Embracing Rejection…John Page Burton

For many of us the word REJECTION is synonymous with failure. As adults, the perception that we are being rejected usually stems from a series of painful reference points that began during childhood. I can still vividly recall one of my earliest memories of rejection. I was in the 3rd grade and had a major crush on a girl named Amber. I eventually mustered up the courage to ask Amber to sit with me at the lunch table. She looked me squarely in the eye and leveled the blow. “No, you have a dumb haircut”!  From that day forward I routinely felt a degree of apprehension whenever I considered asking a girl out on a date. I can’t help but credit Amber’s callous dismal of me and my “dumb haircut” as a contributing factor to my insecurity.

ALL of us will experience rejection! It is an integral part of life. How we respond to rejection is entirely up to us. First dates won’t lead to second dates, job interviews won’t go well, we will be passed over for promotions, clients won’t buy from us, we won’t make the team, we won’t get the starring role or one day we may even wake up to find out that our children, parents, siblings or spouse no longer seem to enjoy our company. Rejection happens!

When we are allowing the FEAR of rejection to control us…

*We tend to personalize it. For example, when we get passed over for a promotion we may allow ourselves to feel inferior to the person who was promoted. A healthier approach is to re-frame the experience as an opportunity to seek quality feedback from the hiring manager. We can then use this feedback to help us become a more polished candidate for a future promotion. Taking this approach allows us to confront the perceived rejection and then re-assure our ego that it wasn’t personal.

*We allow other people to define who we are. When we allow the fear of rejection to control us, we are giving someone else permission to define our self worth. Once we develop this unhealthy, co-dependent relationship, we can easily begin “living” into this unfounded belief and before we know it, our dreams and ambitions are a distant memory. This is often referred to as “going along, to get along”. This is a very unconscious way to live.

Using rejection to empower us…

*It is essential to develop a different relationship with rejection. Rejection provides us with an opportunity to stretch and grow. For example, top sales professionals learn to turn rejection into a game. They know that it may take 50 no’s to reach a YES! To them, rejection is a badge of honor. Actors will often spend years auditioning for roles before finally landing a significant part. They are told that they are too short, too tall, too skinny, too fat or too whatever. Personalizing every rejection would paralyze them from ever moving on to the next casting call. Most of us have heard the story of Colonel Sanders, a man possessing both a fried chicken recipe and a dream. He was rejected by over 1000 banks before he was given the loan that started Kentucky Fried Chicken. He was in his late sixties at the time.

*Confrontation. Each time we face and move past a rejection, we are building muscles of courage and character. The vast majority of the rejection we experience is NOT about us. For example, I recently turned down a cable television salesman who knocked at my door. My decision had nothing to do with him. I am happy with my current cable provider.  How he processed our conversation is based entirely upon his programs surrounding rejection. All of us will have an ample opportunity to confront rejection on a weekly if not daily basis.

* Rejection can serve as a test. How committed are we to our goals and dreams? How serious are we about finding a relationship partner? How important is our career success? Every time we encounter rejection we have two choices. 1. Personalize it and conform. 2. Accept it as part of our growth process and move forward.

When we accept that rejection is an inescapable aspect of our growth, we will take it less personally. Rejection is inevitable, how we interpret and respond to it is an individual choice.

I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

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