How to Maintain Your Confidence in the Face of Massive Rejection
You can replace your self-doubt with confidence, no matter what life throws your way
Rejection can be difficult to deal with, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for whatever path you’re on.
While rejection completely debilitates some people, it motivates others to reach new limits they never knew were possible.
The difference? Confidence.
I started in New York City with $200 to my name, no job, and a goal to work on Wall Street.
I originally wanted to become a writer, or perhaps even a doctor, but a sudden family tragedy made me want to change the face of finance for the better. I wanted to make sure people like my mother had somewhere to turn for honest financial advice.
I lacked the background for doing that: I had an English degree, zero experience in finance, and no connections or job leads. I faced hundreds of rejections, closed doors, and even hiring managers laughing in my face.
The only thing that helped me through this ordeal was the ability to be confident. Because I was able to maintain my confidence, I was able to stick with it until I got a job in finance and continued on to become CEO of a successful firm.
I’m not alone here—studies show that self-confidence can directly affect your career path in positive ways, while the lack of it can hold you back.
Rejection eats away at your self-esteem and makes you doubt your abilities. If your goal is already difficult, maintaining confidence can be even harder. Thankfully, there are some proven methods that can help you keep your confidence when the going gets really, really tough.
Below are some ways I’ve found to stay confident in almost any situation. They’re tactics that will help you, too.
Realize That Baby Steps Are Okay
My first job in finance wasn’t a prestigious Wall Street office job. In fact, it was a temporary admin job. This wasn’t because I threw in the towel; it’s because I reframed my mindset and realized that taking a lesser job didn’t have to diminish my skill set or self-worth. I wanted to get into the door in finance, and this was the only available step in that direction.
That admin job, however, turned into my first analyst job when my manager realized I’d be bored if I just answered the phones. Before I knew it, my admin job turned into a “real” finance job, and I was on my path to success.
The myth of “overnight success” makes us think that any slight step backward in our journey makes us a lesser person. But as Richard Branson put it: “There are no quick wins in business — it takes years to become an overnight success.” He should know, seeing as how plenty of his ventures have been utter failures.
The key here for Branson’s confidence (and your own) is reframing any experience or skill gained as exactly that—a stepping-stone to a larger goal—instead of letting a perceived failure diminish your self-esteem.
For instance, you might have been rejected following a recent job interview. You have a choice. Lashing out at yourself because you didn’t get the job is one of them. But you could also reframe it as valuable interviewing experience or as preparation for the questions that come next time. Which mindset do you think will be most helpful?
Expect to Hear a Few Rounds of “No”
“Learning from each mistake requires self-awareness and humility, but it can be one of the biggest keys to reaching your full potential.” —Amy Morin, author of “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”
Whether you’re searching for a new job, applying for a different role within your organization, or starting your own company and looking for investors, you should not expect to hear yes every time — especially the first few times around. Having an expectation to hear no is beneficial for two reasons.
First, you won’t be as disappointed or shocked by the rejection. This is different from having a “doomsday” outlook; rather, it is having a realistic point of view that things don’t always work out exactly the way we planned. Second, this will help you challenge yourself to go for things that may be out of reach.
Go ahead and interview for a job that you don’t feel fully qualified for — if you don’t have any expectations, you won’t be as nervous. You will gain experience, and, hey, you may even get the offer! Sometimes employers can spot our potential even if we are a bit blind to it ourselves.
Understand That It Probably Isn’t Personal
“I wrote for 12 years and collected 250 rejection slips before getting any fiction published, so I guess outside reinforcement isn’t all that important to me.” —Bestselling author Lisa Alther
Seeing a situation from various perspectives is a very important skill and can be vital to remaining confident in difficult situations. According to the Better Health Channel, people who lack confidence assume their letdown is a reflection of themselves or that they are doomed with bad luck. When things go wrong, they fail to consider the real forces outside their control, such as other people’s actions or economic factors.
Confident people recognize that a plethora of factors go into a decision (such as a new hire) and are able to separate themselves from the decision. This is not to be confused with always blaming others — it is important to accept the rejection, understand what you can do differently the next time, and then move on.
Pat Yourself on the Back for Pushing Your Boundaries
“I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn’t fall down.” —Allen H. Neuharth, founder of USA Today
Let your rejection be proof that you are pushing yourself to the limit. Be proud of yourself for not letting fear get in the way. Recognize that it shows your mental strength and willingness to take a risk.
Phillip Hodson, a psychotherapist with the British Association for Counseling and Therapy, explains that rejection can be helpful in concentrating the mind, making you more determined to prove your abilities, and increasing competitiveness. “It shows you that the world can’t be taken for granted and that you have to fight for what you want,” says Hodson.
If you have never experienced rejection before, you may be living in too tight of a comfort zone. Put yourself out there.
Bounce Back Quickly
The trajectory of New York real estate tycoon Barbara Corcoran is an example of recovering quickly from knockdowns—an essential quality of any entrepreneur or businessperson.
Her original business partner was her boyfriend, who had a higher ownership percentage in their firm. After a nasty breakup, Corcoran went on to grow her portion into a tremendous company that she sold for $66 million, while her boyfriend’s portion of the venture eventually fizzled out.
Corcoran explains that she used her anger at her boyfriend for telling her that she would never make it as fuel to push through the ups and downs of the market and to be resilient in the face of rejection. “It’s not how well you sell or talk. It’s how well you take a hit and how long you take to feel sorry for yourself,” says Corcoran.
While you shouldn’t necessarily dwell on negativity, you can use it as fuel for your confidence. A mantra that I use in situations where I face rejections is “‘no’ is just someone’s opinion, nothing more.” Someone’s rejection might sting, but I remember it’s just one person’s viewpoint — it’s not a law, and it’s by no means set in stone.
Granted, sometimes people’s opinions might seem to hold a little more weight than others (for instance, a dinky startup versus your dream firm saying no). In these cases, it’s worth noting that even the most esteemed critics and hiring managers of our time have gotten it wrong fairly frequently.
Talk It Out
Having a personal and professional mentor or trustworthy colleagues to talk to can be critical for helping you get through tough times. Family and friends are not only an amazing and a big part of my life, but they also serve as rational third parties when I’m tempted to take a rejection to heart.
According to Psychology Today, “Friends sometimes see strengths in us that we aren’t able to recognize ourselves and give us the encouragement to try something new or do something better.”
If your friends are worth their salt, they’ll be able to remind you of some of the good qualities you have. Having a group of people that you can depend on to bounce ideas off or to confide in when you are feeling down is essential for helping you rebound quickly when you’re experiencing any sort of rejection.