Accepting Rejection As A Part Of Life Will Make You Resilient
Have you ever had a crush and gathered the courage to tell the other person but been rejected?
Have you applied for that dream job that you thought you would be perfect for, but did not even qualify for the interview?
Did you want to make friends with a certain person but got completely cold-shouldered?
Welcome to the world of rejection, my friend. We all have dealt with rejection one time or another. Whether it be rejection in a relationship, rejection at a job, rejection from family or rejection from friends.
I have been there, you have been there and we have all been there. While some rejections are easier to deal with, some have the power to hurt our confidence and make us doubt ourselves altogether. But what if we put a twist to the idea of rejection?
I was once vain enough to tell my mother, “Mujhe kaun reject karega”. But my teenaged vanity was set in place when my mother told me, “sab logon ki alag choice hoti hai, sabko alag alag cheezein achhi lagti hai, so you never know”.
That has been my perception for a long time. Rejection is not really a judgement of us. It’s more of a perception of another’s mindset and where we fit in that framework. So when we are rejected for a job it’s because we don’t fit their skill set. When we are rejected for a marriage proposal we tend to doubt our potential but then again, we are hardly ever looking for diversity. We seek commonalities and assurance.
In the field of mental health care, rejection most frequently refers to the feelings of shame, sadness, or grief people feel when they are not accepted by others. A person might feel rejected after a partner ends a relationship. A child who has few or no friends may feel rejected by peers. An individual who was given up for adoption may also experience feelings of rejection.
Anxiety and stress: Rejection might often contribute to pre-existing conditions such as stress and anxiety or lead to their development. Similarly, these and other mental health conditions can exacerbate feelings of rejection.
Types Of Rejection
Rejection occurs in a variety of contexts, and any mental health implications by depending partly on the circumstances under which the rejection occurred. Some common types of rejection include:
#1. Familial rejection:
Rejection from one's family of origin, typically parental rejection, may consist of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or the withholding of love and affection. This form of rejection is likely to affect an individual throughout life, and it may have serious consequences.
Familial rejection of our life choices and what we decide to pursue can leave a lasting impact on us.
We all crave our parents' acceptance of us and I wept as I told my mother I didn’t want to be an IAS as she had hoped but instead a journalist. She was understanding enough to let me find my own way there onwards.
#2. Social rejection:
This type of rejection may occur at any age and can often begin in childhood. Social rejection can include bullying and alienation in school or the workplace, but it can also extend to any social group. Those who challenge the status quo or who live what is considered “outside the norm” for their society may be more prone to social rejection.
For example, a friend of mine had to change a lot of schools owing to her father’s transferable job and she was always an introvert. This quiet little girl was rejected because she didn’t speak with everyone. Do you think it was really her fault?
#3. Rejection in a relationship:
People may experience rejection while dating or in a relationship. For example, an individual may refuse to share an event or experience with a partner, withhold affection or intimacy, or treat a partner as if that person were no more than a casual acquaintance. When an individual decides to end a relationship, this can also cause the other partner to feel rejected.
#4. Romantic rejection:
Rejection can occur when a person asks for a date and is denied. While this may also be known as sexual rejection, the person who is romantically rejected may not always be interested in a sexual relationship. Not all of us are seeking sex. Sometimes we just want a friend or have a bond where you can say anything and everything. In such a scenario assuming that sex is inevitably on the cards can lead to a feeling of being rejected when it was never meant to be in the first place.
Effect of Social Media on Rejection and Its Perception
Rejections are the most common emotional wound we sustain in our daily lives. Our risk of rejection used to be limited by the size of our immediate social circle or dating pools.
Today, thanks to electronic communications, social media platforms and dating apps, each of us is connected to thousands of people, any of whom might ignore our posts, chats, texts, or dating profiles, and leave us feeling rejected as a result. So the idea that these are all personal and targeted at sending a message to us or hurting us might not be true. Unfortunately the dynamic of social relationships now even extends to social media and we haven’t yet completely figured out how that is supposed to work!
In addition to these kinds of minor rejections, we are still vulnerable to serious and more devastating rejections as well. When our spouse leaves us, when we get fired from our jobs, snubbed by our friends, or ostracized by our families and communities for our lifestyle choices, the pain we feel can be paralyzing.
