How to Manage Rejection Without Falling Apart
Have you or your daughter ever been rejected? Thought so. Ever had or witnessed a massive meltdown post rejection? I figured as much.
Throughout adolescence, and life for that matter, girls will face a boatload of rejection. Situations ranging from friendships to dating to sports team try outs to acting auditions to admission for college, clubs and organizations, to job placement… The list is quite lengthy. To no one’s surprise, the aftermath of rejection in any of these domains can cause some pretty ugly feelings to creep up.
Here are some ideas about how to manage those feelings, and use rejection as a springboard instead of a roadblock:
First, seeing rejection as specific rather than universal is crucial. In his groundbreaking book Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman explains, “People who make universal explanations for their failures give up on everything when a failure strikes in one area. People who make specific explanations may become less helpless in that one part of their lives, yet march stalwartly on in the others.”
So, just because your daughter is excluded from one party, does not mean that she is always excluded from every event or gathering. This, according to Seligman, is the dimension of permanence. Words like “always” and “never” dominate this kind of explanatory style. For example, “once a failure, always a failure.”
Adolescents tend to catastrophize; they often develop blanket truths about their abilities, or lack there of, that are rooted in just one experience. If you or your daughter tend to fall into this trap, you can easily begin to shift the pattern by replacing “always” and “never” with words like “sometimes” or lately.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: language is powerful! Words like “always” and “never” will undoubtedly put you in a mindset that halts action and welcomes a breakdown. Conversely, “sometimes” and “lately” clear out space for possibility, positive change and inspired action.
Seligman explains that the second dimension of an explanatory style is pervasiveness. In these instances, when one Jenga block gets pulled from the life tower, the entire structure comes crumbling down. You’ve seen this before– when your girl is in a fight with her BFF, her world is practically imploding. When she gets one bad test grade, her entire life is ruined. Am I right?Overly inclusive words like “all” or “everyone” are specific to pervasive thinking.
For example, imagine the difference between “Everyone is mad at me” and “Shelly is mad at me.” Or “All of my teachers hate me” and “Mr. Stephens doesn’t seem to like me.” You can support your daughter by helping her to contain rejections in a tightly sealed box. Highlight the importance of seeing her situation as specific and situational, rather than pervasive and universal.
Lastly, re-framing rejection as an opportunity for personal growth is the #1 defining factor between those who succeed and those who fall apart. When girls internalize rejection, dangerous emotions like shame and hopelessness take over. Inspired action and risk-taking go out the window. By allow someone or something outside of themselves determine their happiness, girls willingly forgo their power, motivation and self-esteem.
Most adolescents fail to see the opportunity inside of rejection, so parents can make a huge impact in this area. Help your daughter to identify specific ways in which she can become be a better version of herself because of, not in spite of, the rejection.
For example, she got rejected from the basketball team? Time to hone in on those jump shots through practice and training. She didn’t get cast in the school musical? Time to get cranking on those vocal exercises.
Rejection is like a megawatt flashlight: it shines a powerful light on the areas within us that need work.
It forces us to look inside ourselves and develop the insight we need to make a change.
It provides the clarity your daughter needs to take action that will allow her to realize her greatest potential.