1. Agree with the rejection
This is the toughest part, but the most crucial. Andrea Marcellus, a life strategist, fitness expert and author of The Way In, clarifies that this first step does not mean putting yourself down. It means seeing what the other side—the coach, the hiring manager, the friend—needed and how that might not necessarily be what you have to offer. Agreeing with rejection involves accepting that it occurred and transforming the emotional power it holds over you into something useful.
Example: You didn't make the varsity field hockey team. It hurts like hell. But when you take a step back you can see it may be because you weren't as committed to field hockey as the other players—after all, you're also on student council and debate. Perhaps the coach sees you spread too thin. It's hard, but if you accept this rejection as an opportunity to really understand what you value most and where you should spend your time, you'll actually learn more from this rejection than getting on the team ever could.
2. Take stock of all of your strengths
It’s OK to acknowledge rejection and build yourself back up again. “Solidify in your mind what your strengths are to highlight them for the next opportunity,” instructs Marcellus. Ask yourself what do you bring to the table? Why is it valuable? If you’re not used to thinking about yourself in this way, sit down and make a brag sheet.
Example: You didn't get the babysitting job you thought you were perfect for. When you ask the family why they went with another candidate, they say it's because he has CPR training. Huh. You also have CPR training, but didn't make this clear. Next babysitting gig, you make sure to share everything that makes you a valuable hire off the bat.
3. Embrace rejection as protection
Think about a time when you were rejected. What opportunity arose that wouldn’t have been possible without this negative experience? Marcellus encourages people to embrace rejection as a good thing, because it means something better will come next. “The key is to learn from every experience, allow the rejection to help you grow,” she adds. Rejection offers us a chance to clarify what we want, what we can offer and what we can set aside.
Example: After a romantic whirlwind of dates, you find yourself ghosted by the person you had so much fun with. It's a painful rejection because, even though things were just starting off, you envisioned a future together. That said, with a little distance from the situation, maybe you had blinders on. Did you actually have a connection? Did you both ever engage in deep conversations about your goals and intentions? Maybe not. The rejection stings, but it's telling you something about how to move forward more wisely as you continue dating.
4. Keep going
“Keep putting one foot in front of the other every day to make things happen,” Marcellus says. Without forcing it, gracefully accept what comes next, after the rejection. This may look like adjusting expectations before dating again, patiently waiting for a job opening or simply focusing on small things that bring you joy. Whatever you do, don’t stop moving forward.
Example: Your dream college application was rejected. While it feels like a dead end, a rejection can be a powerful detour in persistence. What if, instead of giving up, you dig deeper into what makes you happy. You apply to a community college with a film studies program—your passion—that happens to be way more hands on the than the big college program and winds up leading you to a career as a commercial director way sooner than you would have if you went the traditional route.
Below are some examples of the ways in which you can deal with rejection in your life. Everyone’s situation is unique; however, sticking to Marcellus’ four-step process for getting over failure is a solid place to start.