Handling Rejection Gracefully as a Competitive Person

Hi, friends. I love reading posts in which people embrace vulnerability and acknowledge their flaws, so in this post, I’m sharing a couple stories with y’all about my struggles with pride, and more specifically, rejection. Though I’m still far from perfect, I’m trying to allow God’s grace to flow through every part of me–especially the not-so-pretty parts.

I’ve always had a drive to be the best.

How Rejection Altered my Plans in College

I’ve always excelled academically. All my life, I’ve loved the feelings of accomplishment and admiration. As a lifelong reader and writer, I naturally joined my high school newspaper; over the years, I wrote many articles and ended my senior year as the editor-in-chief. Going into college, I had no doubts that my new instructors would love me and I’d make some of the highest grades in class. Given my newspaper experience, I was especially confident about my writing skills. I declared an English major right off the bat.

Fast forward to my first English course in university–we’re getting our first essays handed back, and I assume I rocked it, of course! Boy, was I floored to see a big, fat “F” on the paper. I was like a fish that had moved from a bowl to a pond; suddenly, all my clout had evaporated.

After editing the first draft a couple times and still receiving another “F,” I dropped the course and switched majors because I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t a good writer. Soon enough, I was taking business classes and earning average grades. I acted carelessly and out-of-character for a while. Part of that was being young and dumb in a new environment…but the early-on rejection of my writing abilities did cause me to question my identity.

After a year or two, when I took a basic writing course, a much kinder professor steered me back in the direction of the English department. After I switched my major back, I made straight A’s every semester until graduation. Suffice to say that I was in my element again.

Praise & Rejection as a Lay Servant

As a lay servant in the Methodist church, I have preached several sermons. I’m accustomed to excelling in the areas of teaching and preaching–an organic extension of my love for reading and writing. I thrive off the positive reception of my messages. Of course, I pray that I will be a vessel for the Word when I preach; my messages are sincere. I’m just being brutally honest and admitting that I crave validation.

Last year, I took a course on preaching at lay school. On the last day, we all gave sermons, then we all voted for the person who should preach at the final gathering with the whole lay school. I put my heart and soul into my message. As we waited for the vote to be tallied, I literally counseled myself in my head–“It’s okay if you don’t win. It’s not about you.” [I’ve known for a while that I struggle with pride. At least I’m self-aware. ;)] But when the tallies for each person were announced, no one had voted for me (except for my grandma), and I felt the crushing sting of rejection again. Once again, the fish had been transported from a bowl to a pond and felt less special than usual.

I beat myself up for my reaction after all was said and done. Several other people didn’t win either, Lily, and I bet they don’t even care! Why are you so selfish?!

Reflections

When I faced rejection as a college freshman, my world was flipped on its axis. But now that Jesus is real to me and I genuinely strive to live in the Holy Spirit, I try to be humble and receive rejection with grace. I reassure myself with the knowledge that we are all important and beloved members of the body of Christ.

I’ve always had a drive to be the best, but I should only strive to be MY best. And if I ever feel that my time, efforts, and God-given talents have been overlooked, I should remember that God always sees me.

Thanks for reading! Have you ever struggled with pride or rejection? Let me know in the comments.

35 comments

  1. Hi Lily! A very honest post. Thank you for sharing on a difficult topic.

    These days I live with pretty much continual awareness that God is in control of my life, so everything that happens (I believe) is in accordance with God’s will. This leaves little room for pride or feelings of rejection, because I accept everything is the way God wants it to be. I do still experience a wide range of emotions like any other human being, but I just recognise God is in control of those emotions.

    I realise the Christian perspective is a little different (due to the Christian belief in free will).

    As ever, I really enjoyed reading what you shared, and learning a bit more about you and your journey through life was interesting.

    Peace and blessings! Steven

    Liked by 2 people

  2. (Here’s one I made earlier)

    I’ve entered writing competitions, taken courses too.
    Perhaps I’ve left it late to be exploring pastures new.
    I’ve never won, but twice came third, and twice I made the shortlist.
    Sent stories off to magazines but never had one published.

    For every lucky prizewinner, you’re always going to find
    A crowd of wistful ‘also rans’ straggling behind.
    But not all readers share the judges’ taste. We can take heart
    From prestigious awards in other disciplines – like Art.

