How To Deal With Disappointment & Rejection

“Argh”… “Oh no”… “That is bad”…. “Now what?”….. “Why not me?”…”What went wrong”? Disappointment is that sinking feeling, that pit in your stomach making you want to hide in your room forever. But there is good news, you will get over it.

Disappointment in various degrees follows a rejection of some sort: not getting that important grade you had hoped, and worked, for; not making the team; a romantic break-up; not getting accepted in the school or university which was your first choice and not getting that coveted internship or, later, that interesting job.

Rejection sucks, but some disappointments are easier to put into perspective than others as some may offer a ‘learning experience’, whilst others cut a bit deeper into feelings of unworthiness, of not being ‘enough’ – whether you think that is not clever enough, not interesting enough, not fit enough and whatever ‘not enough’ can be added to the list.

The rejection of not making it into a team or THE team, be it debating, cheerleading or sports, can be devastating in the moment and trigger negative feelings. But teams are fluid and there may be other opportunities to join, assuming the selection process was fair. If you still want that same thing in the future, you can learn and improve and hopefully be more successful in the next round. The same applies to bad, or lower than expected grades and not getting that job or internship. All this can be hugely disappointing, but if you understand why you messed it up (that grade) and why you did not get the job this time, there will certainly be other chances to do better in the future.

Disappointing outcomes, however, in things that seem out of your control are so much more difficult to digest. Being denied admission into your school or university of choice is shattering. It makes you feel your world is falling apart. Universities are not very helpful in the debriefing process after rejecting you as their feedback is often limited or non-existent. This is a very harsh reality to swallow. You may never know what it was that prohibited you from crossing the line and it feels, at least at the point of rejection, that getting some form of ‘closure’ is out of reach and that you can’t move on.

A romantic or friendship break-up shares many similarities with the above – especially when this happens over text or if someone is ghosting you. Why, why, why? What have you done? Where did it go wrong? The lack of closure also in this case can be very defeating, there is no denying it. Although a university rejection and a break-up seem totally different, they create a very similar level of emotional turmoil and some paralysis on how to move on.

Rejection hurts but is part of life too. Being ‘out there’, doing a lot of things and engaging with people, will undoubtedly lead to some disappointments along the way. It is how you deal with adversity that defies you. Some good coping mechanisms are:

  1. Allow yourself to ‘mourn’ this missed opportunity/this disappointment. Be honest about how upset you are and talk to someone you trust about how you feel. But don’t dwell on it endlessly as this can be so self-defeating. Verbalising your feelings to others and writing them down is definitely calming.
  2. Stick to facts and don’t allow your brain to run amok with falsehoods. Remind yourself what you are good at and what you are doing well. The glass half full. If you get rejected by something or someone, it does not make you ‘stupid’, ‘a loser’ or ‘ugly’ or whatever adjective you choose. For perspective, think for a minute of how it would be to lose a running race by half a second and then not make it into the track team; does this make you a bad runner? Of course not. The same could apply to when someone breaks up with you, maybe they are just not that into you and this doesn’t mean that you are an unworthy person. They were clearly not right for you as this was maybe a one-way relationship?
  3. Be positive apply a good dose of perspective. Maybe that rejection, with hindsight, was exactly what you needed. Learn how you can improve and become better at getting what you want. Start easing out the small errors first, step by step and ask for help. Maybe you can study better and with more planning, polish up that resumé, be more precise, get better informed about what it takes to get where you want to go and the next time/round you may very well make it into the team, get the internship, get into your university of choice or get that job.

Lastly, give yourself good time, but don’t sit around too long feeling sorry for yourself. Although this is of course easier said than done, making new plans and moving on from rejection can be very empowering. You will get over it and most disappointments could eventually make you better (prepared) and stronger (more mature) than you were before.

Watch this video about coping mechanism here.

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