Building Your Self-Esteem Back Up After Someone Rejects You
Fabienne FredricksonMore by this author
One of the greatest fears people experience is the fear of rejection. That’s because there are few things that hurt as much as rejection. We create meanings about our worth based on incidents in which we’ve been rejected. These meanings then help shape our self-image, which dictates the decisions we make in our lives.
It’s very easy to believe that when someone rejects you, whether it’s in love, friendship, family, work, or otherwise, it’s because something is wrong with you. Anyone and everyone can be rejected, no matter who they are. If someone rejects you, it doesn’t diminish your innate value because it doesn’t affect your soul. It affects your ego, which loves to blame and thrives on making you feel like a victim. But your soul stays perfectly intact. The essence of who you are, the core of you, doesn’t change, and neither does your worth.
Rejection hurts when we internalize it. When we do this, we allow someone else’s actions and opinions to shape how we feel about ourselves. We then create a belief that the person who has rejected us is better. Conversely, we start to believe we are somehow unworthy. Yes, those who’ve rejected you may have had their reasons or rationales for doing so. Those reasons don’t have to be about you specifically, and they don’t mean anything about you as a person. In fact, the meanings you created about yourself based on rejection are actually not true.
Let me share this example: When my mother died suddenly while I was in college, I began staying out late to drown my sorrows. I didn’t show up for classes, and I quickly started failing. I felt lost and wanted badly to have direction in my life. I desperately looked for an anchor to get me grounded. I wanted something to belong to that would make me feel significant, like I mattered. I applied for the position of social chair of my sorority. Being a social person, I thought that I would be great at it.
The day we were to vote on the members of the new board, we all assembled in the sorority meeting room, and I was anxious. After several board positions were voted on, it was time to elect the social chair. The president asked the applicants to raise their hands, and, once acknowledged, we were asked to leave the room while the other members discussed the applicants and took a vote.
I came back into the room and learned that I hadn’t made it. So when the next position was offered, I raised my hand. Again, I left the room while the decision was being made. And, again, I wasn’t selected. I started to feel embarrassed, but because I so desperately wanted to have something significant in my life, I raised my hand to apply for the next position. Once again, I was not chosen. This happened again and again until the entire board was filled.
That day, it felt as if I died several deaths, one after the other. I felt like the whole room, the whole sorority, and the whole world were against me. I couldn’t believe they hadn’t taken pity on me, especially after having applied so many times. Especially since my mother had just died. I wanted them to throw me a bone, but, instead, it was the ultimate rejection. I left that room crushed, embarrassed, and humiliated, having lost every ounce of confidence that I had. I felt worthless, unloved, and unlovable.
That night, I cried and cried into my pillow, feeling like a victim, blaming them, and hating every single one of them. I wanted to punish them. After I dried my tears, I decided that I was going to leave the sorority, drop out of college, and move back to France to be with my father. So I did. It wasn’t until close to 20 years later that I realized what had actually happened in that room. I created an image of myself as unworthy and unlovable, based on that experience. Looking back now, I will admit that my opponents had prepared elaborate presentations and detailed how they would use the social chair position to create a better year, and I hadn’t prepared anything. I didn’t have a plan. I just showed up and expected to win based on my personality.
What I see now is that leaving college was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I don’t advocate that for everyone, but for my self-esteem and my evolution, it was important that I leave and start my career. It was important for me to move in with my father so that I could feel grounded. It was time that I started my life. If I’d stayed in school, I would have delayed that process for another two years.
There was a reason for the sorority incident, but it wasn’t until I looked past my ego and humiliation that I saw the blessing in it. Though it felt like I had died a thousand deaths, it was a divine, defining moment, and it was in my long-term best interest. See the bigger picture in rejection. If someone rejects you, it’s because you’re just not meant to be in that situation, no matter how much you want it.
In fact, if I look back on every rejection I have endured in my life, unequivocally, each was there as a compass to take me in a different direction that would bring me back to my soul’s path. Each rejection was a correction. When I was going off track in my soul’s journey, the rejection was a realignment toward what was best for me.
We all have things that happen to us that don’t make us feel good about ourselves. But the difference between people who are happy and healthy and those who are miserable and bitter is that happy people don’t internalize or create a meaning about themselves based on a particular rejection. It’s best to look at rejection as an opportunity for something else, something better, waiting just around the corner.
Resist the temptation to blame or hate the person who rejected you, even if he or she wasn’t nice about it. Find a way to wish that person well instead. You may not realize it in the moment, but that person is actually an angel in disguise, leading you in the right direction by putting an end to the path you were on. See it as a divine redirection instead. To learn more about improving your self-esteem and stepping into your full potential, see my book: Embrace Your Magnificence.