The Upside of Rejection

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

Rejection, like failure, is a subjective phenomenon based on one person's or one group's biases of how things should be, or should be perceived. It is therefore unfortunate that many people get emotionally crushed, and often plainly victimized, by this issue.

In many instances, rejection is not only unsubstantiated, but also totally out of perspective. In some cases, for instance, rejection happens where there was not even rejection due. An example: a man who expresses his admiration to a lady whom he thinks is worth getting to know better from a humanitarian perspective. Depending on the lady's maturity, experiences, perceptions, and level of intellect, she may or may not misinterpret this approach as one of a sexual nature, and become offended. If she considers every man who approaches her a sex - maniac, she may respond harshly to this approach and decide to never speak to this man again. That is misplaced rejection, and it has happened so often in our society that people generally have become cautious of expressing even the simplest compliment toward one another, in fear of misinterpretation, rejection, or even worse: the accusation of sexual harassment.

Result: a society where no one dares to approach anyone anymore, and an increased number of people who remain lonely and friendless.

In other cases rejection is based on unfamiliarity, shortsightedness, cultural and racial bias from the ones who unfortunately happen to be in the position to judge. Examples for this type of rejection vary from applicant selections and performance measures, to unwillingness to deal with new perspectives, fear for one's position, and inhibition to be exposed to people from different backgrounds.

Result: a society that develops one - sided, and that gets entangled in a vicious cycle where certain groups always get prioritized over others based on the judgers' various subjective preferences.

And yet, even if one rationalizes the drivers for rejection as soberly as possible, it remains a hurtful experience: no one likes being rejected.

In this regard it may be appropriate to philosophize that things might have been different if people could only look into each others' heads or hearts to see what they really meant: misinterpretations might have been reduced, and noble intentions might surface despite initially perceived disadvantages.

On the other hand, the same philosophy teaches too that it might be a blessing that people cannot look into each others' heads and hearts to see what they really mean, as many fake smiles and sympathetic words would be unmasked on the spot, with all consequences in place.

The only good part of being able to see others' real intentions would, hence, be: the ending of hypocrisy and misunderstanding, and the creation of a more honest world.

But now that we cannot look in each other's heads and hearts: what could be seen as the upside of rejection? Here are some suggestions:

It is this last element in the upside of rejection that will make the rejected person a mentally and emotionally stronger one, enabling him or her to realize that rejection - like failure - is based on an opinion, and that it could be perceived as one of life's many lemons intended to teach how to prepare a strong and refreshing lemonade.