Facing Rejection? Here’s How Resilience Transforms Setbacks into Strengths

By Greg Grzesiak Greg Grzesiak has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on September 13, 2023

Everyone faces adversity. Often, this comes in the form of rejection – a rejected job or university application, bullying, prejudice, broken friendships, or unrequited love. 

While there is no way to avoid these trials completely, resilience can help us deal with them in a healthy way. 

Resilience is defined as “the capacity to withstand or recover quickly from difficulties.” It is related to perseverance, adaptability, and flexibility.

You may not always feel resilient in the midst of difficulty. But here’s the good news – the quality of resilience is not a fixed trait. It’s not something that gets used up when you face challenges. Instead, you can increase your capacity for resilience.

Below, we will discuss several common rejection scenarios and how you can adapt for positive change.

Rejection on the Job

Resume rejection is a common experience for job hunters. In 2022, for example, Fast Company reported that “on average successful applicants applied for 10 to 15 jobs and received between 6 and 10 rejections.”

The survey also noted that many job seekers “started losing confidence in themselves after the fifth rejection.” But others acted with resilience – more than 30 percent of respondents sought out additional training or education after multiple rejections.

The lesson? When you don’t get the job, promotion, business contract, university enrollment, or award you seek, you may be able to identify and strengthen the skills and abilities needed in the position or role. What’s more, you can use the experience as a catalyst for personal growth.

Social Rejection

Social rejection takes many forms. It may involve unfair treatment, bullying, a breakup, divorce, a toxic friendship, or a friendship that dwindles over time.

To become more resilient in the face of social rejection, you should aim to build “strong, positive relationships” that exist outside the realm where you’ve faced rejection. Distance yourself from people and scenarios that tear down your self-esteem.

Focus on your communication skills. Express gratitude and extend forgiveness. Reach out to family and old friends, seek out a therapist, or join a like-minded community. A strong network of trusted friends and advisors will serve as a refuge during life’s setbacks.

Sometimes social rejection is systemic, as with racial prejudice or sexism. How can you practice resilience in this situation? 

Allow your experiences to be a catalyst toward empathy and compassion. While not excusing bad behavior, try to be cognizant of negative experiences that may have produced anger or frustration in others. Understand and accept them, even if you don’t agree with them. This will help you avoid becoming bitter.

Then, reach out to others who may benefit from your experience and support. This will benefit you emotionally and help your support network to grow even further.

More Ways to Build Resilience

The Mayo Clinic reveals that resilience isn’t just helpful – it’s vital to good health. Without resilience, a person may be more likely to develop mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Or they may respond to adversity with unhealthy coping behaviors, such as “substance abuse, eating disorders, or risky behaviors.”

Instead, practice good mental hygiene. How?

In one study from 2012, published in the journal Educational Psychologist, researchers found that students who believed that it was possible to increase their intellectual and social skills were more resilient than those who did not. So the first step is to believe you can grow. Then, seek out situations—like education or social interactions—that will facilitate this growth.

Next, practice self-care. Get sufficient sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise several times per week. Do activities that you enjoy. Set attainable daily goals that will leave you feeling accomplished. If you have a passion, pursue it. A sense of purpose can be a motivation and help you gain confidence.

Finally, be proactive. Don’t just ignore the problems you face. Analyze them and make a plan of what you can do to make the situation better. Identify both positive and negative patterns of behavior, and make adjustments where needed. Think of ways in which you have coped with problems in the past. Focusing on what you can do (rather than on what you can’t change) will help you to feel more optimistic. You may need time to heal, and the problem may not go away, but you can remain hopeful and grow through it.

Key Takeaways

Losing out on a job opportunity or facing rejection in a social situation can get you down, but you don’t have to stay down. Instead, you can cultivate resilience.

Rather than turning to unhealthy behaviors, cultivate strong relationships through good communication and empathy. Identify your own weaknesses and work to strengthen them. Take care of yourself with good mental hygiene, and set attainable goals to build confidence and better the situation. 

In short, as summed up by the Mayo Clinic, “Resilience won’t make your problems go away — but resilience can give you the ability to see past them, find enjoyment in life, and better handle stress.”

By Greg Grzesiak Greg Grzesiak has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Greg Grzesiak is an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and Columnist at Grit Daily. As CEO of Grzesiak Growth LLC, Greg dedicates his time to helping CEOs influencers and entrepreneurs make the appearances that will grow their following in their reach globally. Over the years he has built strong partnerships with high profile educators and influencers in Youtube and traditional finance space. Greg is a University of Florida graduate with years of experience in marketing and journalism.

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