Why Does Rejection Hurt?
Whether the rejection we experience is large or small, one thing remains constant — it always hurts, and it usually hurts more than we expect it to.
The answer is — our brains are wired to respond that way. When scientists placed people in functional MRI machines and asked them to recall a recent rejection, they discovered something amazing. The same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. That’s why even small rejections hurt more than we think they should because they elicit literal (albeit, emotional) pain.
But why is our brain wired this way?
Evolutionary psychologists believe it all started when we were hunter-gatherers who lived in tribes. Since we could not survive alone, being ostracized from our tribe was basically a death sentence. As a result, we developed an early warning mechanism to alert us when we were at danger of being “kicked off the island” by our tribemates — and that was rejection. People who experienced rejection as more painful were more likely to change their behaviour, remain in the tribe and pass along their genes.
Dealing with Rejection
#1. Don’t take it personally
But as Guy points out, “Most rejections, whether romantic, professional and even social, are due to fit and circumstance.” Plus, there are plenty more flatmates in the sea.
Kirsten Godfrey suggests avoiding generalising rejection into something massive and all-consuming. Concluding that “everything is wrong with me," or “I’ll never find anyone, ever” after one mediocre date is pointlessly treating yourself as a punching bag.
We need to understand that everyone is the centre of their own universe and more often than not the other person is behaving in a particular way not because of us but because of something brewing in their own heads.
For example, I used to think that my sister is not calling me or meeting with me because I am not her priority but it was just because she was busy with her new job. I made up a negative image of the situation even though it was untrue.
#2. Don’t be afraid to fail
As psychologist Harriet Lerner points out, “The only sure way to avoid rejection is to sit mute in a corner and take no risks. If we choose to live courageously, we will experience rejection—and survive to show up for more.”
I gave UPSC 4 times and still don’t consider it a personal failure because I wasn’t possibly cut out for it! I kept failing but I still kept trying! Somethings might not work out but you have to have faith in your own potential and also fate at times and what all it has planned for you!
#3. Accept that rejection is a natural part of life
And it always has been, even before people started swiping left.
In today’s socially savvy world of perfect, celebratory posts and grams, it might not seem like people are experiencing the kind of rejection you are. But they are. They just don’t share it.
As Myra explains, “This ‘forced positivity’ is dangerous, because it can stop us talking openly about our own feelings and experiences.”
We can’t possibly fit into everyone’s conception or idea about saying a job post or their idea of a spouse/girlfriend. We are all wired differently and it’s just the innate difference in us that makes us reject people and make people reject us!!
#4. Don’t kick yourself when you’re down
Rejection is actually programmed to hurt, triggering the same areas of our brain that are activated when we experience physical pain.
Yet as Guy Winch explains, we have a tendency to self-inflict far greater damage, becoming intensely critical of ourselves in the aftermath. Listing all our faults or endlessly beating ourselves up over what went wrong is common practice, and can be really psychologically destructive.
So take a zero-tolerance approach to self-criticism – and give yourself some love.
Rejection From Family
Rejection is painful. Whether it comes from a potential spouse, a potential employer, or your boss who you were trying to sell a proposition to, rejection has the power to take away your high spirits and happiness.
What’s even worse is when rejection comes from the people who you hold dearest to you. However, unfortunately, rejection can come from anyone, even our families. As much as we’d like to think that people who truly love us wouldn’t reject us, it happens and hurts us in ways we can’t imagine.
Family is the cornerstone of our existence and I personally find it extremely difficult to take their criticisms and judgments of me in a positive light. Even the slightest suggestion from their end or even a gentle nudge makes me feel inadequate and pushes me into a huge cycle of overthinking and exaggeration of negativity. In such times I find it’s just the easiest to talk to them. And that’s the best solution!
But mostly I find, that it’s all in my own head. They forget about it after saying it because they were just saying it casually but because I added so much value and meaning to even a casual statement, I felt miserable about myself and my life.
We need to check our thoughts when they spiral out of our hands. Negative emotions always affect us more deeply and tend to leave a harder impact but it is rightly said, “Our mind is a great slave but a terrible master”. We need to reign in our thoughts and consciously work towards positivity.