Rejection can be an awful experience and it really does hurt. It doesn’t matter much who is doing the rejecting, how, or why we’re being rejected — it’s never pleasant and it can really shake our confidence…if we let it.
Lets get this out of the way first and foremost: everyone has been rejected. The most powerful, beautiful, rich, and confident people among us have been rejected in one form or another. Of course, while this is a fact, it doesn’t make us feel much better when it’s we who are being rejected, does it?
“I know that when a door closes, it can feel like all doors are closing. A rejection letter can feel like everyone will reject us. But a closed door leads to clarity. It’s really an arrow. Because we cannot go through that door, we will go somewhere else. That somewhere else is your true life.” – Tama J. Kieves
When we’re rejected, we tend to feel lonely, angry, anxious and, even jealous. “Why am I being rejected? I must be so stupid/ugly/untalented/boring…..”
Rejection often causes us to also take those feelings of inadequacy and legitimize them — we let those hurt feelings convince us that the rejection is a direct barometer of our own self-worth and if we’re not careful, we actually believe that we were rejected because we’re somehow not worthy, not valued, not loved and, not needed.
“It makes you feel bad about yourself, and it makes you feel like nobody wants to be around you. It makes you feel angry.” – Geraldine Downey, Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Columbia University
Humans are social by nature. We need acceptance and this need to belong goes back a long, long time:
“When we were hunter-gatherers and living in tribes, the price of ostracism was pretty much death,” Winch tells HuffPost. “You wouldn’t survive without your tribe; you wouldn’t have the warmth of hearth, the protection of fire.” Therefore, he explains, we developed an early warning system — the feeling of rejection — to alert us when we might be at risk for ostracism. The more painful the experience of rejection, the more likely humans were to change their behavior to avoid ostracism, and be able to survive and pass on their genes. Meanwhile, “those who didn’t experience [rejection] as painful were less likely to correct [their] behavior and pass along their genes.” – Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries
So we know that we’re social by genetic make-up, need acceptance and need to feel wanted and valued. We also know everyone experiences rejection…everyone. So knowing that we all have and will experience rejection, why do we let it affect us in such a negative way? Well, we go back to our genetic traits and since we need to feel accepted, when we’re not, the result is that flood of negative thoughts and emotions. So does that mean we just need to suck-it-up and deal with it? Yes, and…no.
“Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people. Don’t base your self-esteem on their opinions.” – Harvey Mackay
Rejection is a part of life, but we don’t have to let it tear us down and there definitely are ways to minimize the negative effects of being rejected.
Acknowledge Our Emotions
Rather than suppressing or ignoring the painful emotions that come after being rejected, we should try facing up to them and acknowledge them — admit that we’re feeling sad, discouraged, lonely, etc. The rejection isn’t who we are…its something that happened to us — it’s one experience among a lifetime of experiences. Acknowledge how we’re feeling and try to deal with those negative emotions in a forthright manner, reminding our self that we are worthy, smart, needed and capable and, that this one set-back will in no way define us, for we are so much more than this one experience.
Don’t Let Rejection Define You
Don’t make sweeping generalizations about yourself /life when rejected. If one company turns you down for a job, don’t label yourself as incompetent. If rejected by a romantic partner, don’t declare yourself to be unlovable. Keep things in proper perspective and once you’ve acknowledged the hurt/anger/jealousy you may be feeling, get right back up and make a list of all of your wins — your good points and valuable qualities. One person’s opinion or a single “episode” of rejection should never define who we are and our self-worth should never, ever depend on other people’s opinions of us — just because someone else thinks something about you, does not make it true.
Prepare for Rejection
We should always be positive and have hope, but there is something to be said for preparing for rejection. If you plan to ask someone out on a date, or you’re going on a job interview, try working up a scenario for “what if I’m rejected…” This of course shouldn’t be a defeatist list, but rather, more of a “how will I feel if…….” type of list. If sadly you are rejected, the preparation will hopefully help to minimize the hurt feelings.
Learn From Rejection
We really can learn from rejection. We can ask our self “what can I learn from this?” While I’m not a big believer in changing one’s true self, we can always learn something. I have a friend who, when rejected, blames everyone under the sun for that rejection — she goes so far as to vilify a prospective employer who opted not to hire her. What does she learn? Not much. But, if we take a look at the situation and do some self-analysis, we can very often learn something about ourselves and turn the negative into a future positive. Likewise, when learning from rejection, we should remind ourselves that we too have rejected someone or something — how did we reject them? Were we kind? Did we temper our words to minimize the hurt? So, while rejection is never fun, it really can be turned into a learning and self-improvement benefit for ourselves.
My personal favorite to prepare for dealing with rejection…
Always believe in yourself. Surround yourself with positive people who uplift you and in turn, you also be the one to uplift those who need a boost. Think positively, act with optimism and, share that optimism with everyone you meet. This will fortify you mentally and physically and that inner-strength is the best antidote to rejection.