A lot of people get upset when they get rejected. You get rejected by a girlfriend and it seems like the end of the world. But maybe it is a good thing - either she is the kind of person who likes to play silly games with your emotions, or she really isn't into you. Either way, would you want her back? It would be a relationship destined to fail - again and again. As a young man, I went down that road once - and realized that when someone breaks up with you, it is often for the best.
Similarly, you don't get accepted at the "college of your choice" and feel defeated. But is that really a worthwhile thing to do? The college is telling you they don't think you have what it takes to succeed there. In most colleges, the dropout rate is pretty staggering - I know 1/3 never made it to graduation at GMI, and I was one of those one-thirds. But life goes on, and although my parents wanted me to apply to Harvard and Yale (my parents apparently had a secret stash of drugs they never told me about) there was no way in hell I would ever get into such schools - so why bother applying?
Being rejected for a job? Why would anyone think that not having to work for someone is a bad thing? I never really had this problem much - the few law firms that didn't offer me jobs were either "white shoe" firms that were out of my league, or sweatshop places that I never would have wanted to work at, anyway.
Yet some people can't see it this way. We read every day about real losers who decide "I'll show everyone who's really crazy!" and then gun down their ex-girlfriend and her family. Yes, we now know who is really crazy and why she rejected you - because you are a loser! Similarly, some folks go ballistic (pun, sorry) and shoot up their place of employment when they get fired - or not hired. Again, we all know why you got fired as you are batshit crazy. Sane people walk away - and learn from rejection.
Rejection, as I hinted above, can take a number of forms. You apply for a job and there is another candidate who has better credentials or is willing to work for less money. Nothing personal - if he hadn't applied, you might have gotten the job. Stay in touch, though - he might turn down an offer and they may come back to you. Pouting or acting offended or depressed accomplishes nothing.
I got my first law firm job because my resume landed on a partner's desk the same day as another clerk quit. Timing and luck come into play, so don't sweat it if you get rejected. I applied to a dozen or more firms, and was rejected by half - mostly because I didn't fit their needs or they weren't hiring at the time. It pays to use a shotgun and apply all over, than to use a rifle and apply one company at a time.
The rifle people are the ones that end up disappointed. "I applied to XYZ company which was my dream job! And they turned me down! My dreams are ruined! Boo-Hoo!" The reality is, they might not have a need for you - now. Take another job - maybe in a few years they might hire you. Maybe in a few years you realize you didn't want that "dream job" after all.
The same is true with dating. You break up with your girlfriend in high school and are devastated. True love - shattered! Well, maybe not - maybe a high school romance, destined to fail as you discover more about each other and have different life goals. I dated a girl in school and she was sweet - that first teenage kiss is sparked with electricity. We had fun together, but she wanted to settle down and raise a family - in our hometown. I was accepted at college and would be moving away for several years. She found a young man who had the same goals as she did - and they fell in love and lived happily ever after.
You can have more than one "true love" just as you can have more than one job or one college. When I left GMI, I was depressed, but it turned out to have worked out for the best. Since those days, GM's market share has shrunk by nearly half - and the workforce by more than 3/4ths - as division after division was sold off. The division I worked at would have been dissolved only a few years after graduation. Likely I would have struggled to find another job in a field I never wanted to work in, in the first place (plant engineering). It all worked out for the best, in retrospect.
I suspect those who are most devastated by rejection are the type who put all their eggs in one basket - the one true love, the top choice college, the dream job company. Myself, I never thought of life like that - that somehow I could detect, beforehand, which potential spouse would be perfect, which college would be the best, and which company would lead to the greatest success. It is hard to predict the future and foolish to try to do so - beyond a certain point.
Alexander Graham Bell supposedly said, "When a door closes, another opens, but often we spend too much time looking regretfully at the closed door, we fail to see the door which is open to us." And this sums up why people who can't deal with rejection melt down. They can't see that there will be another girlfriend, another college, another job - which might be better than what they thought they wanted originally.
