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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp

Last modified: May 20th, 2024


Rejection at work can feel awful, like that disastrous date where you’re pretty sure the staff paid your date to leave. It can be your amazing idea getting ignored or a presentation that falls flat. It can make you want to disappear!

This constant rejection is tough on your emotions. It’s a mix of self-doubt, fear, and feeling like all you do is get rejected. It can make you question everything, from your abilities to your career path.

Even studies have proven that workplace rejection is a serious problem that, if left unaddressed, can lead to many adverse effects on a person’s company-wide level. Another study shows that social rejection activates brain regions associated with physical pain, highlighting its significant impact on emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being. It turns out that heartbreak from a rejection might hurt just as much as a broken bone.

But the thing is, it’s not easy to accept rejection, as it significantly affects an individual’s self-esteem and confidence, mainly if it’s in a professional setting​. So how do you do that? In this guide, we’ll help you learn how to accept rejection and even see it as a way to learn and grow as a leader. So, let’s move and see what rejection has to offer!

How To Accept Rejection Without Hurting Your Self-Esteem

Getting a ‘no’ when you’re calling the shots? It’s a gut punch. But this is where real leadership begins. It’s a cocktail of doubt, frustration, and a bruised ego shaken over ice.  But here’s the secret: how you handle that drink defines you as a leader.  This section is about turning that bitter taste into something useful: vulnerability without losing your edge, confidence without arrogance, and saving face publicly when things go sideways. 

Balance Vulnerability and Professionalism

No one likes being rejected, not even important executives! It might feel bad to hear “no,” but guess what? That’s totally normal. Here’s the cool part: admitting you’re bummed doesn’t make you weak, it shows you’re human. 

Imagine a meeting where you say, “Wow, that rejection stings, but we’ll learn from it and try again!” Being honest like this builds trust way more than pretending you’re not bothered.

How To Accept Rejection
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Be Open About What Went Wrong

Instead of hiding the details after a rejection, talk about it with your team. Let them know that mistakes happen and it’s a chance to learn.  Think of it as figuring out a puzzle together, not as a punishment. Ask questions like “What went wrong?” and “How can we do better next time?” This turns a setback into a plan for success!

How To Accept Rejection
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Keep Your Confidence High Even When Others Doubt You

Think of doubters like mosquitoes: they’re bothersome but not deadly. To keep your self-esteem protected, imagine you have a mental shield against negativity. Tell yourself, “I can still handle this even after the rejection.” Make a habit of noting down your successes on sticky notes and attach them where you can see them often, like on your computer screen. 

The negative voices, those discouraging comments from others, will lose their power when you constantly remind yourself of your achievements. It will help you to accept rejection more effectively and, in fact, will help you stand more confidently. 

How To Accept Rejection
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Make the Most of Criticism

Not all feedback is helpful, but some of it can be really valuable. Your goal is to figure out which is which. Think of negative feedback as clues—it shows you where you can get better. 

Before getting upset, ask yourself: “Is this rejection is about my work, or is the person just being grumpy?” If it’s something you can fix, that’s your chance to improve!

How To Accept Rejection
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Admit the Mistakes

Getting rejected in front of people hurts! But remember, you’re a professional. Briefly admit the mistake, then change the focus. Say something like, “Okay, we didn’t hit our goal this time, but we’re always learning. Big improvements are coming!”  The point isn’t to hide the failure but to show how you handle it and bounce back.

How To Accept Rejection
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Learn from Your Failure

Even the biggest companies mess up. They made mistakes, but they learned and got better. Do you know Amazon? They initially faced rejection from traditional booksellers who doubted online sales and investors wary of its rapid expansion. 

However, Amazon overcame this rejection with an unwavering focus on customers, a long-term vision, and continuous innovation, ultimately proving its doubters wrong and becoming a massively successful company.

You can do the same! Read about other companies’ failures and how they turned things around.  These stories will inspire you and give you ideas to do better. Don’t think of a rejection as the end – it’s the start of something new!

How To Accept Rejection
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Think Instead of Worrying

Rejection makes your brain run in circles, asking, “What if?” and “Why me?” Stop this by focusing on the present moment. It’s okay to feel sad but don’t let those feelings take over. Say to yourself, “Okay, I feel bad. But I won’t let it ruin my day.”  Breathing exercises or a walk can help clear your head. 

Inhale slowly for a count of four, hold your breath for four, exhale to a count of four, and hold with empty lungs for another four. Repeat this cycle for a few minutes to calm your mind and refocus on the present moment.

How To Accept Rejection
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Use a Journal to Get Smarter

Don’t use a “Rejection Journal” just to complain. Use it to understand yourself better. Write down how you feel after a rejection, but then ask yourself why.  Do you get nervous during presentations? Do you argue with certain types of clients? 

Figuring out these patterns is like finding the enemy’s weakness. You can use your journal to turn your bad feelings into a plan to improve.

