There’s a silly statistic about job searching: If you apply to 100 jobs, you’ll hear back from 10, and out of those 10, maybe one will hire you. Those are scary rejection numbers for someone like me. It’s a common problem for many people, but when living with depression and anxiety, the fear of rejection can feel like the end of the world.
How Depression Takes Over After Rejection
I routinely have five to 10 job applications open in my browser. If I apply to all of them, there’s a chance that they’ll all say no (or nothing, which is often worse for feeding the fear). The logical side of me knows that not applying means a definite, resounding rejection. But then it’s my choice, and the depression inside of me revels in not trying. The anxiety is soothed by avoiding the could-be rejection. And then there are the times where I do actually get around to applying to the job.
After mustering up my mental fortitude and describing all my skills and strengths, which feels like pulling teeth, I play the waiting game. It’s a little easier in this first stage because I can forget about the job and practise avoidance like a champ. The damage done is just a tiny tear (pfft, nothing!) in my self-esteem if I don’t hear back. If I get an interview, the fear of rejection bolts out of the gate again.
I find myself repeating what the interviewer says to me because I’m so scared of saying the wrong things. I try to be honest, while staying positive, but that fear of rejection is sitting right next to me whispering, “Just say what they want. Don’t think too long. They won’t like you. Don’t be yourself. They’ll never hire you.”
Talking myself down should make rejection hurt less, but when I don’t hear from them (ever, even though they always say they’ll let you know either way) it validates my fear of rejection: I am worthless. I am not good enough. I will never amount to anything.
How I Deal With Job Rejection While Recovering
The next time, I’m that much more gun shy. Because I feel so rejected, I can’t talk positively about myself, but I must if I want to move forward in my career. I’m actively trying to recover, so the negative thoughts are closer to background feelings now, instead of an active conversation in my head like they used to be.
The more I learn about my depression and why I think these things, the more I realize that the depressive side of me can be controlled. Simply recognizing depressive thoughts as part of my illness has been liberating. My fear of rejection is my self-preservation in overdrive. I know the negative loop before it happens and I can stop it before it gains control. I’m really not a depressing person. Depression is not who I am. I’m sick and I’m trying to get better.
It takes longer for it to sink in, but general job rejection advice actually works. I have to remember that it’s not personal. It is a numbers game and eventually I’ll find the right fit. An interview is a two-way street; I’m interviewing the company as much they’re interviewing me. Keeping this in mind always helps me deal with my nerves from possible rejection. Getting to that next step is a huge success because it means I must be doing something right! Focusing on the positive, no matter how small, has changed my outlook for the better.
Dealing with rejection is hard for everyone, especially if you have to go through it another 98 times or more. But that’s just a silly statistic and I won’t let a little rejection control me.
About Whitney Reyes
Whitney has always loved writing. Before she was first diagnosed with depression and GAD at 17, she started sharing her thoughts with the world on her blog. After completing journalism school, her mental illness came back with a vengeance. She's now writing about her experience on Healthy Minds Canada and social media. You can follow her on Twitter and read her other work on her personal website.