A Buddhability Guide to Facing Rejection

(Photo above by Martin Péchy / Pexels)

Facing rejection is inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any less painful. If anything, we often take rejection as a personal negation of who we are and can feel we have no worth left as a person.

In short, rejection can be heartbreaking, whether it comes from someone we like or the school we want to get into or a potential employer. But we don’t want to live in that space for too long, so how can we cope and move forward?

“It’s their loss if they cannot appreciate how wonderful I am!”

Few things cut deeper than being rejected by someone we want to be in a relationship with. In these moments, we can’t let the sting of rejection distract us from seeing our true worth. Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda shares:

Please have the confidence and fortitude to think to yourselves when you face rejection, “It’s their loss if they cannot appreciate how wonderful I am!” This is the kind of resilient spirit you must strive to cultivate.

Discussions on Youth, p. 68

How many times have we felt this after experiencing the sting of rejection? Yes, rejection is inevitable, but taking it in stride is the key. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, echoes this point and shares that it also applies in professional settings. Recalling his own rejection story, he writes:

At the beginning of graduate school, I knew that if I wanted to get tenure, I had to be productive. Then my first three papers were rejected by prestigious journals, a leading expert told me my projects were hopeless, and I wondered if I should drop out.

Adam Grant

Whoa: Can you imagine being told your projects were “hopeless”? Adam Grant goes on to share that each rejection helped him become more flexible and open to constructive feedback. Over time, he realized these rejections had nothing to do with him as a person.

He writes:

We are more than the bullet points on our resumes. We are better than the sentences we string together into a word salad under the magnifying glass of an interview. No one is rejecting us. They are rejecting a sample of our work, sometimes only after seeing it through a foggy lens.

Adam Grant

This is why we shouldn’t give too much weight to rejections. A rejection is not a rejection of us as a person, even though it’s easy to take it that way.

Instead, we can use them to help us move toward our dreams and goals. Some rejections let us know we need to work a little harder or improve a bit more, and they fuel our determination to succeed. If nothing else, through facing multiple rejections, we become strong people who are not easily shaken by the opinions by others.

Daisaku Ikeda once shared this observation after noticing a toddler walking on wobbly legs in a park:

Of course, we all fell again and again at the beginning. But getting up each time, we learned to walk. If we consider that, then what is failing a mere 10 times in life? If we try a hundred times and still fail, then we should try a thousand times. And even if we fail a thousand times, we still must not give up. We may well succeed on the one thousand and first try.

Daisaku Ikeda

Giving up is easy. Anyone can quit at any time. But instead, think again and again, suffer and struggle, do what you have to, with everything you’ve got, not sparing an iota of effort. Just do it. No matter how many times you fail, won’t the morning greet you again tomorrow?

- Daisaku Ikeda

This is why, when it comes to our dreams, the key to facing rejection is to simply decide that you will never give up.

The Buddhist practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can be compared to strengthening the spiritual muscle of believing in yourself. If we can develop this quality, then regardless of others’ likes and dislikes, we can continue to move forward.

This is the most liberating way to live. We develop the kind of confidence that isn’t based on other people’s perceptions or praise. Rather, it’s rooted in the understanding that each of our lives has incredible potential. If you’ve given up on something because of a someone’s careless comment, rather than accepting it as fact, chant honestly about it and decide what you want to take away from it, if anything at all.

Want to hear a story of how chanting can actually help? Listen to an in-depth conversation with actor Vinessa Shaw, who got her start as a child actor in movies. She shares her honest experience dealing with success at a young age, struggling with perfectionism, finding true self-worth and advice on facing rejection.

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