Rejection, of course, can also be a time for introspection. What did I do that caused my girlfriend to break up with me? Maybe I was being an ass? Or maybe she realized it was a match not to be. Maybe I should learn from this and not be an ass - or maybe realize that not every romance is destined for life. Similarly, if you don't get into the college of your choice, maybe it is time to look at your academic record and your SAT scores and think about what college you are qualified for. Trust me, in ten years, no one will care what school you went to, other than to perhaps recognize the sports team affiliated with it. Let's go Orange! Right?
Similarly, the company that rejected your job application might not have a position available right now, or gave the job to a better qualified candidate. Or maybe you blew the interview - arriving late or blathering on about nonsense. A job interview is not the time to discuss your favorite conspiracy theories, your gun collection, or you fondness for anime. You'd be surprised how many people do these things, though.
If you look at it that way, rejection can be helpful and instructive, even, if of course, you are willing to learn from it. Again, the folks who get depressed and go crazy are often the ones unwilling to learn. Nothing they did was wrong, everyone else is at fault. It is mental illness, plain and simple.
I saw this firsthand with a relative of mine. He graduated from college with mediocre grades in fluff major and found no one was beating down his door to hire him. He groused about how corrupt "the system" was, and yes, a bong was involved. He would go to job interviews while high. He had mental problems, to be sure - which were about to get worse. His girlfriend, seeing this all go down, got tired of supporting him and broke up with him. She found someone who wasn't high all the time and had his own business. They settled down and raised a family - which is what she wanted to do all along.
But my relative didn't see it that way. He was betrayed! By the "system" and his girlfriend, who was just a "materialistic bitch who only cared about money" and oh, by the way, why won't she take him back? He moped around his parents' house for a year or so, before they gave him money to move away. And the whole time he was there, he was high and complaining how rotten a deal he got in life - so obsessed with past failures he could not see the future.
There was an utter lack of introspection here - everything was someone else's fault and no fault of his own. I saw this going down and that's about the time I gave up smoking pot. It can do that to your brain, when you are young. That's why pot should only be for the elderly! When you no longer have to work or go to school or get married, you can do what the hell you want. But until then..... life has its demands on you, which are not really all that onerous.
So what happened to my relative? He eventually got a job, but his boss "was an asshole" and not surprisingly he got fired. He found a new love, they got married and she turned out to be a "materialistic bitch" and they got divorced. And although he finally got a decent job, he ended up going on disability, I think due to mental issues. It was very sad and he is a sad person. It makes me sad to think about.
Could any of this been avoided through introspection and trying to learn from rejection? Maybe, but a person has to want to learn in order to learn. Once a person makes up their mind that a topic is too hard or that they did nothing wrong, the gates to enlightenment are slammed shut and locked - from the outside. People end up living in a prison of their own making.
Myself, I have tried to avoid that trap and take each rejection and setback in stride - and as a potential learning experience. I was turned down for a loan from a bank that I had founding shares in. The VP I was talking to was a friend of mine. He apologized for turning down the loan and I thanked him. "When a bank turns you down for a loan, you should listen to what they are saying," I said. And I took this as a sign my personal expenses were getting out of control and that I needed to pay more attention to the bottom line. I cut some costs (and some non-productive employees) and turned things around in short order. Turns out I didn't need that loan and in fact, it would have been a disaster if I got it.
But I was willing to listen. Others are not - viewing banks as "mean" for not lending them money they had no hope of paying back. So they go to the payday loan place or shady used car dealer and end up in bankruptcy court. That was what the "mean" bank was trying to warn you about! But few listen, particularly the poor and today, the middle-class.
Rejection is a "teachable moment" as they like to say on NPR these days (in funny, squeaky voices). Don't fear it. Don't be depressed by it - too much, anyway. Don't try to bury it or make excuses for it, either. Learn from it. You may learn that it had nothing to do with you, personally. You may learn that it was all for the best, anyway - that girl/college/job would not have made you happy, but miserable. You may have inadvertently dodged a bullet! But also take an opportunity to look inward, not to castigate or run down yourself, but to think about what you could have done differently and, rather than try to re-live the past, apply that knowledge to the next open door you see.