Rejections are often unpleasant and hard to bear, leading many of us to react poorly to rejection or to even fear it. In this article, we will discuss a few teachings from Stoic philosophers on how to deal with rejections.
Being rejected often causes negative feelings that can evoke the thoughts that you are not needed or wanted; you are replaceable, and there is possibly someone better. Furthermore, you end up questioning your worth. Sometimes, this doubt can lead to deeper questions about the meaning of your existence. Evidently, all of these thoughts are problematic.
Rejections are a natural part of life and it is impossible to avoid them. However, Stoic philosophy can teach you how to avoid getting upset in the face of rejection. We will now examine three pieces of Stoic advice on how to deal with rejection.
1. Others’ Minds
Stoics believed that every impression we have about an object or situation is merely an opinion. Things in themselves are valueless, meaning they can be neither good nor bad; the only thing that does have value is our mind or soul. However, this doesn’t stop us from ascribing a perceived value to things, and just as you ascribe your own values, others can do the same. Therefore, it is natural for opinions to differ.
This becomes problematic when you disagree with someone and try to push your opinion onto them. You are trying to control their mind to be like yours. Our desire to be accepted and recognized means that we want our opinion to be part of the “general mind”. Minds like to extend, but in a situation where you are rejected, your mind tends to shrink and isolate itself from others.
It is important to find a middle path where you don’t feed on approval, meaning your wellbeing is not dependent on it, and where you don’t feel cut off from others when rejected. However, this middle path is only achievable for those with a mature mind.
Your mind, in this case, needs to become independent in order to grow up. That means your mind shouldn’t rely on the opinions of others. Instead, think about your own values, and re-examine your worth and effort. Keep in mind that the value you ascribe to rejections are dependent on other minds, which you can’t control, and your emotions, which you can control.
“A good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit.”Seneca
3. Rejection in Itself
Stoics believe there is no such thing as rejection per se. It is not a constant, nor does it belong to the external world of objects. That means “rejection” is only our observation of the events around us.
“So-and-so was carted off to prison. What happened? He was carted off to prison. But if we now add to this ‘He has had bad luck,’ then each of us is adding this observation on his own account.”Epictetus
This is where things become relative. According to Epictetus, rejection does not exist; there is only our interpretation of an event, which we label as “rejection”. You can consider yourself rejected if you miss out on a job interview, or if you’re turned down for a date. However, there is no objective value to this rejection, which means these events cannot be used to measure your sense of worth.
Rejection is a term solely based on value description. There can be numerous reasons why someone or something is rejected, but if you remove the tag of rejection, you will be able to think about it more clearly. When this tag is removed, you will be faced with yourself and your own intrinsic values.
3. Recovery of Self-worth
People who often stress because of others’ opinions should work on recognizing their self-worth. Outside critics who are positive and are always welcome in these instances; however, there is a possibility that someone with low self-esteem could interpret these positive critiques as a cruel form of rejection.
You should be familiar with your own worth, without relying on others to reinforce you. Everyday meditations focused on examining your worth will help you to feel better about yourself in the face of perceived rejection. Your character will need space and time to build, but be persistent and keep in mind that rejections are never final – you will have countless other opportunities to succeed.