What Your Response to Rejection Says About You

Stephen Hussey

I remember approaching a woman once when I was younger and getting the coldest response ever.

Before I could finish a sentence she just turned away and loudly said “NO”, without missing a beat.

I felt particularly stupid given that I had only spoken to her in the first place because my friend encouraged me to take the chance. I quickly wished he hadn’t been so persuasive.

Yet… what stood out the most from this incident was the way my friend enabled me to shrug it off afterwards. Rather than make me feel like a loser, he said, “Wow, I can’t believe you did that!” and said how impressed he was that I had the balls to do something so confident (even if at the time my self-esteem had been crushed hard into the ground).

Maybe you’ve had friends like that. Be grateful when they come.

Because let’s face it: How great would the world be if everyone felt 5x more willing to fall on their face?


Getting Rejected in 2017

In 2016, our private successes and failures are matters of public knowledge. At least among our friends.

If you declare your intentions on Facebook to start a business in January, you can be certain that your followers and “friends” will be lurking in secret waiting to see whether you’ve failed by December.

It’s schadenfreude on steroids, because now even that school friend you haven’t spoken to in 10 years can get a ringside seat and join in with the smug self-satisfaction others feel when you screw up.

The only mistake you can make here is caring (and spending too much time on Facebook).

* * *

I remember getting rejected again many years later when I was on holiday with some friends. (I promise, my life isn’t just me getting shot down by women – it’s simply that the bad ones seem to make for the best stories unfortunately!)

One of the friends I was with found it hilarious and couldn’t stop talking about how embarrassing it was.

Although initially stinging to receive, I was old enough and wise enough at this stage in my life to see that his reaction wasn’t my problem. In fact, I found myself more disappointed with my friend who had taken it upon himself to put me on the firing block for having taken a chance.

If I were still a shy teenager that kind of experience would have destroyed me. I would have spent the whole day obsessing over my humiliation.

Nowadays, whenever something like that happens, I immediately think: “Wow. I should stop hanging out with this guy”. That feels like progress.

How To Be The Person Everyone WANTS To Be Around

I am always chilled by the thought of what that kind of mockery can do to someone with low self-esteem.

As someone who grew up very sensitive, I have always hated the thought of others being held back by snarky opinions of their friends or from fear of being taunted for trying something new.

That’s why I make it my aim in life to be a serial encourager.

Not in the sense of giving false hope. I would never be dishonest and tell people to charge ahead if I thought they could better spend their time elsewhere. But for those who feel uncertain and really need an extra shot of bravery, I always want to be the one who encourages the taking of risks, be they creative or romantic. Even if they are the tiniest action, like saying “Hi” to the cute guy at work or sending their work off for approval or rejection.

Believe me, people notice when you encourage them. There’s nothing more attractive than being around people who combine honesty with the ability to be encouraging at the same time. It’s the rarest combination. It makes you the person others want by their side in the good and bad times. It builds trust and love in equal measure.

At the end of A Boy Named Charlie Brown, after Charlie fails at the last moment of the spelling bee, he’s literally bed-ridden with grief and depression.

Following days of Charlie lying in the dark in gloom convinced his life his over, his friend Linus finally appears at his bedroom door and says:

I can understand how you feel. You worked hard, studying for the spelling bee, and I suppose you feel you let everyone down, and you made a fool of yourself and everything. But did you notice something, Charlie Brown?… The world didn’t come to an end.”

And then Charlie gets up, walks into the sunshine, and sees his friends out playing without any care for him and his failure. He feels happy for a moment, realizing that life goes on, even after falling down.

I have a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

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20 Replies to “What Your Response to Rejection Says About You”

  • That lady was crazy to say no… :O

    People are too quick to make decisions like that. They come from a place of thinking they know what they want. In my experience, they may know what they “want” buy not what they “need” or what would be good for them.


  • Hi Steve,

    Really bolstered by your article !!
    It makes me think of the people who encourage us no matter what new activity we try. Great tip on how to handle ppl who don’t encourage me ;)


  • My sincere compliments on this one Steve.

    Your willingness to find the silver lining in every cloud and put it into words, is so admirable!

  • What amazes me about your writing is how you draw the reader into your world. When I read this, I feel like I’m sitting right next to you. It’s truly a beautiful little piece of encouragement. Love the vulnerability; it’s super sweet. Thanks, Steve! <3

  • Beautiful writing from a sensitive soul. Thanks Steve. Everyone needs a serial encourager friend like you!

  • I have come to that pass as well. Instead of sitting through passive aggressive putdowns, I had to put distance between myself and an old friend. It was tough at first, but I don’t regret it. I think that you start looking at the long-term implications of this type of abuse when you experience more of it and eventually it becomes easier to shed the negative energies in your life.

