How To Cope with Rejection and Boost Your Self-Esteem

Photo by drankasloner

“When you get knocked down, get back up!

–Nelson Lauver, the American Storyteller

Most sites usually talk about either rejection or boosting your self-esteem. Never both. But I think the two always go together. Once you’ve taken that cast off, you’d want to put that arm back into shape again. Here I’m going to be listing both and give you ways on how you can pick up the pieces of your ego again and get back behind the wheel one more time with more passion and determination.

I was sure I had it in the bag.

It was the day of our English Performance –the highlight of our college’s intensive summer program. Hundreds of students strive to compete and win the coveted award of three bars of Cadbury chocolate.

My Chinese students had rehearsed a lot for this event –not for getting a bloated bill from their dentist but for the fame and glory of being top class.

I remember when we were still in the early days of rehearsals. I had high ambitions of doing a musical –the glitz, the glamour, the high kicks and ‘All that Jazz’. We were going to perform one from High School Musical.

My students opened their mouths to begin the first tune.

–and it sounded like a cat yowling, a file screeching over glass, William Hung (they do come from the same gene pool)

Oh God, no.

Stop! Stop!

Fine. We’ll have to lip sync then. Let me see you do your rendition of Twinkle Toes.

Shuffle, shuffle. Slack arms raising. Someone just stepped on someone else’s toes.

C’mon, class. Even William Hung dances better than that.

But after a couple of weeks, they were able to do those high kicks with such exuberance that they almost made me cry even though some of them nearly fell from overkicking. And we’ve also got brilliant choreography. Not ‘Hairspray’ material. Let’s just say we’d give fifth graders a run for their money.

We did a lot of hard work, folks. Lots of hard work and preparation. So it was a great shock for me when the Cadbury chocolates went to a group who just stood still and sang their off-key rendition of Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal the World’.

I was reeling. Heal the World trumps High School Musical. Where’s the justice? And when I opened my email in the midst of a self-pitying surfing high, I found my two stories were just rejected.

The Great Depression has struck.

I got the generic reply template as well. A two sentence liner. Not even a “—because your plot lacks enough suspense” or “—if you could improve your character’s motivation, we might consider your piece.”

Glad to know you were thinking of me.

So did I crawl into a hole, vowing never to see daylight again? Did I put a gun to my head? Did I swear never to put pen to paper again and threw my unfinished manuscript to the fire crying, “If no one appreciates me, then no one will ever will!” Cue for long drawn theatrical sobbing.

I did none of that. But I did feel very morose, down-in-the-dumps and depressed. I couldn’t muster the slightest energy for work. I’m not the kind that just bounces happily onto the next thing. Being a rebound girl isn’t me. I tend to take break-ups very seriously.

So here’s how I got back on track and how you can face the daylight again:

1. Evaluate yourself. I head right over and read Glen’s Heartbreak Hotel: How To Turn Rejection into Triumph. This article has helped me go over what I did wrong and gave me lots of assurance and pats on the back for my efforts.

2. Hard work is not everything. Everybody always said that hard work pays off. Well, we worked our assess off and didn’t win. Didn’t even make it to the top 4 (we were 5 groups total).

The secret: Work smarter.

I should’ve figured out that since it was an English performance, the usage of English would be a big factor (they didn’t reveal the criteria till the end) which is why ‘Heal the World’ won because they sang their screechy hearts out. Though our group got the most applause, in the beginning we didn’t stand a chance.

3. Listen to motivational podcasts and videos.

How do you feel whenever you hear someone cheering you on and believing in you? What a rush, eh? Well, that’s how these speakers sound like. It’s enough motivation for you to run to the park stark naked for joy but I think you’re rational enough not to do that.

Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Earl Nightingale. You can buy their CDs, download their mp3s or simply watch them at Youtube.

I recommend you listen to them every morning and evening to give your system a boost.

An excellent resource of podcasts:

Steve Pavlina –The Personal Development Blogging God. Not the rah-rah type but his podcasts make you think and evaluate how to live life more consciously. His book is out now.

Videos: Below this entry, I’ve posted a video of the writer and speaker Nelson Lauver. His speech has really instilled a determined spirit in me and has helped me get my groove back.

4. Take comfort in others’ rejections. Remember, you’re not alone.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter got turned down by a dozen agents.

Walt Disney’s cartoons got rejected many times. He had to stay in a mice infested attic to work. One of those mice became famous, by the way.

Starving and jobless Sylvester Stallone’s script for Rocky was turned down by many film companies because it was too sappy.

Chicken Soup for the Soul’s manuscript was rejected by 140 publishers. They said it was too ‘nicey-nice’ and no one will buy it.

