Did you know that when we experience rejection the same areas of the brain become activated as when we experience physical pain?
Rejection whether from our friends, families, loved ones, or even a recruiter causes us a lot of pain – neurologically speaking, of course.
But why does rejection hurt so much?
From an evolutionary perspective rejection played a crucial role in our hunter-gatherer days. Our ancestors’ survival depended on belonging to a tribe, and being rejected from a tribe was equal to a death sentence. A solitary human could not have survived the 6 million years of human evolution in the African savannah.
Still to this day rejection is painful. Even though we technically could live in solitary existence, how happy of an existence would that really be?
How much of Rejection is Really Redirection?
You’ve probably heard someone close to you say “rejection is just redirection” to make you feel better after a break-up, being rejected from university, or a recent job interview gone bad. At least this is the message I try to focus on when I face rejection, but how much of rejection can we really call redirection?
I’m someone who loves to take a problem, play around with it and pick it apart to try and find ways to solve it. Naturally, I did this with my relationship with rejection, too. I’m not just going to let all my past (and inevitably future) experience with rejection go to waste, if there was something valuable I could learn from it.
How can we better deal with rejection?
When we experience rejection a surge of disappointment, shame or anger may momentarily take over us. We may begin to dig a hole in our self-esteem and blame ourselves for the rejection, which only deepens the emotional pain we already experience from the initial feeling of being rejected.
Instead, we can look at rejection through a more constructive lens rather than one of pity, anger, and victimhood. Here’s what I’ve found out so far.
1. Approach rejection with compassion
Rather than think, “you’re such a failure and you can’t do anything right,” try to treat yourself with more compassion. Beating yourself up when you’re already upset about a recent rejection will only keep you longer down in the dumps, which is unnecessary.
Replace the negative self-talk with a kinder and nurturing voice. Speak to yourself how you would to a friend. You wouldn’t shame a friend for being rejected from something they were really excited about, so why do that to yourself either?
2. Rejection doesn’t define you
All of us will experience rejection at some point in our lives, but you shouldn’t let one person’s opinion or a single rejection from a recruiter define you or your worth. You can look at rejection from two very different perspectives.
- For example, you can say that rejection is a reflection of you and your own worth, but all this will do is make you feel worse about yourself. As a result, you will be miserable and not take action, thus also nothing about your situation changes.
- The other option, and more productive one, is to say that rejection does not define you, and better things will come. This way you will feel excitement towards future opportunities, and in the meantime you put in the extra bit of effort to continue learning, growing, and fine-tuning your specialties, so that you will be prepared for the next great thing.
3. Learn from rejection
A characteristic of mentally strong people is the ability to learn from their experiences. They take each rejection as an opportunity to ask themselves “what can I learn from this?”, so with every rejection the grow stronger. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, am I right?
If you’re constantly experiencing rejection from jobs you’ve applied to, that could be an indication to improve your CV or application letter. Let the rejection motivate you to continue improving and adding new valuable skills to your resumé. Trust me it’s difficult to stay motivated and keep drafting letter after letter, but “practice makes perfect”? Okay, I’ll stop with these cheesy quotes.
What I mean, is that there is always room for some improvement and facing rejection shouldn’t make you feel discouraged to keep on trying and moving forward.
4. Let rejection fuel your passion
Some creatives set “rejection goals” and aim to collect several hundreds of rejections within a year as it forces you to set your ego aside allowing new perspectives and opportunities to enter your life.
From my experience receiving rejection letter after the next has only lighted a flame under my bum – so to speak. With each rejection I’ve persistently told myself to just keep doing and working towards what it is that I want. Eventually it will pay off.
So, remember a setback doesn’t make your goal unattainable, it just might take longer to get there, or better, you may find another path that you never knew existed.
When was the last time you experienced rejection, and, after the initial disappointment or shock, how did you deal with it?