Rejection isn’t My BFF, But I’ve Learned From It (And 6 Tips to Get Over It)

Rejection is like the friend no one ever wants to invite out because they either bring everyone down or they make everyone viciously angry.  So we keep them at bay.  But then the party of the year comes and they somehow manage to crash it.  They have a grand ole time and somehow we’re left in the tracks of our own tears.  Probably not alone when I say no one wants to be BFFs with rejection.

My earliest memories of rejection stem from my relationship with my father.  When I look back, I wish I could say that my mind wreaks of more fond memories with him.  But sadly, I can’t.  My father was not around as much as he could or should have been.  Thinking back, there were many times he said he was going to call, visit, or take me out so we could spend quality time together and nothing ever transpired.  My mother and I heard a whirlwind of excuses.  So many promises, all empty and broken.

One particular time, my father had seemingly gone out of his way to plan to stop by so we could hang out.  I believe I was in the eleventh grade at the time and we were off from school.  I was excited because it had been some time since I’d last seen or heard from him.  So on this particular day, I got ready and waited.  Waited.  And waited.  One hour, two hours, three hours go by, and my father still hasn’t shown up.  I’m calling and calling.  No answer.  There I was, disappointed, rejected… Sitting by the window, crying, hoping that my father wouldn’t leave me hanging like this (again).  

He never came.  Another empty, broken promise.  More excuses.  It was a record I’d heard all my life and I wanted its opportunities for airplay revoked forever.  From that day forward I vowed that that would be the last time I would be left crying—sitting, waiting by the window or the phone for my father (or anyone for that matter). 

I’d be lying if I said this didn’t have any long-lasting impact on my life.  The rejection I felt from my father made me feel as if I was to blame…  That I wasn’t good enough or deserving.  From this stemmed many of my insecurities, self-doubt, low self-esteem, confidence, my shyness, and my inability to let down my guard and trust.  After a certain age, I realized I was allowing it to hold me back from truly being me and going after what I wanted.  I also realized I was angry with my father, his not being around… And I was angry with myself for being affected by it for so long.  But I had to let it go.  I had to realize that I was not to blame for whatever my father was going through.  He has his reasons for why he wasn’t there.  He made his choices and he has to deal with them.  I cannot hold myself responsible for his actions or others, especially when these actions don’t stem from me.  I had to forgive and move on.

I’ve experienced rejection in a variety of other areas of life—love, relationships, work, school, and with many of my personal and professional interests.  Sometimes it didn’t phase me.  Others, the pain from rejection was damn near debilitating.  In the past year, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard “NO” after going after various opportunities.  But “YES” was never too far behind. 

Rejection is just as normal an occurrence as sunlight in the morning and moonlight at night.  It’s inescapable.  It’s unavoidable.  It’s timing is impeccable.  And while there’s nothing we can do to block its way, there’s plenty we can do to avoid its lingering effects.

  1. Never lose sight of who you are.  No matter what happens or what anyone says, you must know who you are.  You must remain true to yourself and be steadfast in your convictions.  Be strong.  Be confident.  Trust, know, and believe that you are good enough.  

  2. Learn from rejection.  When rejection occurs, take a moment to look back at the situation and see if there are any takeaways.  Is there anything you can apply moving forward?  Were you really up on your game as much as you could’ve been?  Did you really give it your all or were you going with the motions?  Whatever you discover, do not beat yourself up about it.

  3. Do not give up.  Don’t allow rejection to ruin your course of action.  If you set out to achieve something, stick with it until it comes into fruition.  You’ve invested too much into yourself and your dreams to give up midstream.  If you don’t try, if you don’t continue with your pursuits—you’ll never know the outcome. 

  4. Find ways to keep yourself inspired.  The path to your dreams is one that will be filled with tremendous upheaval.  It won’t be easy.  There are moments when your faith or belief may be tested—and it may wane.  If you can look to the many things in your life that get you hype, that build your optimism, and that constantly rehabilitate your faith and beliefsyou will push through.

  5. Always look to better yourself.  When opportunities arise to increase your aptitude, jump at them (as long as they’re feasible).  You may be really good or great where you are in your life, but you can always take it to the next level.  Look to those who’re doing things you’d like to do and see what you can learn from their experiences.  If you so choose, reach out to them.  You just might find a mentor.  But it’s crucial that you’re ready when they call on you.

  6. Maintain a strong support system.  Keep yourself grounded by people who know, love, care, respect, and appreciate you.  They should hopefully be people who are honest, considerate, and will build you up when they know you need it most.  No matter how good or great you are, you can never have too much support.  You can never have too many champions.  But be sure to pay back in kind what they’ve given you as you make your way.

We all will experience our share of rejection in this life.  But it’s what we do with it that makes the difference in what happens afterward.  As writer Ray Bradbury said, “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”  

Don’t let rejection break you.  Let it strengthen you and your quest to be all that you’ve been destined to be.

Finding My Way Back

I’ll never forget a particular meeting a group of peers and I had with the head of student affairs at my alma mater… During this meeting, she told us that roughly 80%-85% of people are unhappy with their careers.  Many of us were in shock after hearing this.  I thought to myself, “Wow. The remaining 15%-20% have it made. I want to end up in that group, not the 80%-85% group.”  Years later, I found myself slowly drifting closer and closer towards the 80%-85% group.  Once I found myself fully submergedI needed more than a white flag to save me.

