Being a writer can sometimes feel a bit daunting. Submitting my work to an editor or publisher takes a lot of courage. I have to overcome the fear that my writing will be criticized or even worse, rejected. I’ve often taken comfort in knowing that there are many successful writers who have experienced rejection. J.K. Rowling, for example, received 12 rejection letters before her debut novel, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was accepted for publication.
Whether it’s coping with a breakup, not landing a job after an interview, or dealing with hostility from your family because of a life choice, rejection is inevitable. But that doesn’t make it any easier. So, how can we pick ourselves up and start over after getting knocked down? Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful.
Acknowledge your feelings
Rejection hurts, doesn’t it? That terrible feeling in your gut, the tensing of your muscles to absorb the blow, and the tears that force their way out despite your best efforts. You might think that emotional pain isn’t as agonizing as physical pain, but scientists have discovered that your body reacts to the pain of rejection in the same way it does when you spill scalding coffee on your skin.
In the first throes of rejection, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings and admit that you’re hurting. Keeping a stiff upper lip and denying your feelings can repress your emotions, making it hard to move on. So, when we remember the rejection, we’ll experience the pain all over again. I’ve found inspiration for sharing my own pain from rejection in the psalms of lament in the Bible. These raw and honest cries to God encourage me to share my own hurt, disappointment, and even anger with God.
Share how you feel with a trusted friend
A problem shared is a problem halved, and sharing your pain and unhappiness after experiencing rejection helps you feel supported and loved. I have two close friends who give me invaluable love and care when I’m feeling rejected, such as when I’m on the receiving end of a snarky comment. My friends listen without judgment, pass me tissues, offer hugs when the tears flow, and pray with me when I’m seeking a way forward. And yes, they occasionally challenge me too, maybe gently telling me I’m overreacting. Don’t suffer alone. Find someone — a friend, counselor, or even your priest — to walk by your side.
Tackle negative self-criticism
No matter how hard I try, I often listen to the self-critical voice in my head that kicks into overdrive after a rejection. In response, I’m purposely cultivating a habit of positive self-talk. This starts with a personal journal where I make lists of the positive parts of my day and thank God for those. I also jot down affirming quotes and post them around my desk where I can see them while I work. I’ve found that guided meditations can be helpful in tackling self-criticism. And at times, I even talk to myself out loud (when I’m sure no one’s listening) to break the cycle of negative messages. Reminding myself that I’m capable of tackling a tricky task, that I’ve overcome negativity in the past, and most importantly, that God loves me, can often combat my negative thoughts and reframe them into a more positive attitude.
See yourself as God sees you
Priest and author Henri Nouwen explained that his “dark side” would respond to rejection with self-rejection, and he recognized how this self-rejection can rob you of your self-confidence and your confidence in God. “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved,’” he said.
When I’m feeling vulnerable and rejected, I try to remember to see myself as God sees me. I like to turn to the many Bible verses that remind us of how much God loves us, whether we feel we deserve that love or not. Recalling those reminders from Scripture has often helped me remember how much God loves me.
Decide to move on
Hanging on to rejection and the hurt it causes will ultimately have only one casualty — you. Learning to let go and move on can seem impossible at first and is often a journey rather than a single decision. When my first marriage ended, I often found myself dwelling on the hurt and rejection I felt in an endless cycle of guilt and pain. Eventually, I realized that I was dwelling on the past and not enjoying life in the present. So when I found myself thinking negative thoughts, I told myself: “That’s water under the bridge now. You can’t change it, so it’s time to move on.” In time, I managed to break the negative thought cycle more quickly.