By Harry Petsanis and Donna McCance
Rejection is a painful feeling we get when we have been rejected by someone. When someone rejects us, they refuse to accept us, give us attention or affection, and deny us something we want or need.
Research shows that rejection is neurologically connected to the brain in the area where we experience physical pain, or hurt, and is associated with our evolutionary development, the need to belong to a group for safety from predators or dangerous situations.
The Self-Damaging Foundation of
Response to Rejection
We all experience rejection from our early beginnings and throughout our lives. As babies and children, we learn rejection as we are denied things for developmental reasons. We experience rejection from family, relationships, and society, such as not being picked for a team, not being chosen for a job, being spurned by our interest in a romantic partner, etc. Other forms of rejection have more serious, long lasting psychological effects, such as being abandoned, bullied, and ridiculed.
The pain of rejection is real. Our reactions to rejection elicit negative emotional responses that affect rational decision making and impulses. This can result in self-damaging behaviors and behaviors directed at harming others. Some of the negative emotional responses include anxiety, anger, grief, shame, jealousy, sadness, fear, and depression.
Our reactions to rejection are determined by our level of self-confidence, which involves our feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. Our reactions are also determined by our understanding of rejection and looking at it realistically as opposed to emotionally.
Rejection is a fact of life and has the potential to be in our lives every day. We all know what rejection feels like. We’re not going to tell you that you aren’t going to experience emotion when you are rejected. However, the emotions that you feel can be managed with a realistic mindset so that you can move forward productively, and not let it enter your psyche after you develop an understanding of it.
Acceptance and Approval
People have become dependent on recognition and validation so that they feel accepted. When your need for acceptance becomes the driving force behind your total being, you lose your sense of self through the process because you’re always trying to please others to get them to accept you. You are not who you are, you are who you want others to see you as, based on their criteria.
We often portray ourselves to be something we’re not to gain the favor of others, and then get angry when they don’t agree with our perceptions that aren’t based on reality to start with. Then we punish them and label them as rejecting us.
When acceptance becomes your priority, you forfeit your authenticity and you allow your self-worth and self-esteem to become dependent on others' approval of you. Through this, you do not develop self-confidence because your accomplishments are based on validation from external sources, not from within yourself. There’s a reason why the word “self” comes before the words “worth, esteem, and confidence.” An unhealthy dependence on acceptance and approval is a contributing factor toward a highly emotional response to rejection. (See our Blog on Praise, October 1, 2021 ).
Honesty and Freedom of Choice
When an adult rejects another adult (such as partners, jobs, etc.) it’s their freedom of choice to do so. They have a right not to choose us, just as we have the right not to choose them. This is synonymous with honesty. It’s also synonymous with hypocrisy. When we choose to go in a different direction, we call it freedom of choice. When someone else chooses to go in a different direction, we tell ourselves we’ve been rejected. In many instances, when someone feels rejection, it was preceded by someone being honest with them and telling them something they didn’t want to hear.
It’s hypocritical to seek affirmation from others on a false image you’ve created of yourself, with the expectation that they lie to you by validating your lie about yourself. There’s a difference between rejection and someone begging to be lied to, only to get upset when others won’t lie back to you. If you want people to be honest with you, then there’s no need for you to feel rejection. You’re being treated with honesty and others are exercising their freedom of choice.
Develop a Pragmatic Mindset Toward “Rejection”
Our lives are filled with opportunities for disappointment when things don’t turn out as we expect. Developing a realistic and logical mindset will help you to constructively deal with disappointments so that you can develop understanding, personal growth, and resilience to move forward. (See our Blog on Accountability, November 8, 2021)
The following are some ways you can develop your mindset to see “rejection” more clearly, for what it is, and how you can deal with it productively to improve your life:
Self awareness: Keep a journal to identify your emotions so you can control yourself from reacting in an emotional state and identify how you can act logically and realistically. Be especially aware of your feelings toward others as well. (See our Blog on Self-Regulation, November 29, 2021)
Listen: Listening to what people say doesn’t mean you have to believe them, but listen with an open mind. There may be some truth in what others are saying that you can learn and grow from, even though it may hurt to acknowledge and accept. You can always do something about it.
Accept personal rights: Remind yourself that people have different tastes, feelings, perceptions, wants, and personal expectations and that is not a reflection on you. It’s their personal rights, just as you have your own personal rights.
Resilience: Develop resilience by moving forward and continuing to try new and different things, rather than becoming paralyzed by fear of being rejected. Take your focus off of what you don’t get and redirect it toward other opportunities. (See our Blog on Fear, October 11, 2021)
Self-care and self-confidence: Indulge yourself in self-care. Develop your sense of self-worth and self-esteem by recognizing your strengths and challenges, and take steps toward self-improvement. This will contribute to greater self-confidence. (See our Blog on Self-Confidence, November 1, 2021)
Don’t hate on yourself: As you get to truly know yourself and learn to love who you are, you will no longer need validation from others because you know and accept yourself.
Don’t hate on others: Don’t take your disappointments out on other people for their personal choices. Accept that it’s their choice and move away from attacking, insulting, degrading, or blaming them. Don’t try to force them into doing something they don’t want.
Learn to be AUTHENTIC: Be who you truly are and not a false person to please others. Eventually your mask will fall off and you will be revealed. Be yourself from the start, and you will naturally attract those who want to be around you, and distract those who don’t. (See our Blog on Authenticity, October 25, 2021)
Life is all about experiences and growth. Sometimes there is pain in learning. If you refuse to accept that, you are denying yourself opportunities to better yourself and transform your life to a higher, more self-fulling level.
About the Authors
Harry Petsanis is a mindset and accountability coach, philosopher of human nature, consultant, and lifelong fitness and nutrition expert. He is a writer and author, with two published books: “The Truth is A Lie” and “The Logical Path To Life.” His book “The Truth is A Lie” was nominated by the 2019 Author Academy Awards in the "best self help" book category. Harry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He has an intense passion for psychology and the human condition.
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Donna McCance, M.Ed. is a business administrator, licensed teacher and principal/vice principal with over 20 years experience teaching in elementary education and educational leadership. She has a Masters in Education, Masters in Human Services Management, Bachelors in Business Administration and Associates in Business Administration.