  • Dear Stephen and Matthew and the whole team,

    I love your articles, your insights, your common sense and humor. But I have a question, I’d like to know how to achieve the exact opposite. I get so much attention without looking at people, it doesn’t matter what I wear (I’m prudish by the way and wear as little make-up as possible) they will come up to me and talk to me. I assume you might know how this feels since you guys are probably getting recognized a lot. But I’m not. I’m just a student studying landscape architecture. Or, I’m trying to. I can’t get a minute to myself ANYWHERE. Except for home, but then I’m so busy trying not to cry my eyes out from all the people touching me, coming up to me friendly, giving me things, getting angry. FOR NO REASON. I haven’t even looked at these people most of the time. They tell me I have this special thing and go to all sorts of lengths to connect with me and I’m a pretty introverted person. I have friends and I’m fine like that. I live in the Netherlands in a city, not even a village! It happens everywhere and it makes me lose so so so much sleep. I can’t study properly, professors don’t understand and I get that because I don’t understand it myself. I moved a lot so there aren’t reallyy people around me seeing it happen to me all the time. To a simple no thank you, people just won’t listen! Sometimes I’m yelling at someone I know from something, so its not a complete stranger, in tears, to please leave me alone. My mother doesn’t know what to do either and she’s the only family I have. It’s insane but I kind of need a bodyguard.
    Have you got any (low budget) tips to help me with this? I’d like to live my life freely without going off the grid, which I’m considering…


    1. Hey E, I got some really great advice from the Canada’s Dating Coach girl, she said that when people act too “small” then the guys or whoever who want to impose themselves will cause you’re not going to do a good enough job of stopping them. You have to look like you can handle any shit. She said I was like that cause my fight or flight system was too wired (which is why I was anxious all the time) and to meditate once a day to fix that. She has a You Tube Channel, and she started me on the 10 minute love frequency. You have to use headphones. It worked for me…I got less freaked out and felt more confident. Definitely less guys are bugging me and I’m sleeping better
      Try it seriously!

  • Hey Stephen!

    You just encouraged me to be a better and stronger encourager than i already am. There are 100 reasons why i Love your blog, and one of them is that you always find a way to put a smile on my face and think “Hey, THIS is the way i want to be! Its not that difficult. Lets do this!” So thank you for being a serial encourager to me, and probably thousands of other people :)

    Could there be any better monday Motivation?! :)

    Xo from munich

  • love this post dear Stephen, you’re so sensitive i love it!
    keep going with this terrific pieces

  • How in the world someone would say no to you?
    Crazy girl LOL
    This article is great! Love it!
    Greetings from Brazil!! I am a big fan of you and Matthew!!

  • I sincerely feel rejected all the time… yes, the world has not ended and life goes on but a miserable situation… I would like just go out, run, scream all the anger I have inside for being a person with such a low self steem… too old to change now

    1. I am 61 and I do not think anyone is too old to embrace what is good about them .
      Please give yourself the same fair treatment you willingly give to strangers.

  • I broke up with my boyfriend last Nov 10, 2015. Both of us are living and working in Singapore but in separate houses. We were preparing our wedding back then, i was so overwhelmed with my job -not being able to do what you love to do, overweight issues, and feelings of being neglected by him over the wedding preps..it was a sad moment..we would always have arguements and i realized i needed some space to think things through and waited for him to come around to reaffirm his love for me..weeks turned into months of no proper communication..end of May 2016 news came to me that he is already dating someone else..and come June they are already living together..i forced him to talk to me last 17 June 2016 of why he did not pursue me back knowing that we were already planning to get married and i have even paid downpayments of some of our wedding suppliers..he said i left him on a difficult time (his mom had mild stroke around 4Sep 2015) and that is something he cannot forgive..he also said he got discouraged of me wanting to go back to our country..i was deeply crushed for he is my first boyfriend/relationship..about the money that i have paid he said he can pay them back but never made real attempts to do so..in some point i pleaded for him to take me back to give me another chance..to right all my wrongs but he just asked me to respect his new relationship..i asked him if he still loves me even if it was just a tiny part of his heart and he directly said no..2years and a month of our relationship had vanished just like that..all my dreams have fallen apart..right now i have lost strength to make long term plans anymore..it was so devastating..right now though how much i’m deeply hurt i still miss him and even prayed to God to restore our relationship..the present makes it impossible because he moved on to a new relationship..i’m still in Singapore and we still work in the same company,seeing each other once in a while..it hurts so much wanting what you can never have..and that is to be loved by that one person you love the most even if that person constantly hurts you even if you are not part of each other’s life anymore.. praying to God to get through this..

  • Hello Stephen,
    I really love your post and it’s so true… I didn’t grow up to be a very confident woman as for my whole childhood and adolescence I was very sick (heart failure), plus I had to wear thick glasses and horrid braces. I was a preferred target for bullying at school. Because of that I sometimes have issues concerning my image and my self-worth. So I can easily relate to what mocking and rejection does to a person.
    But on the other hand I did see the upside of having friends that encourage you: some time ago one of my friends “forced” me to go talk with one of my favourite musicians after a show. I was scared, I wanted to run but my friend didn’t let me, she said I’ve got nothing to lose. She stood by me for the whole “ordeal”, whispering in my ear to keep talking, it’s ok and that I must not run away. I made a new friend that day and 10 years later I can joke with him about how I almost never met him because I was too afraid to walk up to him and start a conversation due to his rockstar status.
    My point is: my life was enriched and I met great people just because I was encouraged and not shut down. Shutting someone down is easy, we all have insecurities that can be used against us. Supporting and encouraging takes more effort, but it’s also what makes a true friendship.

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