Six pieces of advice from me and my 11-year-old

Photo by Mark Kamalov on Unsplash

Recently, I had to help my son to ease the sting of one of his first experiences with rejection. I, like everyone, have faced rejection many times and have strategies to handle it. I found it much more challenging to help him than I do to deal with my own rejections.

As I parent, I want my kid to have a growth-mind. Thus, I need to offer my child loving understanding and encouragement at times like this. Or, I can remind him of his past successes and times when perseverance paid off. My son also needs me to provide a compassionate look at lessons learned.

Based on my own experiences and my son’s recent one, here are six possible rejection cures. I can use all without any adverse side effects.

Rejection cure #1: Surround myself with people who love and believe in me

I don’t have to deal with rejection on my own. Find my cheerleaders. Get together with family or friends who love and believe in me no matter what happens. I am so much more than this rejection.

Rejection cure #2: Feel the sting and get it out of my system.

I encourage my son not to push aside his feelings about the recent rejection. He needs to acknowledge that rejection happens and that it stings. My husband and I made sure that he knew it is normal and OK to feel hurt, angry, or sad.

Now to the get it out of his system. Punching the couch pillows or bed works. Kicking something that won’t hurt you or it also works. A throw pillow also does the trick. Grunts and yelling boost the effect even more.

I tend to need a good ugly sob with snot and tears running down my face. Sometimes I combine this with punching the couch. If I can follow it up with smashing tennis balls hard, without worrying about then going it, my cure is complete.

Exercise, with the added boost of endorphins, would have been a great choice too. Walks in the woods work wonders for me.

Rejection cure #3: Do something that makes me happy or feels good

I encourage my son to do an activity that makes him feel happy. He chose to watch a favorite movie that he’d seen millions of times, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He couldn’t focus on moving ahead until he got in a better mental and emotional place.

Rejection cure #4: Focus on what I can control and not on what I can’t

First, I can’t let fear of rejection stop me from trying again. This is easier said than done. Instead, focus on the journey towards success.

I encourage my son to take all the steps he can achieve the result he wants. But then he must surrender the outcome. No matter the result he can learn something and decide what to do differently moving ahead. Repeat as needed.

Rejection cure #5: Remember that everyone, including the greats, gets rejected

I try to remind my son that everyone, yes everyone, gets rejected many times in their life. The ration of “no’s” to “yesses” is very high. Not making the team. Not getting the date. Not winning the election. Not getting the job or being fired. Rejection does NOT equal failure.

Everyone receives many rejections before they can celebrate success. I Google for famous rejection stories and choose examples that resonate with the situation. Oprah Winfrey got fired from a television news anchoring gig. Twelve publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book.

In our house, we focused on Michael Jordan, who got cut from his high school basketball team. Actually, the sophomore did not make the varsity team. But you get my drift. Also, in a strange twist of fate, my son was already working on a school project about the famed player. Cue chills.

Rejection cure #6: Focus on the facts instead of telling stories

This advice that I gave my son is the hardest for me to follow. Here’s an example. A fact is not getting hired for a job. The stories I can tell myself about that event are endless. I made a mistake in my interview. I will never get a job. I should not work in this field and give up now. So and so does not like me.

It helps me to remember that the rejection is not about me, but about the people making a choice. Yes, it is hard to not to take a rejection personally. It’s a skill I will always have to work on.

If I find something unfair, this is even more difficult. But I encourage myself and my son to handle the rejection with grace. It is important not to burn bridges by talking poorly about those who rejected us.

Shake it off and keep going

My son, I, or you will never face rejection if we do not put ourselves out there. I praise my child and myself for being brave and making an attempt. Two final takeaways from my son’s project on Michael Jordan:

  • “You have to embrace the hard things to get to the good things.”
  • “You can be powered by failure.”

I thought I was sharing valuable lessons with my son. But maybe he is my teacher?

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Kelsey Cleveland helps smart women in transition design their lives and set goals based on how they want to feel using the Desire Map method. She is also a freelance writer, a field with lots of rejection, who writes articles, essays and blog posts.