Maybe it’s just the change in season, but many people seem to be down in the dumps. With so much negativity in our work environments, this week I’d like to talk about Internalizing Rejection and Negativity.
Life is FULL of Rejection, Negativity, and Haters
One of the greatest difficulties of life is that there is a seemingly endless stream of negativity and devaluation, while positive feedback is few & far between. In any given week, you have probably received a wide range of negativity from colleagues, family members, so-called friends and maybe even some random haters. This is perfectly normal and, quite frankly, some of it is completely natural and even needed sometimes. But that doesn’t mean it feels good! While most of us can handle a certain amount of frustration, rejection, and disappointment, it’s the cumulative effect of this negativity that can lead to exhaustion, paralysis, and/or depression. The problem occurs when we internalize the negativity and allow rejection to impact our sense of our own intellectual capacity, self-worth, and enjoyment of our work.
Responding To Rejection And Negativity
There will always be some negativity in your environment, rejection of your resume, negative gossip from friends, bad breakups and/or haters on the scene trying to steal your joy. Given these factors, the real question is how you can objectively evaluate negativity while keeping it from disturbing your internal peace?
Ask Yourself: Does This Matter?
Many times the negativity in your environment doesn’t matter one bit to your professional success and happiness. I have developed a habit of constantly asking myself: Does this matter? Things that don’t matter include gossiping colleagues, eye-rolling acquaintances, small bureaucratic annoyances or irritating family members. Things that DO matter include rejection letters from those jobs you really wanted, getting dumped by that special someone, as well as substantive conflicts with close friends. For the things that don’t matter, you can consciously recognize them as trifling silliness that you have no control over and LET THEM GO.
If It Matters, Identify The Heart Of The Problem
If you must engage the negativity, then figure out where the problem is located. Is it your work, your behavior, or you as a person? Differentiating between these 3 things is critical to moving forward. For example, if you have a resume rejected, then the problem is located somewhere on that piece of paper, not (necessarily) in your experience. If you receive criticism from your supervisor for repeatedly coming in to work late, then the problem is your behavior and not you as a person. Clearly identifying the heart of the problem will help you keep the negativity externalized and pointed in the direction of the problem instead of internalizing it and allowing the negativity to attack your sense of self-worth.
Consider The Negative Input As Data
Once you have cut through the negativity (to deal only with what matters) and identified the core problem, just consider the negative information as data. I know it’s hard to receive rejection but pull out the relevant pieces of information of why you were rejected, plan your course to do better and move forward. And while none of us enjoy being confronted about our behavior, it’s better to know than to not know. That honest feedback provides an opportunity for a quick and easy behavioral adjustment and for everyone to move forward.
When Overwhelmed By Negativity, Reach Out For Support
If you are sensitive to criticism, consider reaching out for support. There are many ways to do so. If you are extraordinarily sensitive to criticism, consider giving your rejection letters to a friend for “translation.” They can read the letter for you and tell you what’s needed to be done going forward. That may help it seem more constructive, but helpful and exciting, especially coming from someone who knows you.
Pity The Haters
It’s hard enough to deal with the constant stream of negative information, but it’s even more difficult when you do succeed and colleagues try to diminish, dismiss, or devalue your accomplishments. There are some people in our professional lives who simply cannot bear to hear positive information about other people (because they interpret it as negative information about themselves). That means they will do their very best to subtly but persistently bring you down. You know who they are and the pitiful reasons they can’t be happy for you, so don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable to them. Try to imagine putting on an invisible protective shield before heading to meetings so that all of the petty and mean-spirited put-downs would bounce right off of you. On the occasions when the haters penetrated my armor, a loud blast of Jill Scott’s “Hate On Me“ could always put things back into perspective quickly.
When You Receive Positive Feedback, Celebrate!
Let’s be honest: positive affirmations of our hard work or volunteer service are rare. Never refuse a compliment, or positive feedback. If you do nothing else, let yourself enjoy positive feedback when it happens. Savor it and celebrate it!
Develop An Internal System Of Affirmation & Value
Most importantly, we must develop our own internal system of value, measures of quality, and definition of success. Unless you have a clear sense of your value, your criteria for “good work,” and your definition of success, you will gradually find yourself influenced by the inevitable negativity and one-upmanship in your environment.
I hope that this week brings you the energy to cut through the negativity in your environment, the compassion and clarity you need to deal with your haters, the wisdom to keep negative information externalized and focused on the problem at hand, and the absolute confidence that emerges from an internally-generated definition of success.