Finding My Own Voice in Rejection

A really funny thing happened during my February rejection challenge

  1. I asked for something. 
  2. I got it (well, I got to step 1). 
  3. I realized that I’m not actually sure I wanted it. 

“What?” you may be asking yourself. “But you asked for it, then you were given the opportunity and then you just didn’t want it all of a sudden?”

To which I say: “But isn’t that the thing? Isn’t that the emotional and mental freedom that we’re all looking for?”

The reason I embarked on this rejection challenge was two-prong: first, I wanted to stop fearing the judgment of others; and second, I wanted to start asking for the things that called to me. But as you can see, it’s hard to have the second without having the first. So in essence, this challenge is really about the second: walking down the path towards my destiny. 

As a part of my rejection challenge, I have been pushing my boundaries around what I want out of my career. In the past few months, I’d become pretty certain that I’d ultimately be destined for a job inside of health and wellness. That my time in technology could perhaps be a phase, preparing me for what’s ahead. 

julia february rejection challenge
Photo: Sarah Stanley

In February rejection challenge goals, I had a couple meetings with individuals in leadership positions at other companies (outside of my present employer) about joining their teams. These meetings had originated from my cold outreach and request to learn more about what they were trying to build in an effort to see if their organizations could be a good fit for my burgeoning desire to be in a mission-driven environment. In my path towards rejection, asking for employment from these organizations seemed like a surefire way to have a door slammed in my face. I mean, none of them even had a job posting for a job I’d be a fit for!

And yet – the people I spoke to were receptive, engaging, and pleasant. In these conversations, I came to realize that although I was fearing their rejection, the time we had together was spent by me interviewing them. On the surface, that may seem like I’m coming across cocky and out of touch, but bear with me: although these individuals had the ability to reject me, I had equally the same power to reject them

I have a phenomenal job right now. I have a team that supports me. I have a salary and bonus structure that pays the bills. I have a boss that pushes me. Now, are there days – like the many this year – that I still thought I could do better? 100 percent. But sitting across the table from leaders at other companies with more mission-driven directives (at least on paper) made me realize that I’m not sure that what I thought I needed lied in getting hired by them.

And do you know the peace of mind that comes with exploring a new career path and realizing it’s not the one for you? Oh my god, I cannot describe the weightlessness of realizing that (at least for now) you’re happier where you already are. The grass is not always greener, my friends. And yet, this feeling of solace and this awareness of my own peace of mind came from…drumroll please: a willingness to be rejected

Let me paint you the possible alternative: 

So let’s say I’m convinced that the job I am in (with all its perks) is not the fit for me. 

I fantasize over a handful of organizations that feel like they’d be a better fit for me, in terms of a more mission-driven opportunity.

Yet, I never explore it, because getting rejected from one of those jobs feels scary, intimidating, and out of my comfort zone – not to mention, who walks away from a good and conventional job?!

And so, I sit unhappy at work, pining for a role that doesn’t exist in some other place which I don’t know much about. 

Dissatisfaction seeps into my pores, and I perform poorly at my job day-by-day, because I’m stubborn and convinced I’m trapped there. 

And in the dramatic, nihilistic version of this story, I never find my real passion in life, because I’m convinced I know what it is, but fear asking for a shot. 

Isn’t that depressing? That is SURELY much worse than asking someone for a conversation to explore what options are out there, knowing that they could say no. 

So back to reality: I took the meetings I asked for (yippee, escaped rejection this time). I sat there and interviewed these leaders (and genuinely, I was straight prying, really just going for it, cause there is no time like the present if I’m trying to figure out my destiny lol). Then, I reflected on what I wanted with the new information I collected about future opportunities and potential roles. 

And the verdict is that those things aren’t for me right now. Could they be in the future? Hell yes. And will these open lines of communication with other leaders serve me down the road? It won’t hurt. But instead, I walked into work every day this week and in place of a feeling of dread, I thought to myself, this place is exactly where I belong right now. I reminded myself of all the things I loved about where I am at, of all the things I am learning on a daily basis, and of all the people I get to know better because of it.

It’s a good feeling. It’s a feeling that I wouldn’t trade for the world. 

So go out there and tempt rejection. Because maybe you’ll end up like me in this case, you won’t get rejected by THEM. You’ll realize that with a few more answers and a bit more knowledge, you’ll do the rejecting instead. 

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About Julia Lynch

Born in Cleveland and raised in Atlanta, Julia found her way to Chicago and has taken the city as her own over the past five years. She fell in love with writing as a child when journaling was her chosen way to gossip with herself after a long day in grade school. Once she realized it was hard to make a living as a writer and that being a doctor would mean a lot of debt, she decided to pursue business at the University of Notre Dame, cementing her Midwestern identity. With a smattering of roles across consulting, marketing, and sales post-grad under her belt, Julia now considers herself a problem-solving guru and loves the challenge of making small-talk at any networking event she stumbles upon. When she isn't burning through ClassPass credits, Julia teaches Pilates at BODYROK in River North. She also is an avid traveller, currently plotting a 30th birthday trip to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as well as a girls' trip to Tulum, Mexico. Being around her friends and family is the greatest joy of her life (well, alongside starting new passion projects as the Type 7 Enneagram that she is), and she cannot wait to see what memories are left to be made ahead of her.