How To Cope With Rejection When It Hurts Like Physical Pain.
We have all experienced rejection and we have all developed ways to cope with rejection. Perhaps your colleagues didn’t invite you to a party or your date turned you down. Maybe you weren’t invited for a job interview or weren’t chosen as an employee of the month. Rejection can take on many different forms but always evokes negative feelings that can be difficult to cope with.
Rejection hurts to the point it feels like physical pain. And there’s a scientific explanation for that. The same area that becomes activated when we experience physical pain, activates when we face rejection. Another reason it’s so painful is that it used to serve a revolutionary function.
In the past, being rejected from a tribe was synonymous with a death sentence.
Even though we all have to deal with rejection once in a while, building resilience and recovering from the pain might be difficult. Luckily, there are a few ways you can learn to cope with it better.
1. Understand rejection
We all hate the “It’s not you, it’s me” excuse and the reality is that we should. It’s a lazy way to let someone down and doesn’t offer much closure. However, it’s true that rejection is rarely personal. When someone rejects you, it’s often because you don’t connect well enough and your values vary.
You might not see it at first but in time, you’ll be able to step back and evaluate the situation objectively. Plus, if you aren’t someone’s first choice, they aren’t the one for you.
Similarly, if your job application gets rejected, it’s likely because there was a more suitable candidate for the role. Sometimes it’s bad timing and the volume of applicants rather than your shortcomings. It’s good to try to put things into the perspective. It might seem counterproductive but think of the times you were rejected in the past and then try to recall how many times you were accepted.
Life is simply made of ups and downs but it’s up to us how we cope with them.
2. Allow yourself to grieve
If you’d spent time talking to a person, it’s likely you visualized your future together and became emotionally invested. If you’d devoted time to preparing for a job interview, you might have already imagined yourself working for the company and quitting your current job.
When you get your hopes up and your dream doesn’t become reality, it’s natural to feel disappointed and hurt. You might be tempted to use distractions to deal with negative emotions but not working things through will only add to the recovery time.
One of the most important steps to cope with rejection is to acknowledge your emotions. You might realise you feel terrible but at the same time, you might find it difficult to name the specific emotions. Set some time aside to analyse them.
Write down how you feel and try to describe the reasons in the most detailed way possible. The pain associated with rejection is rarely just about a reaction to rejection. It might be that you fear you’ll always be alone or that you won’t ever move to a different city if you don’t find new employment.
3. Take care of yourself
When you’re hurt, you’re at your most vulnerable. You might feel like engaging in unhealthy and destructive coping mechanisms such as drinking, sleeping around or using drugs.
What might give you a sense of relief in a given moment, will have long term consequences that might even set you up for rejection in the future.
When you get rejected, it might affect your self-esteem. You might feel worthless and think you’re a failure. Don’t allow self-criticism and don’t let the rejection define you. Turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. It can be as simple as writing them down and pairing them with conflicting statements. For example, you can write down “I’m a failure” and turn it into “I’m doing well in life because…”.
List your achievements and read them out loud every day. Be kind to yourself. Take a few days off if you need them and don’t beat yourself up for not being productive. Imagine that your friend is in a similar situation. What would you tell them?
You’d most likely reassure them that there will be other opportunities and other people you’ll cross path with.
You’d tell them they’re worthy and good enough.
Treat yourself the same way you’d treat others.
Lastly, surround yourself with people who care about you. Spending time with a loved one can help you feel a sense of belonging and minimize the sense of loss.
4. View it as a learning experience
Have you ever heard the phrase “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”? Everyone has to deal with rejection at some point in their lives. But what helps us move forward and cope with it efficiently is not seeing it as a failure but as a redirection.
If you keep getting rejected from a job you want, it might be a sign to look for other options. Perhaps you were so committed to one goal that you overlooked some of the other opportunities. When you get rejected by someone you were hoping to date, see it as one less step to meet your life partner.
Get into a habit of turning bad experiences into positive ones. Challenge yourself and keep a journal where you write what you learned from each rejection. For example, rejection helps you develop a thick skin and better cope with future struggles.
This technique might give you space to focus on other things in your life. Accept that rejection will always be there but it’s the way you respond to it that makes you a fighter and not simply a survivor.
If you are feeling pressured or need someone to speak to, contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat about how we may be able to help.
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