When I was in sixth grade I tried out for the school cheerleading team. I had previously been a recreational squad cheerleader, and I spent all my extra time preparing for tryouts, so I fully expected to be allotted a spot on the middle-school team. Naturally, I was beyond crushed, and cried for days, after I discovered that my name wasn't on the team list. After all, such rejection was the end of the world at age 13.
Is it crazy of me to say that despite how painful it was, I wish I had experienced more rejection as a kid? I undoubtedly believe it would have made both my business and social adult life easier. And this is why:
Rejection is a never-ending part of life. There's not a person reading this that hasn't experienced what it's like to not be good enough. From being dismissed by school peers, to being turned down by the opposite sex, to not getting into your first choice college, to finding out that you're not the "right fit" for a company, to hearing the word "no" over and over in your sales job, life is full of rejection.
When I was a child I was often shielded from the reality of rejection. My well-meaning, loving parents would enthusiastically tell me that I was "wonderful" at my many different extra-curricular activities. And, of course, in most of these activities, I also received the ever-coveted participation trophy.
The reality is I was mediocre at best at most of my activities. So, I wish I hadn't received the trophies, or been told I was "Great!" unless I truly deserved such accolades. After all, there is no participation trophy in life, and you certainly don't get awarded unless your performance more than warrants it. Maybe just maybe hearing the truth would have caused me to work harder and become truly great at one of my many activities- or allow me to hone into a hobby in which I could actually excel earlier in life.
Of course, I am not suggesting that children shouldn't be supported in their endeavors or that they be blatantly told they "aren't good enough." But I know, for myself at least, that if coaches, mentors, and adults in general hadn't gone above and beyond to reinforce that I was a winner at all my pursuits, I would have been more ready for the realities of adult life.
Including the reality of being turned down by multiple companies after college when I fully expected to easily find a job. The pain of rejection continued into my work life, as I was tasked with cold calling bank executives to introduce consulting services. There were times that the person on the other end of the phone would be so rude that I would hang up the phone feeling beyond defeated and wanting to quit. Of course there are many other instances of rejection that I was forced to face, and still face, as an adult.
Fortunately, I started to become more and more resilient to the never-ending rejection. Actually, it is now what fuels me to work harder, so that I can prove the nay-sayers wrong. Being turned down by a client prospect, or receiving a stinging social media comment in response to my writing, doesn't cause me to crumple down into tears as it would have done before. Rather it motivates me to work harder, and it is undoubtedly the push of rejection that allows me to achieve more success.
It's really a shame that it took me so long to develop this quality, because life would have been much easier if I had embraced rejection earlier on.
The next time you are feeling the hurt of rejection, whether you lose your job or your girlfriend dumps you or the small envelope arrives in your mailbox from the college you applied to, remember this: Rejection is what allows us to grow and become more resilient, more motivated, and more successful. Embrace it.