The 5 Stages of Rejection

Over the summer, I applied for a job as a receptionist at a dental office near my house. I was surprised and excited when I received an interview. The pay was great, the hours flexible, and I thought the position sounded interesting. The interview went smoothly but I was very nervous when I opened the post-interview email. “Thank you for your interest in our company. Unfortunately, we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you the position at this time…” Wait, what? I had to read the email several times. The rejection stung and even in the confines of my room, I felt slightly humiliated. Rejection, be it socially, professionally, or personally, is inevitable in life. That doesn’t mean that it hurts any less. I’ve been turned down numerous times for various opportunities and I’ve noticed that I experience a mix of emotions when faced with rejection. I call them the “5 Stages of Rejection,” based on Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ “Five Stages of Grief” Model ( Without them, I wouldn’t be able to cope with a “no.” 1) Shock: My first reaction to rejection is generally shock. I stare in disbelief and I hope that I am dreaming. But there it is, staring me in the face. REJECTED. I often sit there, glancing at my resume and replaying the interview in my mind, trying to understand what was lacking. When it finally sinks it, I quickly move on to the next stage. 2) Denial: It’s amazing how quickly I sink into this phase as I try to deny that the rejection occurred. I begin to think “magically,” making up fictional scenarios for my own peace of mind. I tell myself “No, they can’t mean that. They probably got my email address mixed up with someone else’s.” When I’m forced to accept that there was no mistake, I’m ready to explode. 3) Anger: Ah, the anger phase. I give myself the liberty to blame everyone and everything in sight. I make up excuses for the decision, telling myself that the interviewer has no clue what he/she is talking about. My work is the best thing to exist on the face of this planet so there must be some “shady” reason that they didn’t accept it. I’m determined to believe that the other party is dishonest, unfair, partial, and nepotistic. More often than not, unfortunately, the other party is just not impressed. And that hurts. 4) Depression: In this stage, I’m the most vulnerable. I’m genuinely wounded by the rejection. Whether the rejection is big or small, personal or professional, I have a moment of internal pain. Unfortunately, I find that this stage lasts the longest. But when the “ouch” dies down, I can finally move on. 5) Acceptance: Once I’ve moaned and raged about the rejection, the healing begins. At this point, I finally accept that my work was rejected possibly because it didn’t fit the project or perhaps because it required a skill that I was lacking or maybe because I wasn’t able to present myself in the best light. And once I’ve swallowed that pill, I’m able to step back and think to myself “It’s alright. I am a talented, hard working human being. There will be other opportunities for me to show that.”  I give myself a mental hug and put myself out there again. I always hope to reach this stage soon. Thankfully, it gets easier with every rejection. Rejection is never easy. What stage are you in? And how do you handle it? Till next week, Ishita

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