Monday 25 March 2019

How to Overcome Rejection and Keep Moving Forward

Inside - the story of my rejection, and how I kept going afterwards.

I was voted out.

Just one vote in it.

Why didn't they want me?

Those people there, they have no idea how hard I worked for those five months.

The mess I was handed.

The mess I straightened out.

I know that the person who is taking over will do well.

(I've been doing a thorough handover, she's a friend before she's my usurper)

Why didn't they want me?

(And why are they avoiding me now? I still want to help!)

Those people there, they don't know me.

(Oh, but I've heard stories of how their dislike gets discussed with others.)

Why didn't they want me?

But that isn't my focus now.

I've had my cry, and my rant.

I debriefed with others.

I've shared my fears about the future, the wrong steps I can see coming.

And I've moved on, thanks to some tips from my friend Ellen of Potential Psychology Blog. Ellen says:

1. Acknowledge that rejection hurts and that hurting is okay. Humans have evolved to connect with others. It kept us safe when we needed our tribe to protect us from physical harm. Being cast out from the group was a threat to our safety and our brains still feel that threat acutely. Uncomfortable feelings follow but they're just feelings, they're not judgements about who you are. Feel the feelings, acknowledge them and accept them as just feelings and you allow them to dissipate. Then you can move on.

2. Consider this: Another person's rejection says more about them than it does you. When we experience rejection our brains will quickly jump to conclusions about why it has happened. We imagine and concoct stories in our mind that tend to focus on our perceived failure but we rarely consider what might be going on for the person or group who rejected us. Maybe they feel insecure in your presence? Maybe your personality or style is just not to their taste? When you accept someone's rejection as signifying little more than their right to choose according to their own biases and preferences rather than as a value judgement about you as a person, you free yourself from painful thoughts and feelings of rejection.

3. Create a 'challenge mindset'. When the sting of rejection has reduced a little, ask yourself, 'What can I learn from this?' Could I have done something differently? Should I have? What does membership of this group mean to me, and why? Groucho Marx famously said, 'I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.' We all like to feel loved and wanted but we can't all be loved and wanted by everyone. What can this experience teach you about where you belong and why.

Here are my lessons from this experience:

1 - I am better with numbers than I give myself credit for.

My whole life I have told the story that I am terrible at maths. A story that was reinforced by my grades, and my parents (whether unintentionally or not) and every experience with numbers I've had since then.

But that isn't the truth. I was able to balance the books, find missing invoices and payments that were thought unpaid, and answer queries of the previous treasurer's work from the auditor. 

And all of that involved working with numbers and understanding them.

2 - working with a team that doesn't want to work with you isn't worth the battle.

I was recently asked if I'd put my hand up again in twelve months time.

My response was a resounding "no way!" and despite my desire to be of service to my children's school, and give back to my community, I realised that I actually meant it.*

3 - people judge on the stories other people tell, always.

The people that dislike me are basing their judgement on 1 person's dealings with me several years ago in another organisation. I still have no idea what I did to this person back then, but she's carried it for all that time (which really says a whole lot about her.)

So when someone says "I don't judge people" I call bullshit, every single time.

Because it is human nature to judge, it's a primal instinct, our fight or flight reflex at work.

And 1 person's experience can taint it for all others.

4 - people don't like change. Especially when change is inevitable.

The truth of being involved in p&cs is that change always happens.

And the people who are there year after year (usually employees) often struggle with changes year after year when an enthusiastic team pops up in front of them.

So they push back.

It's a natural human response, to say "no, that won't work, we've always done it this way"

The team that can survive that pushback has to figure out how to balance the emotion of stability with the enthusiasm of change.

5 - mindset matters.

As I sat in the AGM, I knew as soon as someone else was nominated for the role that I would lose. And I wanted to run out there and then without going through a vote.

But I also knew that I couldn't leave the meeting. I'd been to too many meeting in the past where work was handed to new members and they had no clue what they were looking at, or how to move forward. 

I couldn't do that to my friend.

And I couldn't do it to the team I had worked with for those hard slog months.

No matter what they thought of me.

So I allowed myself to cry. 

I allowed myself to debrief .

And I made a conscious decision that after 24 hours I needed to move forward.

That decision allowed me to work through my feelings.

And it opened me up to other opportunities, because I was able to see the value in a job offer I had been made a couple of days before. And I accepted it. Which is a whole other story to share.

How have you overcome rejection in your life?

* I've committed to helping with events over the next few months. 
And I've put my hand up at the high school. #Ineverlearn



  1. This is a perfect example of everything happening for a reason - if this situation hadn't happened, you wouldn't have found yourself in a job where you are actually going to be paid for working hard!
    I stayed at my last job for 17 years and when I was doing my handover to my replacement I spent a lot of time saying 'just because this is how I always did it, doesn't mean there isn't a better way. This is your job now, if you think there are different ways to do something, don't worry about changing it'. I'm not sure if it is better or worse that your replacement is a friend! But I'm really pleased that her appointment led you to take up a new challenge, one that you will make your own and enjoy doing. Good luck!

  2. I am reminded of "When a door closes, a window opens .." - what your story tells me is that you are hardworking, conscientious, willing to learn (even stuff that doesn't come easily to you), open (allowing yourself your feelings), respectful (not exiting the scene quickly however hard it was to stay), graceful in defeat (and that's a very skilful quality) and resilient. All that sounds like something to be proud of and to take with you into a new place :). Warmest good wishes xxx.


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