There's no lie that rejection can sting. I can't tell you how many times in life I've gotten so worked up and excited for something. Positive it was meant to be mine… only to get rejected; and man did that hurt. It took until I was 25 to finally learn, that rejection is just redirection. If I'd learnt this lesson sooner, I probably could've saved so many tears and so much energy over boys, friends, work opportunities and so much more over the years.
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Learning that rejection is just redirection:
So how did I finally learn it? Well, I got fired twice in under a month. This was a huge blow. Backing up a little, I started working in the substance abuse and mental health space as a bright eyed twenty year old a couple of months after my dad passed away. I was about two years sober and had recently lost one of my highschool best friends to an overdose. Between it all, I was moving home to finish my undergrad degree in psychology via distance learning. My internship quickly led to grad school, which led to beginning practicum which led to advanced practicum where I landed my first job in the industry.
This was kind of a big deal, I was only 23 at the time, and barely halfway through my master's degree. I had put in a lot of years of experience and training beyond my degrees. I felt like I was on the fast track with my career, even getting hired on an hourly basis by my advanced practicum site. But I had my eye set on one company in particular. They had gorgeous downtown offices, a great reputation, and I really had gotten it in my head that this was my dream job. So when an opening became available, I reached out.
My dream job…
Given that I was still not even halfway through my master's degree, the clinical director asked if I could start as an intern to see how things would go. Fortunately, I didn't have a noncompete at my new job, so I began hopping between my new job, my internship, and school. I showed up, I worked hard, I even went in on Thanksgiving day which ultimately landed me a job offer the first week in December. Just over a month of “interning” and I was being asked to submit my salary request. WHAT?! I quickly asked around, trying to get an idea of industry standard, what other people thought I should ask for, and so much more.
Side note on salary negotiations:
Ultimately, I decided to ask for a range that was a little over $5k what people were suggesting I ask for. This is a little negotiation side note: always ask for more than makes you comfortable, and do it in a range. It shows you are flexible and open to negotiations and positions you better to get a “yes,” and if you get a “no” you can always negotiate other things like more vacation days, remote days, better 401k matching and so on.
Anyway, I digress, this isn't about salary negotiations. This is about the fact that I landed my dream job at 24 years old with a company that invested in their employees. I attended fantastic training. Learned countless new therapy techniques, and grew as a clinician. On paper, I had it all. A pretty office (with a company budget to decorate it), earning $10k more than one of my coworkers who had been with the company for two years and graduated the year before me, and enough flexibility that I could go to yoga on my lunch break or run my group therapy sessions in the park or at the beach.
So what was the problem? Well, my dream job was actually my worst nightmare. Yes, I loved my clients. Yes, I was a favorite when it came to the billing department and getting my hours reimbursed by insurance. But my boss was a nightmare. Such a nightmare in fact, that every month she managed our team, at least one person was fired or quit. I would get emails at 3 am, phone calls after work hours, and would hold my breath in our morning meeting just waiting for the explosion of the day and whether or not she would cry, curse someone out, or passive aggressively attack me.
My growing anxiety…
As the months passed, my anxiety grew and I began crying in my office every single day. Since I'd struggled with anxiety most of my life, I knew what to do and became the poster child for self care. Quickly deploying every technique I'd learned in therapy over the years, but nothing was working. My depression and anxiety levels were creeping back up at an all time high and I knew I needed to quit; but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. My office was a 5 minute drive from my house. I loved my clients and coworkers and I didn't want to be anywhere else.
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The end is near…
I knew the time was coming though, the handwriting was on the wall. My boss had us all go out to lunch one Friday. I remember sitting in my coworkers office, we had both packed out lunches, and our boss texted both of us to come to lunch. We politely said we brought out lunches and declined, when she offered to pay for my lunch, and not my coworkers. We decided to go to the restaurant to be “team players” and ss we walked over to the restaurant, we knew it was one our last days. She was convinced she was getting fired, and I knew it was me. I even made a joke that our boss was paying for my lunch only to “fatten me up for the slaughter,” so to speak.
Bracing myself for the rejection
The next week I went to an interview on my lunch break and told my employer I had a doctor's appointment incase it ran late. During the interview, I got the job, we just needed to sort out salary details and the formal offer. As I headed back to my office, my head was in a million directions. I still didn't want to quit, but knew I was getting fired any minute. I didn't know what to tell this new company about a start date.
