, which I hadn’t been contacted for. I generally tend to defer to “hoping for the worst” when there are decisions out of my control involved in any action I take to push for something big. The feeling of being “delightfully surprised” when I win feels way better than hoping for the best and getting rejected. Rejection is something that I have really struggled with – and I’m sure many others do too. At times, I would rather make an assumption about a result and not even take any steps to action – something that I now know is a GUARANTEED “FAIL” and even worse than never trying.

The “old” me, after getting rejected, would have downward spiraled into some negative self-talk, and about how I’m not good enough to be a “big speaker” and I would never apply again. The “old” me would have never told a soul that I even applied because of the fear of being judged if I didn’t make it. The “old” me would beat myself up for all the things I didn’t do well (didn’t take the application process seriously enough, didn’t have an innovative enough idea, didn’t practice speaking in a style that primed me for success on the TED stage). But I’m not the “old” me anymore.

I want to share 3 things that help me handle “rejection” these days, in a loving way, when it came to this TEDx news or any other rejection that I receive, in hopes that you can apply these same principles to yourself when you’re gearing up for a potential “rejection” that may land with you.

  1. Know that a rejection is not a reflection of WHO YOU ARE. When it comes to things like finding a mate, applying to schools or jobs, trying to make a sale as an entrepreneur, we tend to criticize our own capabilities and tendencies when we don’t receive the response we anticipate. But know that a rejection doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. It could mean a bunch of different things about your process, about the synergy between the involved parties, or a bunch of other factors. It’s actually important for us to rationally diagnose the situation in isolation, rather than judging ourselves negatively, in order to take steps toward a “HELL YES.” As an example, I went through many months in my business talking to over 30 people about possible coaching opportunities and got rejected left and right. There were times I wanted to give up, but because I was getting a “no” response doesn’t mean that I’m a bad coach. I had been in relationships in my earlier years that I spent years trying to stick around and fix make work, but for the life of me, couldn’t make it happen – but that doesn’t mean that I’m not lovable, a bad friend, or a pad partner. Not getting a TEDx talk doesn’t mean I’m never going to be a big deal professional speaker. Each incident of rejection should not define who you are as a person. Remember that there are other people who are involved in a decision like this, and they are making those choices based on their own filters, experiences, and perspectives. AND, even more importantly, do we personally want to say yes to EVERYTHING? I would say not, or we would all be stressed! So maybe TEDx isn’t for me right now; or maybe it never is, but it’s completely up to me, moving forward, to define how hard I want to work to make that a reality.
  2. Understand that there are always opportunities that result from a rejection. Using the TEDx application as an example, receiving the rejection gave me a TON of information to make decisions moving forward. I was informed that there were 29 applicants this past year, so now I know what my competition might look like, and might inform how much harder I need to work on the application in the future. I might choose to go to the actual event to see the caliber of speakers that are in my area, and make decisions on how I might choose to apply next year, if I even want to. Even observing my reaction as I received the news gave me information about how important being a TEDx speaker is to me. And finally, now that I don’t have this commitment on my list, I am open to other speaking opportunities or collaborations that might arise between now and May – maybe I might even secure a speaking engagement that pays well! There are ALWAYS opportunities (or in other words, there is ALWAYS a bright side) amidst a rejection.
  3. Recall what it feels like to have a YES. Sometimes we can take the “YES” response for granted when it comes easy, so when I am being constantly rejected, I use the tactic of reflecting on what has made people say “YES” to me, in order to focus on the positive instead of the negative. So, using my business as an example, after I spent months trying to secure clients and experiencing rejection after rejection, it was apparent that I needed to really dive into understanding my pricing and packaging model, combined with what my potential clients needs were, and also examine my mindset around sales, in order to figure out what was causing the lack of conversion. Most of the clients that I had already secured to date were people who already were a yes before I even spoke with them the first time. But they were all people who knew me or knew of me from referral sources. I noticed that it might take some time for new people to “know, like, and trust” me and really understand what I’m capable of doing, and additionally, many people in my circles don’t even have a clear understanding of what is possible with coaching, so it was my opportunity to educate them and show them what was possible for them. What resulted was a pilot test for my Accountability Success Circle, which ended up being a big hit. And how did these YESes feel? AMAZING. IN FLOW. “EASY.” (I put that in quotes because I did work hard to make this happen, but the conversion was NOTHING like the rejections I was getting prior). Using these feelings as a motivator, I used them to catapult myself back into the land of yes, while keeping me from dwelling on the painful “NO.”

Bottom line when it comes to rejection – know that this isn’t the end of the world. The more no’s you get, the closer you are to getting a YES. And the only way you can truly fail is to just quit.

I’m curious, what rejection eventually led you to an AMAZING win? Share in the comments below!

The Cheerful Mind