Rejection: Why it hurts and what to do about it

Written by Varouna Baroud on Thursday, 02 November 2017. Posted in Relationships & network, Self development

Pic 2 Rejection

Rejection has long been peoples Achilles heel. Many of you have rejection detectors that is sensitively calibrated, ready to pick up on even the slightest hint of rejection.  

Once that inner alarm starts wailing, it is all systems go. Guards up, shutters down and dig in deep, while rationality and perspective seek shelter to sit out the imminent storm. Hell had no fury like a human rejected.

Why it should hurt

What can you learn if we explore rejection with objective curiosity? From a biological standpoint, rejection is a gutsy little gem of human interaction. It is purposely constructed to be as hurtful as possible. Not only is rejection experienced by your brain as physical pain but much like the evil twin of birth pains, rejection pain is engineered to be not easily forgotten.  

Go ahead, try it. What are your earliest memories? What are your most painful memories? Big chance they have to do with rejection.  You vividly remember the first time your baby brother was being carried instead of you, not being picked in gymclass,  your first break-up, and the first rejection letter.

In earlier times, your chances of survival were bigger if you belonged to a group. This is why you were hooked up with a natural need to belong. Those who experienced rejection as more painful were more likely to show appropriate behavior that would keep them in the clan and thus had a bigger chance to survive. 


Why you react the way you do

Although it is a comforting idea your sensitivity is actually a sign of evolutionary greatness, it doesn’t always serve you in this modern day and age.

The downfall of your evolutionary built is that you perceive rejection as a threat to your self-preservation. Rationality is automatically bypassed and you go straight into survival mode: Freeze, fight or flight.

Depending on your personality, the pain and anger that follow rejection, are turned into guilt, blame or shame responses: adapting behavior, lashing out or attacking our self-esteem. Or if you're unlucky,  a lethal combination of all three.

The rejection paradox

Rejection hits you in your weak spot. That's why some immediately turn into that 8-year old with an insatiable hunger for acceptance and proving their value: “ The needy mode.”

Rejection affects your inner child.  No matter how old, rich, successful or intelligent you are. With age, money, wits, and influence, rejection responses might become more sophisticated, but don’t be fooled, they all still stem from that same deep feeling of inadequacy.  

As a result, some people try to avoid rejection altogether. The sad paradox of rejection, however, is that those who have encountered too much rejection too early on, purposely or unconsciously, start seeking out situations and relationships in which rejection seems inevitable.  The confirmation of the dismissal has become more bearable than the suspense.

Pic 1 rejection

How not to let rejection define you

The danger of a fierce response to rejection is that it distracts from your deliberate path of action towards your goals. When you allow yourself to be led by your instinctive reactions, when you respond out of a need to alleviate pain or anger, you relinquish control.

Simply said, whether you respond by giving up, lashing out, doubling down or shriveling, you let the rejection define your course instead of being your own point of calibration.

This insight holds the key to dealing with rejection in a more constructive way. You can’t fight your instinct but you can learn how to deal with rejection. Don't fool yourself into thinking the solution lies in becoming more resistant or thick skinned. Resiliency, in essence, is a responsive action. Instead, you need to invest in your own resourcefulness.

Deal with rejection the same way you learn to deal with other stressors that activate your inner cave man: recognize the situation, acknowledge your instinct, pause, turn off the evolutionary autopilot and activate a new (automated) pattern of behavior.

Interested in learning some effective strategies to deal with rejection? Check out our next blog!

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