The Subtle Mindset Shift You Can Make To Deal With Rejection
I shifted in my seat, scared shitless and nervous as hell. Why haven’t they called my name yet? I went over the script for the hundredth time to distract myself. Maybe if I look unbothered, I’ll be okay. Another actor waltzed into the waiting room, immediately spotted the casting director, and lunged for her like they were long-lost BFFs. I could feel my personality shrinking inside me like a deflating balloon.
A pang of rejection came by to visit when I didn’t get the job. I was familiar with it as it’s the nature of the industry but it still sucked. In this job, we want to work: to play and to have fun. We want to create stories with like-minded people and impact an audience. So when that doesn’t happen, despite our best efforts, we feel rejected. The funny thing about rejection is that we think it means people aren’t attracted to us and don’t care about us. Rejection is about something entirely different, though.
According to international acting coach, Jo Kelly, rejection feels like people don’t care about you or are excluding you but that’s not what it is. Rejection makes us feel unwanted, simply because we’ve decided that when people want us, we are included. That puts all the onus on them, leaving us in a very fragile and volatile situation.
We can reframe the narrative using rational emotive behavior therapy techniques to replace negative thoughts with positive beliefs. If qualified practitioners aren’t available to us, we have to keep exploring other options, like I did to help adjust my perspective of rejection.
Are you the star or the supporting role in your own life?
Most of us live like we’re the supporting character in our own lives. The supporting character doesn’t drive the narrative. They just uphold the lead character’s interests. We’re brought up to believe that what somebody else thinks of what we want is more important than what we want itself. In your life, your name and picture should be on the movie poster, like Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible franchise.
Rejection is a product of people-pleasing. I was a crybaby as a kid. I’m the youngest in my family and I lived up to the stereotype. Being hyper-sensitive, I cried about everything because everything affected me. And like clockwork, my mom would console and soothe me every time. “Don’t cry, shh, it’s okay. There there, don’t cry.” My parents are fantastic and like every grown-up, they felt it was their adult responsibility to make a child feel better when they were upset. When we tell kids not to feel what they’re feeling, we’re essentially saying “Don’t pay attention to how you feel. Pay attention to what I want you to do and feel, which is to stop crying and being sad.” The message is translated as: your feelings are not wanted here.
When you take the lead role in your life, you do what you want to do, not what makes other people happy. You feel upset when you’re upset and you don’t suppress it because someone else tells you to. From this standpoint, rejection becomes a non-issue because you’re not trying to people-please. Someone’s opinion or reaction to you isn’t consequential anymore.
If we make what we need more prominent than someone else’s wants, then we won’t be bothered by however way they react.
The subtle art of being unbothered.
I got out of the Uber and looked around at the strange buildings, the street signs in Mandarin that I couldn’t understand, and felt the golf ball-sized lump in my stomach blow up to a football. The stupid rain made it harder to navigate Orchard St in this part of the Lower East Side. Opposite the Thai restaurant, I remembered the director saying as I spotted a tiny Thai hole in the wall on the corner. With a sudden spring in my step, I briskly crossed the street and opened the unassuming door in front of me to the film set.
Any anxiety I had quelled about finding the obscure location shot up again as I looked around and saw a group of actors laughing with each other, catching up like old friends as they nibbled on almonds from craft services. It suddenly felt like I was the new girl again in high school. And with four different high schools under my belt, I had a lot of experience in that position.
I wasn’t entirely in unfamiliar territory. In fact, I was quite used to the discomfort, as inconvenient as it was. Feeling excluded, like the kid picked last in gym class, wasn’t foreign to me. Or to most actors, I thought, making a feeble attempt to console myself.
We’re raised to perceive our attractiveness by what others desire, as opposed to what we desire. Being excluded or rejected rarely has anything to do with what is actually happening at the moment. It’s a result of believing that you should be sought-after by people because your desirability in their eyes is more important than in your own.
If I had a time machine, I’d go back to that scenario on-set. I feel rejected and left-out because I believe my colleagues should like and accept me. I can continue believing that or I can decide that my desirability in my own eyes is more important.
Rejection crops up in the sneakiest forms, in our everyday lives. If I’m writing a story, I hope a publication will like it. If I’m rejected, I can think they didn’t like it (or me). What if, from the onset, I wrote the story because what I wanted to say was important to me and that was all I cared about. We view rejection that what we want or feel hasn’t lived up to what someone else wants.
The sense of rejection will never disappear completely. However, we can deal with it with these mindset shifts. Next time you’re pricked with its sting, ask yourself if you want someone else’s preference of you to outweigh your own.
Mind Cafe’s Reset Your Mind: A Free 10-Day Email Course
We’re offering a free course to all of our new subscribers as a thank you for your continued support. When you sign up using this link, we’ll send you tips on how to boost mental clarity and focus every two days.