Overcoming Rejection

Summary:

  • Discover a powerful strategy to overcome rejection
  • Learn why its important to embrace rejection instead of shy away from it
  • Learn the common misconception of rejection.

Article:

We often don’t think about rejection. At least most of us would rather not. In fact, we avoid rejection at all costs because it causes us to deal with or question our self-worth, our ideas, our behavior…almost everything.

Rejection is something that we all experience but none of us desire. It is familiar to everyone but we spend so much time avoiding it that we are often ill-equipped to deal with it when it happens.
And this if often true with the things that we are most scared of.

We seek to avoid them at all costs – hoping not to deal with the monsters in the dark – when we should shine a light upon them so that we can know what we are dealing with.

There is a powerful philosophy that is spoken of in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War that says:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

It is critical as we deal with paralyzing emotions like rejection; we must understand how they work and how we interact with them. This understanding gives us the ability to combat these emotions so that they do not have control over us, but instead, we are in control of the very thing that we create.

Of all the paralyzing emotions that we have spoken of so far, I believe that rejection can be the most damaging of them all.

Yes, all of the paralyzing emotions can cause you and me to become stuck in that emotion, situation, or a place in life but rejection has the ability to elicit emotional pain like no other.

In fact, research has found that the same areas of the brain where we experience physical pain are the exact same areas where we experience the emotion of rejection. So much so that taking Tylenol, in fact, can reduce the emotional pain rejection elicits.

Think about this – if you were to recall a memory where you experienced some physical pain like twisting your ankle, breaking a bone or stepping on a sharp rock, your memory of that experience is maybe vivid but you do not re-experience the actual pain. Your neurological pathways in your brain do not respond as if you experienced physical pain.

But when reliving a painful rejection we are flooded with the very same emotional and physiological response as when we first experience the rejection, if not more intense.

But why is this?

Research says that “Our brain prioritizes rejection experiences because we are social animals who live in “tribes.”

You see, the paralyzing emotion of rejection served a vital role in our evolutionary development. If you have heard it before you have heard it a thousand times, there is strength in numbers. In part, this is why civilizations exist.

You see, when we were grazing the fields of the plains and hunting wild animals for food and clothes, to be kicked out of the tribe was a sure of a death sentence as any – because the likelihood of surviving on our own was slim to none.

Evolutionary psychologists theorized that our brains responded to this possibility by creating rejection to be so painful that we would avoid or correct behaviors that would have led our ancestors to be ostracized.

This is why rejection can destabilize our sense of belonging and riverdance on our self-worth.

We all have a need to belong and we often express this need by joining groups we have a strong affinity to and/or developing strong family bonds with the desire to be valued and accepted.

Without this sense of belonging and a devalued self-image, the emotion of rejection can easily turn to anger and aggression – the likes of which we have seen far too often in the media with school shootings and other quote on quote random acts of violence. We even coined the term “going postal” for this type of aggression.

Yet, I digress…

Rejection causes us to devalue our self-image. We begin to question why we were rejected; finding fault in ourselves and start harping on our inadequacies.

This is most apparent when we experience romantic relationship rejections of which we have all experienced. Try not to think of that time you were dumped or when your first love, began loving someone else.

So as we can see, the results of rejection are multifaceted and each part has to be addressed in order to appropriately become unstuck from the paralyzing emotion of rejection.

The worst thing that we can do is allow rejection to define who we are. We must recognize rejection for what it is and it is an event that occurs to us that we have the ability to recover from.

And in that recovery, we learn not so that we don’t experience rejection again, but we learn so that the next rejection isn’t as painful.

Here is a 3 part strategy for overcoming rejection:

  1. We must develop a rejection ritual. Most of the time, we don’t have a plan and this causes us to fail on the path of recovery from the rejection we face. When we develop a rejection ritual, we establish a plan that can move us from wallowing in rejection to overcoming. Your ritual can contain any steps that will help us on our path of recovery. I’d suggest it includes the next items.
  2. We must separate items from identity. When rejection occurs it is often viewed that we are being rejected. What’s often the case is the item (idea, thought, proposal, etc) that you brought forth is being rejected. If we can separate the item from our identity then we can look at and deal with the rejection from an objective standpoint. From this stance, we have the ability to make corrective actions to either turn that rejection into an acceptance or move forward from the rejection.
  3. We must embrace rejection. You can have all the rituals in the world and even look at rejection from an objective standpoint but the truth is, it will still hurt. We must learn to embrace rejection not because we like pain but because we seek to grow and develop from the lessons that rejections bring us. Embracing rejection also gives us the tools we need to better handle future rejections. One keen way to embrace rejection is to give it a name. When we put a label on the things we don’t want to deal with, we claim the power over it because we have the ability to address it and our emotions because of it. This gives us the strength to overcome.

Rejection is a fact of life.

It has happened to each of us from the moment that we began interacting with others. As children, we experience rejection from our friends who don’t want to throw us the ball. As young adults, we experience rejection of close friends or first loves. As adults, we experience rejection from employers, friends who unfriend us on Facebook, and spouses who turn into exes.

Instead of avoiding rejection, we must experience it, move past it, and use it as our fuel for progress. Our ability to appropriately relate to emotions like rejection will determine how much time we spend in recovery or moving past the emotion onto our next wealthy place.