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5 Tips for Dealing With Rejection as an Autistic Person

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Rejection and how to handle it

As a person on the autism spectrum who grew up dealing with abuse from those who were assigned to raise me and individuals who were being paid to teach me, I understand that being rejected is tough. I never fit in with the “normal” children; I had to sit away from everyone and was classified as being “weird” or “stupid.” My family members did not seem to understand what I was going through because they didn’t have autism.

I was rejected for many jobs through email saying, “Dear Maverick, we regret to inform you that your application will not move forward; we encourage you to reapply.” I’ve never gotten past the interview process and if I did, no feedback was given on the interview, or if I got a second interview I was never told if I was hired or not. Sometimes I had to log into my portal, only to find out my application was rejected three days before and I was never notified by anyone.

I would walk in with my resume to apply for jobs, and even though I was dressed sharp, I was automatically turned down. I believe I was turned down because of my facial expression, not being able to look someone in the eye, or something else they perceived as negative because they did not understand me or what I was going through. Jobs are not supposed to discriminate against you because of your disability, but they have with me. I applied to three graduate schools and was denied by all three of them.

In my experience, life is a competition and everyone is trying to reach a goal whether it’s a job opportunity, scholarship, school, promotion or something else. We are living in a society where ideally everyone can win a prize and we all should be winners. It’s good for children to believe they are winners, so they can have confidence in themselves and believe they can do anything they put their mind to. But when they become adults, they find themselves in a reality where there are only a few winners or one winner. In order to be the winner, you have to work hard and compete the best way you can against everyone else. Sometimes it’s unfair, biased and wrong but unfortunately that’s life.

At the end of the day, we are all human beings who are made of the same material inside. We may have different genders, race, sexual orientations, disabilities, jobs, degrees, religions or many other things, but we are no better than anyone else. You may be the best football player in your high school, the CEO, high-ranking in the military or a leader of some organization, but outside that context you are a grain of salt in the world like everyone else. We should be like children who play if you put them into a room together, no matter their gender, race or disability.

You should never judge a book by its cover, because a lot of us may be broken, have loss of vision or hearing or be tired on the outside, but have the biggest heart and the toughest mind on the inside. A person with a disability can become someone who inspires so many and reaches limits higher than anyone can imagine. An opportunity may be all they need and they can take it from there. It’s hard for those who came up in life like me, as many people did not believe in me or said I could not succeed because of my disability. So I had to do things my own way.

Whether you have autism or not, everyone deals with rejection differently. Some bounce back from it, some stop and give up, while others try again. Having a disability or being non-typical can mean you are passed by for promotions, social functions, job offers, college admissions and more. Any type of rejection is tough to deal with, and I understand your pain, so I have come up with five ways to overcome rejection.

1. Recognize yourself

Despite being passed up, ignored, denied or hurt, you can acknowledge these feelings. You have the ability to control your emotions during difficult times. There is an old saying, “If it will not matter in five years, do not spend more than five minutes worrying about it.” Focus on the more important things.

2. Realize you’re doing the best you can

The more feedback you receive, the better you become. You are not always going to be accepted, and a rejection is just feedback everyone receives in life at one time or another. When rejection occurs, do not become downhearted; there will be other opportunities. When you go out of your way and strive beyond your limitations, rejection can occur, but you should always give yourself credit because you are putting your best foot forward.

3. Change your thoughts

When you continue to respond in a negative way about being rejected (passed up for a promotion, fired, denied enrollment in college), you only keep yourself down. It’s like adding wood to the fire, where the fire is rejection and the wood is the negative thoughts that run through your head. The wood just aggravates the fire, the fire spreads and the pain escalates. Unchecked, the fire spreads throughout the land and decimates anything that comes near it. This is what could happen when you allow rejection to overpower you. When rejection occurs, tell yourself, “It’s just feedback, it’s OK, you can do it.” Talk to a trusted friend, see a counselor or get help; never beat yourself up or be a harsh critic. Remain positive.

4. Know it does not define you

In life, there are many tools people and organizations use to define you. In school, they give you tests to measure how well you grasp the material. At work, they evaluate your performance based on your attendance and overall outcomes. People use these methods to define one another, but they do not serve as an accurate representation of who we are. For example, just because you fail a test that does not mean you’re “dumb” or don’t know the material. If you’re fired from a job, it does not mean you’re incompetent. Getting a D in school does not make your child bad. Grades and GPA never define a person; it is your character that defines you.

If you’re fired from a job or denied a promotion, there will always be another opportunity, and there is always a root cause for a child’s behavior. The bad thing about these tools is that sometimes the person eventually comes to believe they’ll never succeed and lives up to the results. Value your self-worth and the positives in your life, not some man-made system like an exam. Examine your accomplishments, talents, goals, aspirations or anything else positive about you to define you.

5. Grow from it

The Tina Turner song “Something Beautiful Remains” says, “For every life that fades, their something beautiful remains.” For every bad situation, there is always something better down the road. At the end of a dark night, there is a brighter day; there is light at the end of any tunnel. I believe every bad situation serves as an opportunity for us to grow and develop in a positive way. It’s time to turn the negative into a positive — instead of being hurt, build from the experience. Use the rejection to inspire others and to help you become confident so you can get through far worse things.

You can handle this

I encourage you all to listen to one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite music groups — “Optimistic” by The Sounds of Blackness. The Sounds of Blackness music group has made several great songs for uplifting a person during difficult times. There will always be failure in this cruel world, but your success is what matters.

I’m not the smartest man in the world or the sharpest shed in the tool box. I have no Ph.D. and my name is not in the spotlight. I’m just an ordinary guy with autism looking to inspire those who have the same issues as me and learn from them as well. No one ever thought I’d be anything and I had no one to teach me anything about life, so I learned on my own. I’m a young guy so hopefully my experiences will inspire you through your journey.

Having autism, you are often going to feel like an outcast or at a disadvantage compared to your peers, but you have the power to overcome the obstacles. When going through the obstacles, remain steadfast because it shows commitment, remain humble because it shows perseverance, remain positive because it shows ambition, and most importantly be yourself. Be confident and stay strong because you have the ability to succeed in your own special way.

A person with autism is:

Spectacular, and they are always
Making a difference in the lives of those they come in contact with.

Getty image by Bet Noire.

Originally published: January 2, 2019
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