How Rejection Makes You Stronger
As much as entrepreneurs are supposed to be superhuman, we still have basic human emotions.
We tend to put on a mask for the outside world, wanting to be seen as perfect and somewhat above the average human being. This isn’t to say we absolutely think we are better than other people; we just work harder and smarter to produce the life that we want, so we hold ourselves to higher standards.
But even with all the hard and smart work, it is difficult for any human being to operate independently of their emotions. Sure, it is said that emotions shouldn’t be in the mix when conducting business. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people know how to separate the two.
One of the most challenging emotions you’ll have to face is fear, whether it’s of failure, of rejection, or of not being good enough. Fear can affect your business ventures in negative and unpredictable ways if you don’t learn to handle it well.
What is one of your biggest fears as an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs often have many different fears, pushed along by what they get caught up thinking about. These fears are mostly related to money, growth, and success.
Throughout your career, you may catch yourself thinking:
- What if this person declines my proposal?
- What if no one buys my product?
- What if the ad copy doesn’t perform well?
- What if I face criticism while speaking in front of the audience?
These questions of doubt are all rooted in the fear of rejection.
As entrepreneurs, we know that although we may need to have everything go our way, this is a wish rather than a reality. When we have no control over how people view us and our business, we tend to get anxious about what the outcome of an interaction will be.
Not to mention the almost impossible task of silencing that ever-present inner voice that says, “What are they thinking about me?!”
Why Entrepreneurs Hate Rejection
It is safe to say that everybody hates rejection. If you don’t meet someone’s expectations, does that mean something is wrong with you? Not necessarily, but that is how we often receive this kind of feedback.
As entrepreneurs, rejection is particularly tough to deal with, because our ability to succeed as business owners is based on people liking our products or services. If too many people reject us, we don’t make any money, which is kind of the point of entrepreneurship.
Additionally, when people don’t like what we are offering, we tend to take it personally. Our confidence takes a blow, and we question what we did wrong.
Many thoughts race through our head and we constantly replay the entire experience in our mind, trying to figure out where the misstep occurred. Did I say something wrong? Are they in talks with a competitor, who offers a better product/service?
Am I really going to be able to sell this?
The more we dwell on it, the more our confidence continues to drop, and now we are fearful to even try to approach people. We make excuses as to why we are wasting our time.
But the excuses we make to protect ourselves from rejection only harm our businesses.
When you have a fear of interacting with people, you go unnoticed. Those who are not inhibited by this fear are out there, continuing to build their businesses. You simply can’t take this sort of position as an entrepreneur — it’ll be impossible for you to survive.
What you will find is that the fear of rejection tends to strike all entrepreneurs, regardless of their achievements or successes. Thoughts still creep into their minds that hold them back from reaching their full potential.
Rejecting Your Own Success
You would think that a super successful entrepreneur wouldn’t have any fears when it comes to their ability to succeed, but even those who have experienced success aren’t always truly confident in their own abilities. These type of entrepreneurs tend to have imposter syndrome.
They believe that every achievement is due to luck or some other factor not related to their capabilities. They are just waiting for the moment to come when somebody exposes them for who they really are, and everything falls apart.
Talk about somebody not believing in you!
This type of rejection is rejecting themselves. No matter how many people validate their worth, they still find ways to diminish their own accomplishments. As they continue to see themselves as a fraud, their performance starts to suffer because the imposter syndrome thoughts start to take effect.
You are already dealing with the challenge of trying to create a successful business. Why make that challenge more difficult by adding on pressure caused by your own doubts?
What Is the Cause of Rejection?
When you face rejection, the causes can be numerous:
- You didn’t effectively communicate the value of your product or service.
- You didn’t research the person/organization to fully understand their needs.
- You don’t come across as confident about yourself or your product or service.
- The person/organization wasn’t financially in the position to utilize your products or services at that particular moment.
- They just aren’t that into you.
The majority of these reasons for rejection are related to your own shortcomings. You can take this as a positive realization or a negative realization.
The positive realization involves knowing exactly what you need to do in order to improve your ability to sell. The negative realization involves confirming to yourself that you suck.
If you take the negative route, then you may not have to face rejection ever again — you’d rather give up than continue humiliating yourself.
If you take the positive route, you will continue to face rejection — it is just a normal part of the entrepreneurial process — but you will also better equip yourself to handle it in a healthier way.
Ask Why You Were Rejected
Don’t ever leave someone after they rejected your proposal without questioning why they told you no. Doing this helps you get a better understanding of how you can improve your communication.
Let’s look at a brief example to see how you can start that conversation:
You: I understand you would not like to proceed forward. May I ask why not, so that I can work to improve myself/my company?
