Rejection: Why Does It Hurt And How Do I Get Over It?

Have you been experiencing rejection and asking how do I get over it? Today I’m going to talk about why rejection hurts so badly and some strategies to manage those hurt feelings and grow from rejection.

Rejection sucks! However, the reality is that the fuller our lives, the more risks we have to take. So if you’re wanting a full life, the reality is that you’ve probably experiences some rejection. I’m sure you’ve heard quotes from Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan, Hillary Clinton, all of these individuals who we perceive as amazing and empowered, they’ve all experienced rejection, and it is a hard pill to swallow, and regardless of what that is, the point of rejection, whether it be at work, or in your relationships, it really hurts. And this goes back, way, way, way, when we were living more communally, our survival actually relied on us being part of a group. Therefore, this idea that you needed to stay with your clan because you would collectively have enough resources (e.g. food, childcare) were essential to survive.

Throughout evolution we’ve evolved for our minds to appraise rejection as an indicator of our value in community. Some researchers have termed this idea a sociometer: this gauge at which we perceive how valuable we are in society or in our community or in our relationships. The more rejection we have, the more difficult it is for someone to appraise their value as high. Repeated attacks or repeated experiences with rejection generally will bring someone’s perceived value down, which in turn impacts their self-worth. It can lead to more insecurity, more inhibition, and avoidance; leading to isolation, withdrawal, and a lot of distress. Over time, even from a young age, we figure out, we learn how to manage rejection and now I think in this age of empowerment, of taking risks, whether that be in your job or in your relationships, we have to enter these situations with some expectation of rejection. We have to be able to neutralize or depower those scary thoughts that do come up of “oh my gosh, I’m worthless”.

A lot of those, what we call automatic thoughts, those thoughts come up easily and often, I call them the low bearing fruit. The negative thoughts that really just been hanging out and finding opportunities to come out and pop in your head. Rejection triggers these negative automatic thoughts. Take for example in your relationship, when you ask your partner to do something and you were super, super excited about it, but they say no, or they forget to do it. That can feel like rejection. Certainly putting yourself in new relationships is always a chance for rejection. Taking risks at work, speaking up in meetings, changing jobs, all of these things. The reality is, is that the more you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to face some rejection, and so again. I’m a big believer that if you want a full life, which I want everyone to do, and I think we all deserve, then there’s gonna be some rejection with it, and we all need to begin to actually see that as part of ourselves and part of this pathway or journey that we’re going to go through, and really try to learn from these experiences.

So now, how do we manage rejection?
First and foremost, like I said, acknowledge that if you want a full life, rejection’s going to be part of it. The fuller your life, the more relationships you have, the more advanced you want to get in your career – the more risks you’re taking, the more opportunity there are for rejection. So it’s essential to keep your legs bent, your expectations flexible so that when you face rejection, it isn’t such a big smack down.

Another way to manage rejection is to acknowledge and face it head on. Our typical response is avoidance. It’s to run away, to withdraw, to hide, a lot of people have a hard time confronting or trying to work through it, whether that be at work or in relationships. When you feel that pain of rejection, you likely are feeling a real pain. Often times we say it hurts because the same and nearby areas of our brain when we experience physical pain, get activated, when we experience rejection. So it’s natural, it does hurt. Try heightening your awareness to what those sensations are when you experience rejection: Where are you feeling pain/tension in your body? What are your thoughts? What are you thinking? Dig deep, and actually try to swim in this for a little bit. I’m not saying swim in your sorrow. I’m saying rather than trying to escape it really quickly by going out, distracting yourself or even giving up; instead of actually just face it so that your body actually begins to practice facing rejection rather than running away from it.

When you’re doing that, what we’re going to try and do is actually heighten your awareness to that rejection. So that in that moment, you actually heighten your awareness, you pause, and then you actually try to choose how you want to react. So much of rejection really may be because you messed up, maybe you didn’t have the skills for a particular job, maybe you’re not a match for this potential partner. Whatever it is, the reality is that there’s always lots of perspectives around it. When you actually dig deep into rejection, you allow yourself the opportunity to look at your options and actually choose how you want to react.

Another thing that when you are experiencing rejection is, is identify some of the triggers to that rejected feeling. Particularly when you are in a chronic stressor, whether that be a turbulent relationship or a job where you’re feeling some burnout; what are those triggers to that feeling and that sensation of rejection, so that you can identify it earlier on. By heightening your awareness earlier, rather than right when you’re experiencing really, really heightened feelings of pain; you can buffer how long or how intense that rejection feels. In heightening your awareness to what your options are, you can actually choose how you want to react to rejection. You can choose to have a controlled reaction and then you can also try different reactions out, and then you can see which are the most effective for you. Again, reminding yourself, life is full of rejection. The idea is not to run away from it, the idea is actually to face it, empower yourself, control your reaction.

This isn’t a lot of hoopla, the reality is that it is possible for everyone. It is possible for you to, in that moment, just take a little bit of heightening your awareness, becoming a bit more present, digging deep- we’re talking seconds– and then making a choice of how you want to react. Keeping in mind, if you want to live fully, if you want to embrace relationships, you gotta take risks, and sometimes those risks are gonna pay off, but sometimes they’re not, and that’s really just part of it. So, seeing yourself on this journey and really embracing these opportunities to actually move through. To move through rejection and grow from it.

I hope that these tips and strategies where helpful, and again, and that you leave this with the sense of: You know what? I’m just gonna try. Just try, the reality is so much of this is practice, practice, practice, and figuring out what works for you.

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