    Because I didn’t win, I don’t intend to take up knitting.
    It doesn’t mean that I can’t write and I should think of quitting.
    I’ll strive to dream up storylines and think creatively,
    Cos everybody can’t be best. I’m in good company.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A great post, Lily. Thanks for being so candid. I’ve struggled in a similar way. I’ve always been prone to take everything personally, whether good or bad. One day as I was taking something very personal that was not even about me, God spoke to my heart and said, “Dee, this may be hard to hear, but people don’t think about you anywhere near as much as you think about yourself”. I was like, “Um, thank you?”. It was hard to hear, but also very liberating! I still struggle ocassionally, but now I can go back to that and remember that there’s a better than good chance that this isn’t about me at all. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that sentence applies to me too, hehe! It is initially harsh but overall freeing to realize that we are not the center of the universe though we have been acting like it. Thanks for dropping by, Dee. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the funny thing about fiction writing is that the teachers who teach it more or less have never published a darn thing, yet claim to be an expert. Then again, you have someone like Emily Dickinson who never published a thing while she was alive. Others can brag that their ‘books’ sold millions and you and I would even agree that they were horrible and terribly written. William Peter Blady’s ‘Jaws’ comes to mind here. The book sucked. And then many other books are well written and never published. I wrote two like that.
    At my age, I don’t give a flip what people say…however, we all need to learn and to attempt new ways….okay, enough said. There are times too when you need to hang in there and hold on to your guns. At some point you can write or you can’t. I’m willing to bet that first course…that you were just as good then as now and that you simply didn’t know how to please the teacher is all. It’s a shame we let things like that beat us down so bad. Most of us are that way: yes, we care what others thing when it comes to the attributes of which we are most proud. At any rate, I’m so glad that you ‘returned’ to writing. Perhaps one day you will motivate another such as yourself and encourage them. Then again, I’m still waiting for your best seller as well. Thank you for sharing these moments with us. It shows our weakness and vulnerability. We don’t like doing it,but that is where we connect with others and reveal the good stuff inside of us. Thank you again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Writing is just so subjective! There are tips that would more or less apply in any situation, like try to use less “is/are/being” and more action verbs, yet there is a lot of wiggle room and gray areas. You are right that we connect best when we share our weaknesses and struggles. Thank you for your kind words, Tom.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m grateful we have Jesus. We can take comfort knowing He did not and does not reject us. Maybe in the world’s eyes, we’re just small fish swimming in our little ponds. In God’s economy, we were deemed worth paying a heavy price to return us home. Excellent post. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Rainer! I never thought of it that way, but it’s so true that the world sees us as little (insignificant) fish swimming in the world’s pond, yet Jesus paid the ultimate price for each one of us on the cross. ♥

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh baby, you out did yourself on this post! In a world where we only post our ‘BEST’ pictures, our fabulous vacays, our ‘PERFECT” moments, you became real… like the Velveteen Rabbit. We all have struggles and times when we feel unappreciated; thank you for sharing some of those occasions. I believe that when we climb down off the pedestal, we can better show ( and receive) empathy, love, mercy, and grace. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post Lily, Always enjoy your post. I find it hard to believe you ever got an F in anything. I admire your honesty in your writing. I always enjoy your sermons and look forward to your speaking to us. You do a great job getting the message out there. You are such a strong person. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The struggle of wanting to be #1 is hard! When I read in your post the other day about picking the harder assignment, I was like, that is so me! Nothing wrong with being our personal best, though, as long as we can handle not being THE best!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think you helped me realize how easily pride is wrapped around validation. We want to feel validated by others, but then when we aren’t, and feel like we should be (that’s where pride comes in.) I love being honest about our flaws because I think it helps us step back. I think it is easy for us to be tripped up in sincerity and a war between sincerity and the desire for winning and/validation.

    I learned in college there is a way high school teaches writing, and then there are other ways people prefer writing. For me, it depended on the professor in regards to my writing courses I took. My one professor taught a more scientific way, transitional sentences, repeating is not as needed (I loved this version) and then my second professor taught the approach more similar to what my high school teacher taught, and I was always bad at this approach. But I remember the final week when we got our grades on our portfolios. I had told her I was really nervous about failing the course and she laughed at me! “No,” she smiled with a laugh, which gave me an assurance I didn’t have before in her course. I learned that hard work may not always result in an A, but that does not always reflect us as a writer.

    And that’s okay 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right about the conflict between sincerity and the desire for validation! Especially as a Christian, it’s not one or the other–I do thrive off that validation, but it doesn’t mean that I am a fake. As a Christian who struggles with pride, I am paradoxically prideful yet humble enough to recognize my flaws. Ha!

      I was not prepared for the transition from high school to college honestly! I had been floating on a cloud of easy success, and college threw me for a loop. That’s probably why I was mentally ready to go back to English after I’d taken a few college courses. I’m kinda glad everything happened the way it did because I’ve learned some valuable life lessons!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. First of all, thank you for the follow! I really appreciate you! While I was reading your post, several posts of mine came to mind. So, I hope you find it of use for you!

    Like

  10. Lily, I wanted to crawl under my couch as a result of the conviction from this post. I can identify in some ways here. I have craved validation in preaching and ministry. Pride has been the motivating factor in too many things. I attempted to avoid rejection at any cost. I could go on, but I won’t. Thank you for being transparent enough and providing a judgment-free zone for others of us who struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Inspiring post…Sometimes I feel like I’ve been rejected too much…more than normal. So, the rejections I have experienced have caused me to go into my shell as a turtle would. But, I’m trying to open up more…Thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed reading your perspective on rejection; it was informative and helpful.

    Like

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