Can rejection become one of the most positive things in your life? When I look back at the life I have led so far I see a lot of positive things. I had a pretty fun and happy time at school, I had some really great, positive people around me, I was good at sport and even had my time on the National Athletics team for Pole Vault. Even when my dream of becoming a vet was crushed after finding out I hated the sight of blood, I still somehow found myself working in a great job in health, sport and fitness.
When I think of these memories, rejection doesn’t really come to mind at first, but when I was asked to write about some of these proud moments and share my journey to achieving them, I started to notice that all the positive things that happened to me were not because I was lucky and things came easy. I achieved them because I had to fight, and work bloody hard to overcome rejection and being told (either by others or by myself) that I wasn’t good enough to reach my goals.
Over the years I had to learn to build a strong mind. I have had to continuously teach myself to be resilient and patient, and to trust my abilities. I want to share with you the three most important steps you can take right now to start turning rejection into the most positive things in your life.
Bad days happen, and sometimes they turn into bad weeks or even bad years! But that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to live a crappy life. I went through the worst year of my life in 2011 when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and incapable of any sort of normal life. Prior to my diagnosis, I was on my way to making the team for the London Olympic Games; I was a full-time athlete, travelling the world competing and then all of a sudden it was all over. Not only was I forced to retire but I was left in limbo not knowing if I could even have any big goals for myself again (like work a job, exercise, travel, or even get out of bed and not feel exhausted). There were definitely dark days, but I eventually got to the point where I was frustrated with how I was feeling so I decided to change. I decided to stop feeling like a victim and to stop hanging onto the negative and depressing feelings.
Bad things happen, and it’s ok to feel sad, angry or frustrated about it. The worst thing is allowing those feelings to consume you and to eventually let them overtake the rest of your life and the way you feel. It only takes one positive thought or action to turn things around, and while it might not instantly make you feel better it will slowly start to shift your energy. I remember the moment it all turned around, I was prescribed anti-depressants and told that they ‘may’ help my Chronic Fatigue symptoms. When I got home I stood there just holding the packet feeling incredibly low. It felt like an end point, from here it was just a slippery slope to more drugs, more bad feelings, and losing control of my body and mind.
I decided to throw them away and finally take control of my own health and recovery. After months of specialists and doctors and no answers, it was my turn to figure it out. It took a long time but eventually I arrived here! Healthy, happy, working, exercising, travelling and most importantly antidepressant free and energetic. Yes, I have had bad days along the way, and I still have them now - the difference is I don’t let them consume me. I make an effort to feel sad or frustrated or angry at a situation but I make an even bigger effort to dig myself out of it and to start making a positive step forward. And this leads me to my second step.
We’ve all felt it before: pressure, anxiety, panic, or stress to feel a certain way or to do something because someone else makes us feel like we have to. The truth is, you always have the power to decide, and when you do, you are the only one who is going to feel the full brunt of that choice. People can be mean – in fact they can actually be horrible – but the important thing to remember is that they do not have full control over how you react to what they say or do. During high school, I had teachers tell me that I was stupid and that I was only wasting time aiming to go to university or to hope for any successful career. I did graduate high school, but my tests and exams for university entry were horrible (funnily enough, the subjects that I did poorly in were from those teachers that had no faith in me!). I was gutted. I literally locked myself in my room for three days when I got my results and I truly believed every thing those teachers had said to me. Those people had taken full control of the way I felt about myself and that was their power. It was my dad who helped me turn everything around. He told me that no one ever has the right or the power to make me feel bad about myself. At the end of the day I always have the final decision – I can either be a victim and accept the feelings and emotions they push onto me, or I can actually stand up and decide how I want to feel and how I move forward from this point.
No matter where you are in life right now or what you have achieved, you can change your direction at any time. I chose to prove those teachers wrong. I decided to follow my passion for health and sport and I enrolled myself into TAFE. I found teachers there that really supported my passion and nurtured my learning and I started to feel confident in my abilities, I studied hard and my results began to show. I completed Certificates in fitness, personal training, business, and sports development over the next two years and ended up finishing in the top five per cent of my class in each course. I applied for university and was finally accepted, after so many people told me I’d never be able to do it. I completed my Bachelor in Sport Science as one of the top 15 per cent of students in Australia and went on to complete my Graduate Diploma in Exercise Rehabilitation. I am now a qualified Exercise Physiologist, elite athletics coach, personal trainer, gymnastics coach and yoga instructor.
I’ve become something that so many people said I should never even hope for. I am successful. Everything I achieved was because I built a strong resistance to rejection or criticism from others. I now understand that people will judge and label you without really knowing you at all, and that’s ok. Because at the end of the day they aren’t the ones that decide whether I accept what they say or not. I am.
We are like the 5 people we spend the most time with. I truly believe this statement. Energy is contagious, if we are around supportive, happy, and encouraging people we too become supportive, happy and encouraging. For a good period of my life I was around some pretty crappy people. Their focus was always on problems and negative things when I was around them, and whenever I would want to do something different or to be around other people that they didn’t approve of I felt judged and rejected. Their energy always left me exhausted and drained. It’s funny because leading up to my Chronic Fatigue diagnosis they had been a part of my day-to-day life.
Looking back now, I wonder if they had anything to do with how I felt during that time. Those ‘friends’ eventually drifted away, around the same time I wanted to start healing myself and get better. Of course the backstabbing and abuse turned to me (from what I heard from friends and social media) and to tell you the truth it was hard to let go and to not let it get to me. To see how quickly those people had rejected me and turned on me really hurt, but it also showed me how much I didn’t need them (or their negative energy) in my life.
I made a huge effort to start creating a positive environment around myself. Not only did I focus my energy and time on those people who really supported me and made me feel good, I also began to remove toxic people and things from my life, and things began to change. I felt comfortable sharing all of my dreams and ambitions without feeling judged and this in turn gave me confidence and strength to keep working towards my goals when times were tough. Ever since I began to nurture the environment around me, things seem a little easier now and a lot more fun. Yes, there are still bad days, things that don’t go right, and moments when I feel sad, angry, or defeated, but that never lasts long. There is always something, or someone to pick me up.