How To Accept Rejection
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Ask For Feedback (Without Freaking Out)

Asking, “Why did we fail?” can be scary, but it’s a great way to learn.  Choose the right person to ask – someone who will give helpful feedback, not just criticism. Avoid asking right after a stressful time. Instead, make feedback a normal part of your work by having meetings to discuss what went well and what didn’t after every project.

How To Accept Rejection

Stay Calm When Criticized

Think of criticism like hot sauce – a little enhances the flavor, but too much burns. It’s okay to feel a quick sting when someone criticizes you. But then, take a step back and analyze: Is the criticism really unfair, or are they pointing out something you need to improve? Criticism isn’t fun, but it can show you how to get better.

How To Accept Rejection
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Your Support Team is Key

It’s not just about having people cheer you up. Your support team should believe in you but also be honest when you’re messing up.  They’ll celebrate your successes AND help you learn from mistakes. Think of them like your own personal advisors – they give real advice, but they’re also your friends.

How To Accept Rejection
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Your Network is Powerful (Use it!)

Think of the people you know as tools to help you. Do you have a mentor who’s great at presentations? Ask for tips after a bad pitch. Join an online group of people with similar jobs. They’ve been where you are and can offer advice. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s the smart way to get better.

How To Accept Rejection
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Don’t Take Rejection Personally

Imagine rejection can’t stick to you – like you’re wearing special armor!  How? Instead of thinking rejection means something’s wrong with YOU, remember sometimes things just don’t fit. Think: “This wasn’t a good match, not that I’m bad.”  It takes practice, but it will make your life a lot less stressful.

How To Accept Rejection
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Dealing with Rejection in a Positive Way

Sometimes, when you get turned down for something, it can feel like you’re your own worst enemy. Your brain might tell you that you’ll never succeed. But here’s a trick: Instead of thinking, “I’m a failure!” try asking yourself, “What’s one thing I could do better next time?” This helps you take the negative feeling and turn it into a plan for improvement!

How To Accept Rejection
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Developing a Thick Skin with a Soft Heart

We don’t want you to become uncaring! It’s totally possible to handle rejection without turning cold.  Imagine your feelings have a layer of protection, like tough but flexible skin.  The tough part helps you bounce back from setbacks, but your heart is still soft underneath. This keeps you kind and understanding, even when things don’t go your way.

How To Accept Rejection
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Emotional Intelligence in the Face of Adversity

Imagine being able to feel bummed after a rejection, but instead of spiraling, you bounce back with a plan.  Emotional intelligence is basically a superpower in these situations.  Lets you analyze what went wrong without beating yourself up unnecessarily.  Turns setbacks into setups for the next win.

How To Accept Rejection
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Turn Your Brain Into Your Biggest Cheerleader

Your brain can either help you or hold you back. Visualization is like training your brain to be on your side. Imagine yourself succeeding – closing the deal, getting applause, whatever your goals are. Make the picture super clear in your mind, like a movie. This isn’t just daydreaming, it actually teaches your brain to expect good things so those rejections won’t feel as crushing.

How To Accept Rejection
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Mental Practice = Real-World Confidence

We all replay tough conversations in our heads sometimes. But if you do it on purpose, it becomes super helpful! Imagine yourself confidently walking into that meeting, delivering a great presentation, and even handling tough questions smoothly.  Picture what a “no” might look like and how you’ll respond with grace.  This mental practice doesn’t just improve your skills; it makes rejection less scary because you’ve already faced it (in your mind!).

How To Accept Rejection
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Adopting a Growth Mindset

Think of your skills like muscles – the more you use them, the stronger they get! Rejection is like a tough workout for your skills. It might hurt at first, but it makes you better in the long run.  Believing you can improve means you don’t give up after a setback. Instead of saying, “I suck”, you think, “Okay, I need to work on this specific thing”.  That way, you have a plan to get better!

How To Accept Rejection
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Celebrating Small Wins on the Path to Acceptance

Big goals are great, but it takes lots of little steps to get there. Celebrate those small wins to stay excited!  Made awesome slides even though the project didn’t work out? That’s progress! Handled tough feedback without getting upset? That’s growth!  These small wins prove that even when you hear “no”, you’re still moving forward.

How To Accept Rejection
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Final Thoughts

Imagine rejection is like a bunch of blind dates set up by someone who means well but doesn’t know you at all. Some dates will be awkward, some might even be disasters, but hey, you learn from them! Eventually, you’ll find the right fit. That’s how it is with job pitches, projects, or going for that promotion.

Celebrate the “No’s”

So next time you get rejected, don’t stress. Think of it as a funny story in the making! Did you have a terrible interview or a proposal that totally bombed? Share it below! Let’s laugh about our rejections and learn from each other.  Because sometimes, the biggest lessons come from the funniest fails!

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