Editor's note: I rarely have guest bloggers but today I'm using an excerpt by my friend Cecil Murphey from his new book, Making Sense When Life Doesn't, The Secret of Thriving in Tough Times. This article is particularly valuable for writers.
“Don’t take this personally,” my friend said.
I stared at him and wondered how I could not take the rebuff personally. It had happened to me. It seemed easy enough for him to talk like that because my crisis didn’t affect him. I was bleeding emotionally, and he was telling me how not to feel.
I had been rejected. It wasn’t the first time in my life, but that fact didn’t make it easier to accept. And it’s probably true with most of us. Rejections aren’t new to any of us. We experienced them the day Mom took our favorite toy and gave it to our sibling, when we were the last one chosen on the playground, and when we applied for a job and the human resources person smirked at our résumé.
I’m a specialist in rejection because I’m a professional writer. Part of the job description includes learning to accept rejections— many rejections—and most of us never get beyond that. That’s true with anyone in sales, and in one sense, I’m in sales.
For any of us who sell books, real estate, clothes, or insurance policies, the principle applies. None of us wins every time. Sometimes the customer says no. Or we don’t get the promotion we’re convinced we’re owed. Or we hear the buzzword downsize, and it means, “I’m out of a job.”
How can I not take that personally?
I’ve read dozens of articles and books and heard many lectures about rejections, but they haven’t helped a great deal. When someone says no to me and it’s something I want, it is personal.
As a writer, I came to terms with the despised word by telling myself jokingly that I was selling a product (my book manuscript), and the editor wasn’t bright enough to sense the value of my pristine prose. That helped me objectify the situation.
Even so, it took me a long, long time to be able to depersonalize a refusal. Part of that was because I was trying to make a good living from my craft, and to receive a non-acceptance was like a major detour off the highway I wanted to follow.
It is personal. What happens when the rejection is something that affects your livelihood? What happens when you need a loan and the bank says, “Sorry, you’re not qualified”? Or how do you take it objectively when your spouse, whom you love, wants to leave?
I don’t know the answer to those situations, but I can share my insights in dealing with them.
It’s all right to wallow in pain, hurt, anger, depression, or any other emotion you feel. It’s all right—for a while.
What’s wrong with feeling those things that hurt us? Real living means being honest about ourselves.
In the middle of the pain, talk to a few friends—the right friends. Find a shoulder or two on which to rest your head. A hug. A word of encouragement and empathy.
When someone says no to me and it’s something I want, it is personal.
The time comes when we need to move beyond self-pity (and that’s what it really is). We’ve admitted we failed or didn’t get what we wanted. Now what do we do?
I can respond in two ways.
First, because of my faith in God, I realize I’ve been in situations as bad or worse, and my faith has pulled me through. I made it in the past, I can make it in the present.
When my life doesn’t make sense, I have one statement that I say to myself, and it works: “Who am I to think that I should be immune?”
Some people seem to think that if we believe in God, that separates us from others who have misfortune. Or they assume that if we’re morally upright, we won’t face injustice.
I don’t agree with that attitude. My faith is in a God who doesn’t shield me from chaos but who is with me during the chaos.
Second, I can turn to my experience. If I survived rejections of the past—and I have—I can survive this.
In the past it may have started with not getting the part in a play or losing an election for class president. In our teen years, the one person we wanted to date turned us down—perhaps even laughed at us—but we survived. We can do the same now.
Surviving rejections and failed plans in the past assures me that I can handle them in the present.
Real living means being honest about ourselves.
Excerpted from Making Sense When Life Doesn't, The Secret of Thriving in Tough Times page 47–49 Used with Permission.