5. Remember time is your friend. Two days after the incident, I was back in my positive cycle of thinking.

6. Put a positive spin on the rejection. Look and find the bright side of things. When I think about my rejection letters, I console myself with the fact that it took so long for the editors to reply –54 days (I was counting!). The longer your submission is held, the higher its chances for its consideration. When I think about our performance, we garnered the most applause from the audience. What positive outlook can you find from your rejections?

Live Out of the Box tip: This is not for everyone. Warped as it may be, I do work better if someone hurls a negative comment at me. When I was living in Hong Kong, my former roommate Megumi told me that, “I was too lazy for my own good and why couldn’t I be on time?” Actually, I’m paraphrasing this in a kind way.

Well, that did it. My bull’s horns popped out. I snorted sulfur. All I could see was red. I’ll show her!

For two weeks, I consistently woke up at 5AM and even had time to exercise before heading to work leaving my colleague Megumi behind sleeping blissfully. Prior to this, my usual wake-up time was at 8AM.

I just needed that one brutal negative push from someone else.

But if it’s just me alone, how can I prove to myself that I can do it? How could I stoke my own fire within to take massive action?


I wrote a Hate Message addressed to me.

Deranged as it sounds, I like reading it to fuel the rage inside me to get me out of the rut.

You could also record your own Hate Video. Just don’t make it into a regular series.

Now we’ve come to the part of picking up what’s left of your self-esteem and putting it back together.

Trying to get back to work when you’re down in the dumps is like pushing a depressed overweight pig up the hill. Don’t be that pig.

We’ve got to raise our self-worth and have a positive attitude. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will.

1. Be grateful. Take some time to list things you have at the moment. What are some of the thing you have that were once merely goals? Paraphrasing Tony Robbins, “You must’ve gone through a lot to achieve them. Now they’re part of your life.” What steps did you take to take you to where you are right now?

2. List down all your accomplishments in your life. Starting now, I want you to list every goal you’ve achieved no matter how small it is. Every time I read my own list, there’s a giddiness and a tsunami wave of endorphins that rushes through my body.

3. Write a 60 second commercial for yourself. I got this idea from the “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David Schwartz. It’s like a pep talk and self-empowering speech but for you! Say it to yourself whenever you feel down.

Here’s mine:

You’re a person with lots of potential, Kate so achieve that. Are you going to let all that go to waste? You’ve got plenty of first class ability so do a first class job.

You are fearless, Kate. Will you allow fear to stop you from getting what you want? Absolutely not!

4. Email yourself fan mail or positive letters. Days later after receiving my rejections, I crafted and emailed myself a lot of acceptance letters.

And they have helped me a lot in maintaining a positive attitude in the face of setback. This is also important in visualizing your intended outcome. If you think and see acceptance letters most of the time, eventually they will come to your mailbox. This was my mindset before I got my present job post in China. I keep intending to get hired and had positive thoughts about it and soon indeed that “You’re Hired!” email came.

5. Write an encouraging quote or one empowering word and post it where you can see it before you go to sleep.

One night, I caught myself thinking, “What if I’ll get rejected again?”

Then I looked up and beheld the piece of paper in front of me. It contained only one word.


Immediately I stamped the ‘Reject’ word out and replaced it with ACCEPT. I won’t allow myself to think the R-word again.

Don’t set yourself up for failure when you haven’t even started! As Earl Nightingale said, “You become what you think about.”

Before I depart humbly from this stage, let me share to you some of the most powerful words from the world’s greatest teachers:

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

One of the secrets of success is to refuse to let temporary setbacks defeat us.

Mary Kay

Related posts:

What’s the Rush?–Why People Are Missing Out on the Important Things in Life

Strip Down- Getting Rid of the Non-essential Things in Life

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11 thoughts on “How To Cope with Rejection and Boost Your Self-Esteem

  1. Solomon says:

    I chanced upon your blog throgh Dana’s blog. I really liked all the posts. I got so much inspired from your sharings. keep up the good work!
    thanks for sharing your experiences!

  2. joanne says:

    Re motivational speaker part 2:

    Not very articulate or impressive. Anyone who has to keep sipping water and seems ill at ease at the podium should just step down. When he used the word “dove” I knew I would not watch the whole diatribe. “Dove” is not a word. It’s “dived”.

  3. Kate says:

    Joanne, are you referring to Nelson Lauver? To each his own but I just love the message behind his whole ‘never give up’ speech!

  4. Margaret says:

    Thanks, Kate, you make some wonderful points. Good to know that J.K. Rowling, Jack Canfield, et al. went through so much rejection. And thanks for reminding that the longer they hold the manuscript (or in my case, concert series application), the more consideration they gave it. I’ll sleep better after having read your article. Blessings.

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