Surviving the “NO!!”

On the episode Hop, Skip and a Week from Sex And The City, season 6, Carrie Bradshaw received a sticky note from her boyfriend Jack Berger that read…

“I’m Sorry, I Can’t, Don’t Hate Me”

She was unceremoniously dumped!   Her immediate reaction was to swipe a vase of flowers on to the floor.  Then in the subsequent episode (The Post-It Always Sticks Twice), she carried the note around (all day) while she was mean, rude, “unloaded” with her friends, went off on his friends, got drunk, smoked a doobie (for which she was caught and cited by a cop), then she ate ice cream with her girlfriends at the end of the night.

I typed all that to say that

Her response to the implied question (do you want to be with me?) is no different than the way we all handle the blasted word “no!”  We carry it around like a big fat souvenir reminding us of our visit to Loser-ville.  We look for someone to blame or we take a drive down Victim Highway making stops in Poor-Me-Ville and Pity City.   We search for a reason, we even attempt to make others feel as shitty as we do, typically our kids, spouse, significant other or the old lady who cuts us off in traffic!  All of this in our futile attempt to avoid the vulnerability inherent in the sting of feeling rejected.

There is so much vulnerability in the word “no” both as the receiver and deliverer.  In this post, I will focus on being on the receiving end and will follow on with a later post about the vulnerability involved in delivering the “no”.


We give the word “no” a great deal of power over our actions, behaviors, and emotions.

Whether in the form of an email, text, or a well-intentioned conversation, rejection sucks!

Embrace the suck. – Brene Brown

woman posing
Photo by mentatdgt on

I recently had a discussion with an executive level client lets call her “Janet” who works for a major employer in the Los Angeles area.  Janet was frustrated that she’d been looking for a new opportunity for quite some time (over a year) and just learned that she was “not selected” for yet another role. During the conversation, she told me that she was frustrated with all of the rejection, was tempted to give up, and had no idea what to do next.  After allowing Janet to share that the company in question didn’t even “have the decency” to reject her personally, noooo…she had to find out by her own follow-up that the role had been filled.

…In summary, my reply was “Keep going! Keep looking!  Stay the course! Find yet another role.”  Besides, if they treated her that way, is that really where she wanted to work and continue to build a career?

“NO” IS NOT Game Over! “NO” IS a Game Changer!

That conversation inspired me to consider the deep vulnerability in receiving the “NO.”  Others clients, leaders and friends have reacted in very similar ways to rejection. The tendency is to go right into the fear with thoughts like…

  • I can’t support my family without a job.
  • I’ll never work again!
  • Someone in the industry is sabotaging me!
  • I  must have done or said something wrong (in the interview or dating process).
  • I’ll never do or have….this or that!
  • This is NOT fair!
  • I’m not (smart, thin, attractive, educated, etc) enough!
  • Everyone else finds (love, jobs, whatever) except me!
  • I will be alone forever!

Believe me, I get it.  I have been rejected in my life for many reasons both professionally and personally.  I have wanted to throw in the towel, wave the white flag or even throw up double middles and give up.

But stopping to “embrace the suck” reminds me that…

“NO” IS NOT Game Over! “NO” IS a Game Changer!

I can only speak for myself when I say that quitting is not an option.  EVER! “No” means that it is time to find another route, blaze another trail, seek another opportunity, find someone else to love.  I believe we should give ourselves time and space to mourn the blasted “no.”  Just sit with it for a time, and once that time is up, get back on the horse and continue the relentless pursuit of your goal.  I even take the time to write down the negative self-talk, AND the line by line opposite of the negative messaging (e.g. if the message is “You stink” I write You stink and I smell like deliciousness!). 

So let me digress a moment and get real with “Quitting.”  Quitting a job that doesn’t serve you in meaningful ways, or Quitting a poor relationship, is not what I’m talking about!  These two scenarios should come with serious thought, consideration, and maybe even professional counseling.  Then, followed by a conscious choice to choose YOU over the circumstances whether you decide to stay or go.  NEVER hang on to anything that no longer brings value to your life, makes your life miserable, or because you are trying to prove to someone outside of you that you are not a quitter!

Ok, back to our topic at hand…

How many times have you ended up in circumstances, thankful that you didn’t get something in the past that you really wanted at the time?   More than a few times, right? Pushing through the vulnerability in my life I’ve tried to “embrace the suck” while remembering that my life is in perfect alignment (see my previous post: Rejection Is Protection).  Do I always get it right?  Hell no!  But, I strive toward accepting my life completely with an open heart through it all!  

I’m not a big fan of everything happening for a reason or the cliche of this too shall pass.  I don’t find either helpful when times are hard.  I AM a fan of being aware of the journey and the lessons I learn along the way.  We are all here to learn from AND teach each other.  What is meant for you is already yours, what is not meant to be for you …..well….isn’t going to happen for you!  It’s THAT simple.

I was a super competitive athlete, hell-bent on winning back in the day!  In cards, vegas, athletics and the like I understand. However, in business, professional or relationship situations, I am not a fan of the word “win.” In order to “WIN” in these settings implies that someone else has to LOSE! Further, I don’t believe in “win-win” either because in my mind there is no such thing…isn’t that a “tie” or a “draw?”  In my experience, the term “Win-Win” is typically used by the person or group who thinks they have the advantage. I am ALWAYS leery of sales professionals claiming to want a “win-win” when they are trying to get me to buy something.  It just sounds like BS!

 Why not call it Mutually Agreeable, Collaboration, Cooperation, Alliance, Reciprocity, Synergy, even Cahoots… all of which I can get behind.

person with tattoo playing paper scissor and stone
Photo by on

I am not saying that competition doesn’t exist, nor am I saying that one should not even try. Having reached my current elite fitness level should be evidence of that.  I AM saying that if we stay in the flow of our lives, taking the necessary action(s), showing up and doing our best, we will receive all that is divinely ours, and so will everyone else.    Someone else’s promotion, pay increase, new job, engagement or marriage has nothing to do with what is available for you.  There is plenty for everyone! Celebrate their achievement and continue on your path. Being laser focused on “winning” can cause unrealistic self-talk, feelings of not-enoughness, and shame if you end up losing what you “won” or perceive something as having been lost.

“NO” IS NOT Game Over! “NO” IS a Game Changer!

I have sticky notes on my bathroom mirror that read …

  2. What are you willing to do?
  3. Too Legit to Quit! (The title of the 90’s MC Hammer Jam!)

When I am faced with the blasted “NO” these sticky notes remind me to leverage that “NO” and change course, adjust my direction, shift my perception, and to keep relentlessly pushing toward my goals.

Many very famous people have heard the word “NO” and wouldn’t be who they became if they had given up.

35 Famous game changers who were rejected

Love, Light, and Game Changing!



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