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On the way back to my office, my boss texted me asking where I was. I told her I'd be back in a few and upon arriving, she fired me. She said it was a maturity issue and that I was clearly not happy and wasn't doing a good job hiding it. I agreed and that was that.
Even though I had just landed a new job offer, and knew the firing was coming, it stung. Like really stung. I felt an immense amount of shame and failure. I had felt so confident when starting that job, but over the months that followed my confidence was shredded week by week. With each demeaning comment I felt like I was worthless there and getting fired felt like the confirmation to every negative thought about myself I'd had at the time.
Why values matter
My dream was to work for this company, and I hadn't even made it a year. Then to have my maturity levels under attack?! That was a slap in the face; but also not a surprise. Shortly before getting fired, we did a team building day and had to choose a word to guide our team for the year, my boss and the other older members on the team jumped down my throat when I suggested, “fun.” I got a slew of, “what we do is life and death, fun is for after work.” And couldn't help but think to myself back then, that there was no way I was going to make it in this industry. Yes I looked up to all of my seasoned coworkers, and even boss, as fabulous therapists, however every single one of their personal lives was falling apart. In no way shape or form, did I want that for my future. So if prioritizing fun means I'm immature, then so be it, I'd rather be immature and happy then mature and empty inside.
Starting my new job
I stated my new job a week or so later. Not enough time had gone by and I was still burnt out and nursing my wounds of getting fired from what was supposed to be my dream job. On my first day at the new center, ****I discovered that they were actually incredibly unethical – making the sting of my firing hurt that much more. I lost it and told the owner to F off. I offered to quit right then and there but she convinced me to stay, telling me this was why she brought me on, to help them repair their reputation and get things where they should be. After a series of events that I won't bore you with, let's just say things weren't a good fit and I got fired again less than a month after my last firing.
Rejection is just redirection
There I was, not even two months after my 25th birthday, fired twice, and feel a rejection so deep like I'd never felt before. I get my personality isn't everyone's cup of tea, but one thing I always prided myself on was my achievements. No matter the class, job, or whatever, I always worked my way towards being one of the top in class so to speak. Getting fired, shattered that view of myself and forced me to look at abstract things like my values and happiness. It forced my to redefine success on my own terms, rather than money and stature like society had taught me.
It was in that moment, I realized that rejection is just redirection. Somewhere deep inside of me, I knew I needed to get out of that industry. I knew I wasn't on my path, but a path laid out for me by everyone else. A path laid out by fear of the unknown and fear of what the heck to do with a degree in psychology.
I wholeheartedly believe that getting fired was not a rejection, but a redirection that I didn't listen to. So it happened again. Because we repeat the cycles if we miss the lessons. If something is truly meant for us in life, it won't miss us and if something isn't meant for us, it won't stay. Every single one of my rejections when I look back on them, from boyfriends to friends, were all moments where I was being redirected to grow into more of the woman I am today. To learn a lesson and move on.
My challenge to you this week:
Think about your deepest rejection that stings the most. Write it down.
If the rejection happened a long time ago, look and see what good has come from that rejection.
For instance, getting fired twice in under a month, pushed me to ask myself what my monetizable skills are and then go ahead and create a company that allowed me to grow and develop into this entire lifestyle brand I have today where I chat with all of you! It created space for me to work from home to be with my daughter as she grows up and move more into alignment in developing my gifts and filling my days with things that bring me joy.
If the rejection is more recent, look back and see if there was a similar situation you've been in before.
For instance, a friend and I grew apart recently, nobody did anything and if I reached out I'm sure she'd answer, but some things have happened or, rather haven't happened (like they always cancel plans on me but make time for other friends), that leaves me feeling like the friendship is a deep rejection and when I took a step back I realize it's a cycle I've been repeating since elementary school.
Ask yourself how you can respond differently to the situation. How you can reframe it to let it go. Whether that's realizing how this relationship is no longer serving you, realizing how things aren't personal and could be more about where they are at in their evolution, or something else. Write out the worst case scenarios and keep asking “so what?”
For instance, going off the friend example, so what if she really doesn't like me and that's why she always cancel plans but is too nice to just say it to my face? How would that impact my life daily? And keep digging deeper until you realize that this rejection is just an opportunity for your to redirect your energy and grow from it.