“Always a finalist, never an offer.” The disappointment of making it to the final round but not being selected is tough to stomach. When it happens repeatedly, it’s soul-crushing. Over the last two years I’ve experienced it enough times that it’s almost comical. Almost.
Anytime we throw our hats into the ring, whether it’s for a new position at work, a contract with a new client, or a relationship with someone, there’s the possibility that we’ll be let down in the end.
Taking chances requires inner strength and vulnerability. We have to allow ourselves the space to believe that it might work out the way we hope. When we write a cover letter for a job, we do our best to convince the hiring manager that we’re the perfect fit for the position. In an interview we expand on those reasons and throw in a few more. Sky-high hopes are a natural byproduct of the process.
So, what do we do when the offer or second date or signed contract never comes?
I’ll tell you what I do. I beat myself up internally. I convince myself that I was disillusioned about all of those strengths I highlighted–and that I wasn’t chosen because there’s something wrong with me. I feel embarrassed and refuse to talk about it with other people who probably would be sympathetic and comforting. I take the whole thing really hard and really personally.
Over time the pain fades for the most part, and I muster up the confidence to try for something else. The real trouble happens when I’m turned down again and my self-talk only grows unkinder with this new letdown. My inner critic crafts a nasty narrative about this string of disappointments, no matter how unrelated they are to one another–that somehow they are directly linked with my personal failings and inadequacies.
In personalizing each disappointment, I make these rejections solely about me, negating the countless other factors and circumstances involved. Rather than tending to my emotional wounds with a smidge of compassion, I pour salt into them with my harsh self-judgments.
Disappointment stings. There’s no getting around that. But we certainly don’t need to exacerbate our pain with hurtful self-talk.
Here’s how I’m trying to shift my thinking about disappointing situations and break free of this unhelpful internal pattern.
1. It’s not about me.
Not getting chosen usually has little to do with me. It’s probably not about anything that I did or didn’t do well. Someone else was a better fit for it. End of story.
2. If I didn’t get picked, it probably wasn’t the ideal fit for me.
When I’m being honest with myself, I can see that many of the opportunities I’ve sought were not exactly what I’ve been dreaming of doing. To revisit a theme from last month’s post, even if i’d been offered the position, I probably would not have been able to give a wholehearted yes to it. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone.
3. The ideal opportunity will come–eventually.
In an ideal world we’d know when the pieces will fall into place in a way that makes sense. But since we don’t, we can find ways to make meaning of these disappointments. How might they prepare us for the moment when we say yes to the right thing?
When disappointment strikes, go ahead and wallow for a bit. But remember that you’re loved, that your gifts are needed in this world, and that new possibilities are on the way.