What is Rejection?
Rejection (in the context of a relationship – social or romantic) basically means exclusion – from a group, an interaction, information, communication or emotional intimacy. When someone deliberately excludes you from any of these, your brain tells you that you’re experiencing rejection. Does rejection hurt? We all know it does – it feels lousy, especially in the context of a romantic relationship.
Should it hurt? Many self-help Counselors and personal development books will tell you that it shouldn’t, using one or more of the following.
- #1. Happiness is a choice, not an outcome. You can choose to be happy irrespective of external circumstances.
- #2. You don’t need anyone’s approval in order to feel happy. The only person whose approval you need is your own.
- #3. If you’re not happy alone, you’ll never be happy in a relationship.
Truth is, that each of these has been proven as uncertain though it begins with you.
Rejection doesn’t have to be about the big stuff like not getting into your top college, not making the team, or not getting asked for a date. Everyday situations can lead to feelings of rejection, too, like if your joke didn’t get a laugh, if no one remembered to save you a seat at the lunch table, or if the person you really like talks to everyone but you.
Feeling rejected is the opposite of feeling accepted. But being rejected (and we all will be at times) doesn’t mean someone isn’t liked, valued, or important. It just means that one time, in one situation, with one person, things didn’t work out.
Rejection hurts. But it’s impossible to avoid it altogether. In fact, you don’t want to: People who become too afraid of rejection might hold back from going after something they want. Sure, they avoid rejection, but they’re also 100% guaranteed to miss out on what they want but won’t try for.
Rejection comes as one of the most brutal stakes to the heart because it deals a direct blow to our ego. The ego is the inherent part of the self which holds intact our pride, esteem and self-worth. When the ego is bruised, a core element of our being is damaged. We often feel reduced to a lesser versions of ourselves. We automatically begin to blame ourselves, assuming there must be something wrong with us and criticizing the behavior that led to our rejection.
Of the many forms of rejection, being denied by a love interest is most agonizing. We are grieved by a deep sense of bitterness and spite, both against the other person and against ourselves. Ironically, though, we feel an inexplicable sense of longing — a stronger desire towards the rejecter than ever before. As a counselor, I’ve seen many become stuck in a cycle of voluntary, unrequited love. The more they were rejected, the more they “wanted” the person rejecting them. They refused to give up. Whether this strange phenomenon stems from a unusual gene, or it’s that we’re slightly insane, is difficult to say. What’s certain, however, is that rejection can cause cycles of unhealthy emotions and behavior.
So to handle REJECTION bear in mind the following:
Don’t take it so personally. The only reason we suffer the sting of rejection is because we feel emotionally attached to a person. Had we no emotions towards them, their rejection would mean nothing to us. Rejection becomes a burden we carry entirely on our shoulders — we blame nobody but ourselves. We truly believe there must be something intrinsically wrong within us to cause a person to dismiss us. Yet oftentimes it has nothing to do with us. A person may be too busy, overburdened, or complicated to want to involve us in their lives. Remember that you never really know what goes on within someone’s mind to draw conclusions for him or her.
It really isn’t you. When somebody rejects you, they are acting on their own insecurities and fears. Take comfort in knowing that the person who rejects you is dealing with their own personal issues and that you most likely did nothing to cause their decision. Rejection — especially harsh or cruel rejection — is a manifestation of self-insufficiencies and a lack of self-tolerance.
It happened for a greater reason. When we feel rejected, we trap ourselves in a moment of doubt and distress. But we must learn to see past the fleeting period of pain and acknowledge that there is a higher purpose to not getting what (or whom) we want. That higher purpose is usually revealed in time. I’ve had many clients tell me that they felt awful when a love interest turned them away, only to find the perfect partner when they least expected it. When that happened they became grateful that they were rejected, or else they would’ve never met a new and better person. In retrospect, they laugh at the fits of emotions which rejection invoked. We all discover the greater purpose of our pain in due time.
This is not a new pain. Rejection can be a lifelong ordeal stemming from childhood. For some children who were abandoned by a parent, rejection becomes a recurring challenge to conquer throughout life. They may overreact when they feel turned them down and not know that this is caused by a subconscious memory. Understanding the primary source of rejection and the impact it had on you can help you deal with this unpleasant emotion. Accept that this is not the first or last time you’ll feel the ache of rejection, but that you’ve defeated this emotion before and will emerge stronger from each instance.
They’re really missing out. A person who rejects you cannot comprehend your inner and outer beauty. So why be with someone who doesn’t see the full spectrum of your wonderful being? The next time you feel rejected, remind yourself of your amazing traits, your positive characteristics and your invaluable qualities which undoubtedly exist but may have been overlooked by someone else.
A chance to evolve. Rejection offers us an opportunity to evolve through and learn from our experiences. It allows us to look within and say, “Okay, maybe I can change this,” or “Maybe I can fix that side of myself.” After all, there is room for betterment in each of us, and sometimes it takes emotional anguish to be able to demolish the ego and come face to face with our truest self. If there is any constructive way to view rejection, it is through the lens of an earnest effort at self-improvement.
Rejection, as an ego-reducing emotion, is nothing short of painful. But viewing rejection as necessary and even positive will help you overcome it that much more easily. Recognize the hidden elements of this emotion as catalysts for productive change towards a better, stronger, more powerful you
Be conscious of differences
Each person in this world has a different reality. In any given situation, two people can never think or react in (exactly) the same way.
No one else sees the same world as you do. Hence it’s not only possible, but in fact likely, that people will behave differently from how you expect them to behave (in other words, how you would’ve behaved if you were them) in a certain situation.
This expectation-reality gap often gives rise to feelings of rejection and hurt in people. The first step to avoid unwarranted feelings of rejection is to acknowledge this difference.
Reduction in emotional dependence actually strengthens love
- Shift your focus from your partner. Use the pain of rejection to find other reasons to live. Pick up an old and forgotten hobby, maybe. Pursue it and connect with like-minded people.
In some time you’ll find you’re able to derive emotional nutrition from these connections. That will not only help you recuperate from your emotional hurt, but also prepare you for solving any issue at hand together with your partner in the near future.
Am I telling you to force yourself to fall out of love with your partner? No. What I am telling you however, is to stop being emotionally needy.
Remember, loving your partner and being unable to function without their emotional support are not the same thing at all. The first is healthy, while the second is not. In fact once you’ve been able to overcome your emotional neediness, your relationship will improve greatly as your partner finds fresh reasons to fall back in love with the new you.