A woman looking through the door of a washer door at the laundry mat

The phone rings. It’s the call you’ve been waiting for, anticipating, hoping for.

The answer is no.

You didn’t get that job. That guy isn’t interested in pursuing you further. That friendship will not withstand the test of time.

Rejection comes in many forms—but no matter what platter it is served up on, it hurts regardless. I have done my own dance with rejection throughout my life. I take one step forward, and rejection and I step on each other’s toes, letting me know I made the wrong step. No matter how hard I try to get in step with him so that we don’t collide, it seems that we are listening to the beat of two different songs set to out-of-sync metronomes.

Each time, rejection communicated to me that there was something essentially wrong with me. Unknowingly, my identity was wrapped up in the outcome of my circumstances. When things didn’t go as I hoped, it left me devastated and feeling the need to run and hide.

Unknowingly, my identity was wrapped up in the outcome of my circumstances.

A woman standing next to a washer/dryer at the laundry mat

If that guy didn’t choose me, well shoot—I must not be pretty enough. I must not be good enough. I must not be confident enough. I must not have enough followers on Instagram (because heaven knows I don’t but I rather prefer it that way.) The list goes on for what must be wrong with me.

If that best friendship failed, well then obviously I must just be a bad friend incapable of holding the weight of a true confidant. I must be incapable of having a true best friend.

If that job did not pick me, I am a failure. I must not be a good writer, singer, event planner, teacher (or fill in the job title here). I may not be as talented as I thought. I should just quit.

The lies of rejection come swiftly. You get swept up in the winds of rejection so quickly that before you know it, it’s a full on tornado wrecking havoc on your internal world.

For so long, I let rejection tell me who I was. The lies were so loud that I never even questioned their validity, but with much practice, I started to learn that perhaps rejection wasn’t this monstrous storm to run from. Maybe it, in fact, was one of the natural rhythms of life, like any weather pattern, that I just had to learn to embrace and respond appropriately to.

[Rejection] in fact, was one of the natural rhythms of life, like any weather pattern, that I just had to learn to embrace and respond appropriately to.

Last fall, I was dealt another round of rejection. I went on a date with  a guy, and I thought it went well. Later that day, as I was leaving my date, I got a call from the mom who I was nannying for letting me know that after a month of me working with her family, it just wasn’t working out. Ouch! It stung.

The next day, my date reached out and asked if he could call. Yes! I was so excited, but when the call came his tone was different, less enthused. He had called to let me know he wasn’t interested in moving forward.

I could hear the nerves in his voice as I quietly and attentively listened. I graciously responded, “Thank you for letting me know.” We hung up the phone pretty quickly afterward and went our separate ways.

Two rejections in two days is a lot, but as I sat and took a moment to process, I had one thought, “At least, now I know.” Both situations—work and romance—had ended and not gone as I had foreseen, but at least, they had both ended. There were no loose ends. There was no confusion. I could move forward with the information I had, free to pursue new work opportunities and romance. I was free.

Here’s the thing about rejection—it is going to happen. It is a part of life. We will face it continuously, but we get to determine if it will decide our identities.

We will face it continuously, but we get to determine if it will decide our identities.

A woman sitting on a cart as she rolled down an aisle at a laundry mat

After college graduation, I remember I had an folder in my email inbox full of rejections for editorial jobs.  The email folder was accurately labeled “Rejection.” There were about 40 rejections at one point. I remember I told one of my close friends, Lucy, about the folder. She too was a journalism major in college, and I knew she understood the struggle to find work in an industry that was shifting.

After dealing with rejection for so long, my perspective started to shift. Every no that I received, I started to truly believe that it was for my own protection. I know that is a cliché saying, “Rejection is God’s protection,” but I started to think that it might be true.

What if that job I wanted turned out to be a terrible commute? What if the manager I would be assigned to was a poor leader? What if the work environment was toxic? That “no” I was dreading might just have been my saving grace, to protect me from something that was never meant for me.

That ‘no’ might just have been my saving grace, to protect me from something that was never meant for me.

I remember my “Rejection” inbox folder days fondly. I eventually changed the name to “God’s Protection.” I know now that none of those jobs were meant for me.

I look back at some rejections in my life, the ones that were more painful, and I truly believe that they each came to teach me something, mostly about myself. Nowadays, when rejection hits, it still stings. Don’t get me wrong, but my response is different. I am able to more easily separate life’s disappointments from my own identity.

When I don’t get that job, that sucks, but okay, it must not have been meant for me. When that guy doesn’t choose me, that stings, but he must not be the one. When that friendship ends, it hurts, but I appreciate it for what it was and hold it with open hands.

That’s the difference now, I hold things with open hands. If it’s for me, then I truly believe I won’t have to force it, but there will be a natural ease with which I can walk into it. So I hold my head high, and I keep pushing because what’s for me is mine. No one can take it. If I didn’t get the thing, then it must not have been mine to keep in the first place.

Has rejection ever impacted your sense of identity? How have you learned to cope with rejection?

Images via Emily Blake, Darling Issue No. 11

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2 comments

    1. Thank you for sharing Charmaine. Love hearing your positive feedback.
      – Stephanie

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