Have you ever felt incompetent, unwanted, or unworthy?
These feelings normally stem from being rejected in one way or another. Rejection was one of the most difficult parts of life that I had to face, and I would like to share with you how I managed to overcome it.
Before that, let me tell you a little something about myself. I was quite a perfectionist, so I had my whole life planned out to feel safe and to have a sense of control. However, this perfectionist streak turned out to be a major setback towards my career path.
Six years ago, before I graduated with my Masters, I started to look for a mid-career change. I only aimed for what I thought was the perfect job, and did not open myself up to other career opportunities. I applied for various positions and was lucky enough to be selected for their interviews. Unexpectedly, I was rejected nine times. For the first few rejections, I told myself that it was okay as I may not have been experienced enough. Therefore, I could continue to work on my qualifications and gain more experience. I started to become worried when I was about to finally graduate from my Masters programme, and the last straw for me was the final rejection in May 2021.
After that happened, I kept having thoughts of, “Am I not good enough? Something must be wrong with me. I am useless. There is no hope”. I stopped eating, had nightmares and cried for months. I lost joy in the things I used to love doing and became afraid to face the people around me as I felt ashamed of myself.
I realised that the rejection hurt so much because it mattered a lot to me, and being repeatedly rejected by others led to the false belief that I was inadequate. However, like I always tell my clients, I told myself that there are many things beyond my control. What I could control was my own perspectives, which brought about a shift in my worldview.
What I learned from psychologists and counsellors in Singapore:
Below is a list of some things that I did to help myself, and hopefully, will help you as well.
1. Acknowledge your emotions and let yourself grieve
There is no fixed duration or intensity for one to grieve. I took the time to be alone and decided to come out of my shell only when I was ready. During that time, I allowed my negative emotions to surface and to accept that I was only human. Whenever I started to have negative thoughts, I would accept that these thoughts were present but chose not to react to them. Accepting these thoughts and emotions were essential to help me experience catharsis and to learn how to cope better with them in the future. Suppressing these feelings would not protect myself from the pain of rejection.
2. Examine the problem
Rejections definitely feel personal, and it is normal to beat yourself up thinking that you are the problem. One of my favourite quotes, “The person is not the problem. The problem is the problem -Michael White and David Epston” resonated with me. I slowly separated myself from the problem and externalised it by focusing on what went wrong. It renegotiated my relationship with the problem and helped me to shift the focus back to my strengths instead of negative self-talk (this is really difficult but you’ll get the hang of it! 😊)
Reaching out for help builds resilience. At my most vulnerable state, asking for help made me feel weak but it was in fact a sign of strength. I talked to my loved ones, but I knew that was not enough and I needed to seek professional help for a safe space to grieve and heal my emotional wounds to regain the motivation to move forward. I had tried three different therapists to find the right fit for me and to help me connect with myself again. I also sought career counselling to gain a clearer direction on what could be next.
Although I have found a job which I really love, the thought of the numerous rejections still hurts. I am still working on myself and am treating myself with more compassion each passing day.
Consider speaking to us if you ever need a listening ear.