in: difficult times

Using Rejection as a Gift for Self-Actualization

Rejection is hard to get used to, but with the right mindset, we can see rejection as a gift of self-actualization, an opportunity to learn and grow.


Rejection is a powerful emotional experience that can prevent you from speaking your truth, and from feeling worthy of love from another. If you are actively dating, it’s likely at some point that you will develop feelings for someone who doesn’t feel the same way about you. Whether or not you experience this as rejection depends on your mindset.

When received with an open mind, rejection is friend, and the perfect opportunity for personal growth—I actually look forward to it now.

Follow this simple four-step process—which I learned from Byron Katie—and you will be on your way to experiencing rejection as a stress-free gift for self-realization.

Step 1: Acknowledge Your Defenses

When someone tells us something we don’t want to hear, our knee-jerk reaction is often defense. Byron Katie says, “Defense is the first act of war.” The trick is to notice it arising within you, without getting caught up in the drama.

Consider this scenario:

You’ve been going out with someone for a few weeks, and things seem to be going well. You want to continue the relationship, but it turns out that your date does not.

You hear the news, and experience thoughts like:

“What’s wrong with me?”

“What did I do wrong?.”

“They led me on.”

“I’ll never find someone I really connect with”

And, the self-torture of rejection begins… often leading to verbally attacking your date or partner, in an attempt to “prove” your self-worth.

Try it

Think of a time when someone rejected you, and as you recall that moment, feel your defenses arising; don’t fight or resist them. Allow your emotions of disappointment, anger or sadness to have their life in you (don’t reject them).

Step 2: Listen Authentically

Pay very close attention to the words they just said to you.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but most people do exactly the opposite: We hear someone’s tone of voice, and overlay our imagined meaning onto their words, based on our own past experiences. We get caught up in our projected stories and beliefs, and that is what causes our pain (not their words, nor their tone of voice itself).

“Reality”—what’s actually being said—is competing with your imagination (including your thoughts and fears about the future, and dwelling on your painful past). Like the game of “Telephone” you may have played as a teenager, the original message gets distorted by your projections.

Try it

Write down the words they actually said. Now, write down the meaning you gave their words. List all the different stories you added to their simple message. What was actually causing you to feel rejected—their words or your stories?

Step 3: Be Honest with Yourself

Once you’re clear about what they actually said to you, you can get in touch with your deepest Truth.

Try it

Imagine your date just said to you: “We’re not a good match for a relationship.”

After noticing your defensive thoughts arising, ask yourself, “How could they be right? Is there any truth to what they just said?”

You can either be “right” or honest with yourself. When I’m honest with myself, my mind is open to finding all the reasons why I’m way better off without this person in my life. Katie often says, “When someone leaves you, you’ve been spared.” See if you can find how this applies to your situation.

This is an opportunity for personal growth through self-awareness. It can also point you in the right direction—if this person isn’t a good match, it’s time to move on.

Step 4: Speak Your Truth

When you take the time to discover your truth, it’s much easier to communicate peacefully and honestly with others. This is a defenseless act, which can actually bring you closer to the other person, in spite of hearing their “bad” news.

For example:

Your Date says: “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, but I don’t think we’re a good match.”

The Old Way (with Defense and Conflict)

You say: “What? You’re breaking up with me? How could you do this to me?! I really liked you and thought you felt the same about me. I can’t believe you’ve been leading me on this whole time” (add tears and disappointed tone of voice for dramatic effect).

The Mindful Way (without Defense; Open Your Heart and Mind)

You say: “Thank you for bringing that up. I’ve been noticing it too, but I was too afraid to talk about it. I have really enjoyed hanging out with you too, and I think we may have different ideas about what we are looking for in a partner.”

What is most important, is that you are honest with yourself.

These “rejection” situations, are great opportunities for you to become more intimate with your authentic self—but only if you are open to it.

All it takes is a little practice, and if you’re dating a lot right now, you’ve got the perfect training ground.

Share Your Rejection Experience

I’d love to hear about a time when you experienced rejection. Post a comment below, with the words the person actually said, versus the stories you were telling yourself. How were their words actually kinder than your stories of rejection?

[image: via HaoJan Chang on flickr]

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About the Author:

Bryan Clark

Bryan Clark is passionate about teaching individuals and couples how to transform conflict and confusion into clarity. As a Mindset Coach and Facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie, Bryan has helped people all over the world, through private coaching sessions and his life-transforming teleclasses. Learn more about his upcoming courses and workshops at Friendly-Universe and take his free online course at Learn the Work.

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