When I was a senior in high school and applying for colleges, I applied at Texas A&M University. I didn’t really want to go there, but I knew it was a good school and I should apply because, well, everyone in Texas applies at either A&M or the University of Texas.
While I was waiting for A&M to respond, I found out I was accepted into the school I actually wanted to go to and began the enrollment process there.
I had almost forgotten about A&M when their letter came in the mail.
I read it and was shocked to find out I had been “waitlisted.” I ran to my room and cried.
I did not handle rejection well back then, not even from a school I didn’t want to go to in the first place.
In my mid-twenties, after a lot more rejections from various things and people, I began to understand that rejection was so hard for me because it was so personal. Not getting into a certain school meant I wasn’t smart. Not getting chosen for the choir solo meant I was a bad singer. Getting dumped meant I was unlovable.
If you rejected me, I rejected me too. Rejection threatened my identity.
I think the only way to get “better” at handling rejection, which will and should always cause some disappointment, is to better understand who you are.
For me, as a Christian, who I am is laid out clearly in the Bible. I am an adopted child of God through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:15). It’s a pretty rock solid identity. Later on in Romans 8, Paul talks about how nothing can change our status as adopted children of God—no height, no depth, nothing.
That identity is key when it comes to rejection because that identity is ultimate, complete, unconditional acceptance.
It’s a lie, and we know it.
I recently got rejected by a publication I wanted to write for.
They said, “thanks but no thanks.” I was disappointed. I had worked really hard on the piece I sent them.
I was helping set up for a friend’s rehearsal dinner when I read the rejection email, so I stepped into the bathroom for a minute.
I felt myself starting to spiral and think things like, “I am a bad writer because these people told me no.” Then, I remembered that rejection is a big part of the process for writers, and I told myself that just because they don’t want this piece doesn’t mean I am a terrible writer and should quit my job.
I was being a reasonable adult about things.
I was so proud of myself. And it was nothing I had done that made me act so mature.
I simply have a better grasp these days of who I am and whose I am.
After a couple of minutes, I came out of the bathroom and I was ok. It felt like I had this invisible shield of protection around me that rejection couldn’t get through.
This is what happens when we begin to understand and believe in who we are. Rather than our identity being this unstable, shake-able thing, easily tossed about by the opinions of others, it becomes a protective shield, something we can count on to always be the same and to always protect us.