If you began writhing in your chair upon my mere mention of it, you are far from alone. Put simply, rejection is rotten…

or so I thought.

My therapist, in all her infinite wisdom and inherent grace, always reminds me of the dimensions of lightness and darkness in everything. I’m slowly, and somewhat impatiently, realizing that this even applies to rejection. It’s not all good, but it’s not all bad.

Let it be stated that whoever first said that “rejection is protection” is annoying. Though, I fear they were right.

If you can, think back to the first time you told someone you had feelings for them, and they didn’t reciprocate. (Ouch. Even I shuddered at the memory.)

Romantic rejection is a brutal part of life. It feels like the ultimate rupture of the self, a betrayal with zero return. We make ourselves vulnerable in sharing our feelings and sustain emotional wounds that feel like they can kill us. Rejection can make us question who we are, our purpose, and sometimes our lovability. This is the canon of all canon events.

When we (somewhat miraculously) survive our first proper rite of passage in love and heartbreak, we face a cold, ugly truth: not everyone will want us. This feels terrible. But if you sit with it in all its terrible discomfort, you become free from it.

Love will not always be reciprocated, nor will romantic feelings. And you know what? That’s okay.

You would never want those very things that don’t choose you. They are not meant for you. What is meant for you is hiding in plain sight, waiting for you to open your eyes and see it.

Outside of the romantic realm, there are less personal forms of rejection that still seem to hurt the same. A topic heavy on my mind in recent times is that of professional rejection.

To seek corporate work right now as a young person is to suffer to some extent. Let’s just agree that finding new work in this post-pandemic market is arduous, at best. You put yourself and your proudest accomplishments on the table, sometimes only to be thanked for your time and interest.

Professional rejection is swift, depersonalized, and dismissive—it’s just business. Unlike personal rejection, it’s contingent upon business needs and your qualifications (or lack thereof). It’s not faulting who you are as a person, and the vulnerable exposure is often kept at a minimum.

All rejections sting.

I’d argue that rejection in all its forms is baseline disappointing. Being redirected is a slap on the wrist, an initial tug in a direction you think isn’t worth going. It's a series of begrudging efforts toward an uncertain end.

I’d also like to argue that the universe knows more about what you need, more than you could ever imagine. There is no singular, straight path to getting something good right. If you want to live a fulfilling life and weather strong storms, rejection must have a permanent seat at your table. It must become familiar; it must be welcomed and leveraged as a tool on your path of redirection. Life cannot tell you “YES!” to everything. It’d be too much!

Not just hearing “no” but saying “no” is liberating protection - protection against what’s not meant for you. If it’s not meant for you, it won’t stay! Your responsibility is to let go and keep looking for what is meant for you.

To endure any unpleasant, unavoidable experiences of life, allow all your feelings to exist free from judgment. Things can hurt for no larger reason; you can be angry at the hand(s) you’ve been dealt.

Flipping the coin, we are sometimes the ones to dish out rejection. For me, rejecting someone can feel almost as bad as being on the receiving end of rejection. It feels horrible to make someone not feel chosen, but that’s likely (undoubtedly) aggravated by my egregious, persistent, anxiety-laden, hyperfeminine guilt.

Being chosen feels like a gift, and not being chosen feels like a punishment. May I say: we don’t need someone else to choose us! What if we instead accepted ourselves exactly as we are? What remains when we release the need to be chosen by those not running parallel to our paths?

Freedom remains. The ability to stay strong in the face of external rejection remains. The confidence in knowing who we are and the potential of what the universe holds for us remains.

Rejection is not the end of the world. It’s simply a redirection towards that which is irrefutably, irrevocably ours. There’s nothing left to do but make peace with its presence.