Practicality lured me down this path.  Armed with good intentions, I thought I could make it work.  Honestly, I did.  But how can you when you’re committing yourself to something that fails to hold your heart captive, no matter how hard or what you try?  I listened to the “wisdom” about going into a career (technology) that would provide a good living.  I was told that my dreams and what I wanted (a career in the arts/being a renaissance man) was lofty, unrealistic, and that I wouldn’t/couldn’t make  a living doing it.  So (unwillingly) I bought into to it.  It was a good lie for a few years.  But each time I got still, reality brought truth back home.

As I moved further away from my dreams, the more they haunted me.  I called this the true gift and curse about dreams, talents, and natural abilities.  The more you deny them, the stronger they become.  If you allow your dreams to die, a portion of you will die along with them.  As I found myself heading for crisis, my dreams were still very much alive.  I, however, was going deeper and deeper into denial.  I found myself saying, “There has to be another way.  There has to be.  Otherwise I want out.”

Ever been in a situation that felt like a dream that you weren’t supposed to be in?  You know, when everything (including the people) seems so unreal and untouchable and you don’t quite fit?  That’s how I felt.  It was the dream, a fantasy, that I should’ve awakened from sooner.  A fantasy that would eventually turn into a nightmare.  When the fantasy ended, so did my livelihood.

I was forced to get really real.  I had to find my way back to myself and all that I denied along the way.  Silly of me to believe the hype and allow external factors to influence decisions about my well-being and career.  Foolish of me to doubt myself and my talents and let my self-esteem and confidence suffer as a consequence.  How silly… So silly.

After years of neglecting yourself, you have to get back to you and heed your calling.  And that’s what I’ve been doing.  While I know I’ve got a long way to go, it’s not as long now that I’ve fully embraced me and all that I have to offer.

More to come!

Day 97: Making Dreams Happen

Image from OutWrite 2012 in DC, taken by Author Donald Peebles

When everything else falls short, our dreams are sometimes the only things that can pull us through.  When you wake up each morning and go to bed every night yearning to break out and bring your passions to life, you’re eventually going to have to make a decision.  Either you’re going to continue living a life unfulfilled or you’re going to commit yourself to working towards a fulfilled life where you achieve your dreams.  I’m glad that I finally made the decision on November 27, 2011 to make a serious push towards achieving one of my lifelong dreams.

On November 27, 2011 I submitted the initial draft of my manuscript to be self-published through iUniverse.  For at least three years, I’d been toying with the idea of publishing my first volume of poetry.  For whatever reason, I was conflicted.  I take that back.  For several reasons, I was conflicted.  I’d given so much of myself away to my job and school and other entities outside of myself, that there didn’t seem to be much time or energy left to focus on what truly mattered to me.   I doubted my talent and wondered if I really had what takes to make it.  And I got caught up in others’ and society’s expectations of what I should be doing with my life.  I found myself trying to adhere to standards and live a life that I didn’t want and that didn’t fit me personally.  I suffered because of it and had to work to rebuild and get myself back on track.

So in the months leading up to submitting my manuscript, I eventually said, “Fuck it!”  I was tired of being depressed.  I was tired of doing things I wasn’t passionate about and could really give two shits and a side of fuck about.  I realized that there was no better time than right now to go after what I wanted.  I couldn’t blame anyone else but myself if I got to a point in my life where I was completely frustrated, disappointed, and angry about what I did and did not accomplish.  The blame would definitely fall within no realm but my own if I committed to the quest of living the life dictated by others.  So I went to work.  I did research on how I should go about getting my work published, talked with friends and others about their experiences publishing and what advice they had for me moving forward, and continued nurturing my craft.  And in roughly six months time, my book Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics was available for public consumption.

It fills me up with so much pride and joy seeing my book in print.  It’s a major accomplishment, and I’m glad I finally pursued it. Now that my book is out, work hasn’t stopped.  I’m still writing, networking, and planning for signings, readings, and other appearances to promote my work and myself.  I’ve also begun work on my next project (more on that in another post, I promise).  The focus for me is becoming a full-time writer.  Outside of my writings about music, entertainment, pop culture, I’m most interested in writing about the human condition and the many things that we experience in our day-to-day lives.  My writing—be it poetry, song lyrics, short stories, or prose—can, at times, be raw, confrontational, and confessional.  As people who’ve read my writing have said, it’s engaging and it’s real.  I’ve long since realized my style is not for everybody.  However, if my writing resonates and touches just a few people, then I’m on the right path.

While writing is one of my passions, the dreaming doesn’t stop there.  I’m in the process of achieving two other dreams.  The first is finishing my MBA (which will be completed December 2012) and the second is becoming a voice over actor/artist (which I’m training for as we speak).  And I have others, that, in time, I will continue to nurture and work to achieve.

It’s great to have dreams.  We should all be encouraged to dream.  But nothing is sadder than when we don’t go after or put in the work to make our dreams come to life.  It’s critical that we do not let anything or anyone (and that includes ourselves) stand in the way.  And you can’t give up if success doesn’t happen immediately or happen in the way you think it should.  Always be open and flexible to what the universe may bring you.  It may be better than anything you ever dreamed or anticipated.

Whatever you do—keep dreaming and keep achieving.  Live your destiny.

Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics is available at iUniverse, Amazon (Paperback | Hardcover & Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Book-A-Million (Paperback | Hardcover), and other retailers.