Rejection is part of everyone’s life. It can happen in a variety of circumstances such as being ghosted by a person you care about, not being invited to a friend’s party, or being eliminated as a job candidate. However, the need to be connected to others as a social being makes rejection have a greater impact on one’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.
Research done by Case Western Reserve University found an immediate reduction of 30% in reasoning as an effect of rejection. This might explain the tendency to maladaptive thoughts such as relationship avoidance or dependence. Furthermore, rejection can also incite negative emotions and reduce self-esteem. However, these consequences can be avoided by applying certain strategies.
- Process rejection
Grief is a common emotional response to rejection. While grieving starts with denial, it is generally followed by anger. In this case, it is necessary to express anger in a healthy way such as exercising or meditating. Another option is to engage in any hobby or activity that can help calm the emotion down.
Once your emotion has settled, you can begin to process it. Through her book titled Bouncing Back from Rejection: Build the Resilience You Need to Get Back Up When Life Knocks You Down, Leslie Becker-Phelps recommends writing a journal to unwind all of the emotions stimulated by the rejection. By exploring the thoughts that accompanied those emotions, it will help assess the rejection objectively and then reframe the negative thinking. In job-hunting, for example, instead of thinking that no one wants to hire you, try to reframe it by thinking that the organization you are applying for have its own difficulties in finding a good-fit employee, there may be a viable reason as to why you got rejected, and focus on how to improve.
- Revive self-esteem
Processing rejection does not necessarily mean that there will not be an emotional wound afterward. Oftentimes, the wound is reflected in low self-esteem. Becker-Phelps explained that making a list of strengths and starting each morning by reading them will help improve this.
Another way to boost self-esteem is to surround yourself with people who appreciate you. Spend some quality time with family and friends to gain moral support. If the rejection makes you feel dejected, connecting with your loved ones will help in reminding you that you are valued.
- Practice acceptance
Accepting that rejection is unavoidable is also key to helping ease the pain from it. However, it takes time to see rejection as something normal and necessary for growth. Repeated exposure to rejection might help build confidence and overcome fear.
In his TED Talk session, Jia Jiang, the owner of Rejection Therapy, told his experience of 100 days of rejection. On the first day of the challenge, he asked a stranger to lend him $100 and the stranger responded, “No. Why?” He felt so embarrassed by the rejection that he just walked away. However, once he calmed down and watched the recording of the event, he realized that the stranger invited him to explain himself which could have been a chance to negotiate.
From then on, he makes it a point to always try and explain his reasoning even after being rejected. He learned that one can still have a chance after being rejected if one just does not run away.
Even though rejection hurts, people cannot really escape from it. If it is dealt with in unhealthy ways, it can negatively impact one’s feelings, as well as relationships with oneself and others. Therefore, it is important to regulate one’s emotions and thoughts either by using one’s own effort or with support from loved ones. Familiarizing oneself with the feeling of being rejected through repeated exposure could also help overcome the pain.