Them: Of course, that would be no problem. For starters…
As they provide you with the reasons for why they chose to reject you, listen with open ears instead of a wounded ego. Don’t try to explain or defend; that isn’t what this is for. Just think, if you are able to address their concerns in the future, that’s a great follow up opportunity to let them know that they were heard and you’d like another shot!
The honest feedback that you receive will be the information that you need to handle the rejection that you face.
How to Overcome Rejection
The key to overcoming rejection is understanding that rejection is a normal part of the entrepreneurial process.
When it comes to selling a product or service, it is a numbers game, and you can’t win them all. The same can be said for people — some people just won’t like you for their own personal reasons.
Instead of wallowing in the defeat of rejection, use it as motivation to become a better entrepreneur. Face rejection head on to make it a thing of the past, something that you get over quickly, moving on to the next objective.
You must have an abundance mentality as an entrepreneur. Let’s say you are starting a productized service business. Never depend on one or two people to make a sale; that’s a terrible numbers game. If both say no, you are in a position of desperation, trying to figure out what to do next.
When this happens, you take the rejection harder because you were dependent on those yeses.
Don’t do this! Have 10-20 people that you are presenting proposals to. If 16 out of 20 say no, those four that said yes will feel a lot better than the sting of the rejections. You still received the yeses that will make you quickly forget the nos.
If the rejection you received were bigger than a no, which can happen in a challenging business experience, just remember that entrepreneurship is never something that you can fully control. We can try our hardest to control every activity and process within our business, but things don’t always go in our favor.
The only thing that you can do when faced with such circumstances is learn why the setbacks occurred and work to ensure that they never happen again. Going through difficult challenges and getting deep insight on the situation will help you become a better entrepreneur.
You now have the experience of dealing with and overcoming adversity.
The successful entrepreneurs and people that you look up to have all faced rejection. From Steve Jobs to Walt Disney to Arianna Huffington, they all went on to be wildly successful. They never allowed rejection to define them.
- Bill Gates: His first company, Traf-O-Data, was a complete failure. This failure is what led him to fine-tune his idea, which went on to become Microsoft.
- Steve Jobs: Labeled as a bad businessman and fired from his own company, Jobs was labeled as a failure in front of the world. After creating NeXT and having success with Pixar, Jobs returned to Apple and completely transformed the company.
- Arianna Huffington: After experiencing success early with her first book, Huffington experienced rejection with her follow up book. After her failed campaign of trying to become governor of California, she went on to create Huffington Post, the website that has changed how news is covered.
Rejection was just the fuel that ignited their fire to prove themselves.
How to Use Rejection as Motivation
Rejection is nothing more than opinions. Your job is to make these opinions obsolete and make your successes the facts that hold more weight. The most experienced and confident entrepreneurs use rejection as strength.
If you are faced with rejection, take it as a challenge to improve yourself, making it hard for anyone else to ever tell you no again.
How is this done?
- Go back to the drawing board and outline all of your strengths and weaknesses. Improve on all of your shortcomings so that your business is almost bulletproof.
- Work harder than everyone else around you. While your competition is content, you are fueled by the need to validate yourself. You can either cry about rejection or work to ensure the biggest mistake anyone ever made was for them to have ever rejected you.
- Get a better understanding of your target market. Maybe you were not as educated as you once thought. Now you are more focused on understanding what they truly want and how you can provide it to them.
Entrepreneurship is all about succeeding among the challenges. If rejection is a challenge that stops you dead in your tracks, then you shouldn’t be pursuing entrepreneurship. Yes, that’s harsh, but if that is how you feel, you need to hear it.
When a boxer gets punched in the mouth, their natural reaction is to punch their opponent harder. When an entrepreneur is faced with rejection, their natural reaction is to make that person who said no wish they had said yes.
Don’t take rejection as a reason to wonder if you have what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. You better take that rejection as someone challenging you to prove otherwise.
What to Do When You Face Rejection
You may have faced rejection in the past, or you are currently dealing with rejection.
The thing that you must remember when dealing with rejection is that you control your final outcome.
Nobody and nothing else has control over your entrepreneurial destination but you. If you allow external factors to control your thoughts and actions, then you will never succeed as an entrepreneur.
When you are dealt rejection, take a moment of reflection (see what we did there?!), analyze what occurred and why, and move forward. You have no time to dwell in the past as an entrepreneur; your success is dependent on you operating with a mindset focused on the future.
Take rejection as an opportunity to show your worth.
- Maybe you weren’t operating with 100% effort.
- Maybe you got overconfident and didn’t prepare as well as you should have.
- Maybe you lacked the experience to understand what you were getting yourself into.
Whatever the reason for why the rejection occurred, learn from it and improve yourself. Stop crying, stop making excuses, and just do better.
You can either allow rejection to defeat you, or you can defeat rejection. The choice is yours to make.