Dealing with rejection

Written by Taylor Bentliff

In the spring/summer issue of Clarity, we take a look at rejection, why it hurts, and how to rise above it. As it’s such a common struggle, we thought we’d better pop it on the blog!

Rejection is something we will all face in one way or another. Memories of awful break-ups, or unaccepted job applications come to mind. But perceived rejection actually crops up in many common and smaller occurrences. Like when your friend can’t meet for coffee, someone decides to skip your favourite song, or a loved one looks at their phone while you’re speaking. Big or small - rejection can hurt. In fact, it’s strange that something so frequent can feel so horrible! That’s why it’s so important to know why it hurts and how to cope when we feel rejected.

Why does it hurt?
You may have been in a situation where you’ve been able to ‘feel’ the pain of rejection. And there’s a reason for it! Rejection actually piggybacks on the pathways in the brain that sense physical pain. fMRI studies show that these same pain-detecting areas of our minds are activated when we experience rejection. This is why it’s so easy to remember the tangible feeling of past hurts. Rejection also threatens our innate need to ‘belong’ - it’s how we were designed! Community and closeness with others are so important and the idea of rejection can make us feel like we’re losing grip of that ‘togetherness’. It brings into question our worthiness of being a part of something.

Reconnect yourself
We’ve all had those moments where we think: ‘they’re avoiding me’, ‘I have no friends!’ or ‘they don’t like me’. Often these huge statements are triggered by a small moment, or series of moments that bring back those waves of pain. It’s important to try and remember that small moments don’t define an entire person. We can all recall times where we may have carried out small actions that have pushed others away or gone against their plans, and so we also can’t expect perfection from our peers. Remembering this truth is a helpful way to ground ourselves in the moment. In a broader sense, generally reconnecting with and contacting those who love us, who we feel a strong bond with, and who value and accept us is a great way to lessen the pain of a rejection, and eventually see it fade into the background. However, feeling alone and disconnected after a rejection, if held on to, has an often-overlooked impact on our behaviour...

Remind yourself
The second thought process that commonly pairs itself with being rejected is: ‘I’m not good enough’. Whether that’s being good enough for a person, a group, or good enough for a job, we can often believe that lie and let it develop into an all-encompassing mantra. But it’s not true at all! Reminding ourselves of our great attributes, and how we have been made to participate and be significant in this life is so important. According to a huge academic study carried out at Carnegie Mellon University, self-affirmation improves problem-solving under stress. This is because stress often threatens our view of ourselves, our perceptions and our ability to navigate through surprise circumstances. This is doubled if the surprise circumstance we are encountering is caused by rejection! Realistically, some of our dreams, intentions and conversations may not go to plan, but whatever is said or done cannot alter what God says about us. It’s a waste of our time and of our great qualities to give up on using them. So, remind yourself what He says about you.

Restrain yourself
Let’s be honest, rejection doesn’t look good on anyone. It doesn’t help that anger and aggression are the most common responses. The kick of rejection can also temporarily lower our IQ, hindering our ability to make good decisions. Keep watch for any bubbling rage that may be developing or stowing itself away for later. The Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that even rejection caused by our parents in earlier years can cause anger and aggression to resurface in our adult life. A small trigger can make us act out and make situations so much worse if we don’t remember to process our past, separate the instances, and carry out the tips above!