Anyone Can Handle A Simple Rejection—It’s The Unexpected One That Hurts

How to not take yourself too seriously

Hey, it’s Cal again.

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It’s all about rejection this week. Not a rejection you might get when asking your friend for a few bucks, I’m talking about the unexpected rejections that cut deep.

The times you’ve poured your heart and soul into a project just to see it shoved in your face.

I used to get resentful over that kind of stuff. But I grew up and learned a few things along the way.

Alright, have a great weekend!

Anyone Can Handle A Simple Rejection—It’s The Unexpected One That Hurts

How to not take yourself too seriously

It’s summer 2014.

I’m about to knock on a stranger’s front door somewhere in suburbia. I’m sweating my ass off wearing khaki pants and a thick golf shirt with the AEP Energy logo on the right breast pocket. I knock with my right hand while holding a clipboard in my left.

The door opens, then immediately closes. “Sorry, I’m not buying today!”

You know those kids who walk around cul-de-sacs asking for utility bills? That was me, a door-to-door sales intern pitching fixed-rate energy plans to the households of America.

Here’s how it worked: knock on a door, smile, read your script exactly as it’s written, get the door slammed in your face, walk to the next house.

I became a rejection expert that summer.

I learned that dealing with rejection isn’t anything special. Everyone knows success doesn’t come without a few nos before the yes — it’s part of the game.

But all rejections aren’t created equal.

It’s the unexpected rejections that make us feel worthless and unwanted.

When you’ve poured your soul into something, and the universe spits in your face.

For me, It’s the times clients have cheated me out of a deal. The sudden breakups or ghost text without an explanation. A beautifully written article that receives a message from the editor that reads, “thank you for sending, but we are going to pass.”

The injustice!

The tyranny!

Resentment used to eat at me. I’d add people to my list of enemies, then plot my revenge in return for their sabotage.

But I grew up, as often happens, and realized that resentment holds no value. It’s about the least productive emotion we carry.

If I could write a letter to my former self, I would tell that angry kid to quit feeding your ego BS — there’s still work to be done.

I can’t, so I’m telling you. Here’s how you can clean yourself up after an unexpected rejection.

Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously, Most People Don’t Care

There’s a funny Alexander the Great story about rejection.

At twenty years old, Alexander was named ruler of Greece by conquest. He traveled south from Macedonia and toured Thessaly, Athens, and Corinth. Throughout the march, Politicians and generals showered him with gifts. Alexander accepted their praise but was more interested in meeting the famous philosopher Diogenes.

Alexander found him sunbathing on the outskirts of Corinth. He approached Diogenes and awaited some words of wisdom. None came.

Alexander cleared his throat and asked, “Can I do anything for you?”

“Yes,” he replied. “You can move out of the way—you’re blocking my sun.”

Moral of the story: Don’t take yourself so seriously.


Because no matter how many degrees you have, your title at work, what sport you played in college, how much you bench press, how many Instagram followers you have, or how many city/states you’ve conquered, the truth is, some people don’t care.

Get used to it.

Rejection is Just An Opinion

The writer Tim Denning recently published an article about dealing with rejection.

He argues that you shouldn’t take rejection too hard because, in the end, rejection isn’t a fact but one person’s opinion.

Opinions are flawed. Of course they are! They’re subject to timing, context, and biases haunting the decision-maker.

An employer chooses a candidate based on a 1-Page resume and a 5-minute speech about your career highlights. After that, you have to like each other. It’s a miracle anyone gets hired.

Breakups occur for the same reasons. Hell, you might get ghosted because you don’t like to hike as much as your date. Who knows?

We like to say we don’t care about what people think, but it’s ironic how much mental stress we place on a rejection we can’t control.

Give Your Inner Child A Big Hug

The rage we feel after a rejection echoes our emo teenage years: How dare you! You can’t tell me what to do! I’ll show you!

They’re powerful emotions that seep into every action we take. You plot revenge. Is it revenge best-served cold? Or best served? It doesn’t matter, so long as you get the last laugh. 

I’ll find someone more attractive and post it on Instagram.

My writing will make millions, and they will be sorry.

I’ll find a better job and let them know about it.

Want in on a little secret? There’s nothing helpful about these thoughts. They’re your inner child lashing out.

Sigmund Freud said that everyone carries their childhood traumas into adulthood. We demand reparations for the times we were bullied for being small, or fat, or dumb. Now that we’ve made it out alive, we walk around like everyone owes us something.

News flash, they don’t.

Ryan Holiday says our inner child should come as a relief because the source of our anxiety isn’t us. “Well, it is us, just not our adult us.”

So next time you plot revenge, remember who’s angry. It’s not you. It’s your 14-year-old self who wasn’t seen or heard at the lunch table.

Hug that child.

Forget About The Outcome, Focus On The Work

There will come a time when you do everything right—you listened, mastered your craft, and did your homework. And yet, you’re greeted with rejection.

You’ve conquered the world like Alexander the Great just to meet a person with their own opinions who doesn’t give a shit.

It happens.

Instead of worrying about the opinions of others, refocus your attention on the work. Find solace in the one thing you can control—the task at hand.

Do the right thing, and rejection can’t touch you.