I was a mediocre high school cheerleader. I’m not just being modest. I was so average that I didn’t even make the squad the first time I tried out. But mid-season, a couple of girls got kicked off because of bad grades, and the coach asked me to try out again. I made it that time, but I knew without a doubt that I was the worst on the squad. After all, every other girl had made it in August when I had been cut.
You might be thinking, “The coach did want you to try out the second time. Maybe she regretted not putting you on the squad and you were actually better than you remember.” Nope. It wasn’t about skill. The reason she asked me to try out again was the most important lesson I ever learned about handling rejection.
If it wasn’t about skill, what was it?
The coach told my mother that of all the girls who didn’t make the squad, I was the only one who didn’t give her dirty looks in the halls. She wanted my good attitude more than my toe-touches and back handsprings. Good thing, because I couldn’t ever land one.
But that’s not all!
The rejection continued post-pom-pom. Fast forward seven years. I was fresh out of college and interning at a radio station that I’d recently found and grown to love. After the internship, I asked my boss if there was an opportunity for a full-time (read: paid) position. He told me, “I don’t have one, but I’ll keep you in mind.” I went on my way. The good news: A few months later, he created a position that was perfect for me. The bad news: He hired someone else.
When I found out he’d hired another woman, a lot of questions swirled around in my head. Why her and not me? Had he known he was going to create the position all along? Now what? I didn’t know what to do or feel, but the next time I saw him, I shook his hand, said hello, and made a joke about getting passed over. About a year later, I was hired for the position for which I originally got passed over. That started a 15-year radio career that opened doors and changed my life for the better in so many ways.
This is the best thing we can teach our kids about handling rejection:
Unless your child is perfect, there will come a point when he or she gets turned down for his first choice of schools. Your daughter might get a no after a job interview. Your son could get cut from the team or even denied a promposal. I believe more than anything else, we should teach our kids that the rejection that just happened was just one moment, and that moment has passed. It hurts, but there is nothing we can do to change it. What we can affect is the next moment. When we face rejection, we can handle it with grace and respect for the person who made the decision.
Had I burned a bridge in high school by rolling my eyes at the cheerleading coach, I never would have made those great Friday night football game memories. If I’d called my boss and told him how much of a mistake he’d made, I probably would’ve missed out on an incredibly fruitful career that even led me to an amazing husband.
Handling rejection has a lot to do with letting go of control and believing that our timing is not always best. Not now doesn’t mean not ever. But if we burn a bridge, it probably will.
Handling rejection has a lot to do with letting go of control and believing that our timing is not always best.
What words of wisdom have you shared with your kids when they have faced rejection?