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Monday, March 20, 2023

Rejection: What Happens and Why Rejection Hurts so Deeply – and What to do about it

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Rejection can be defined as the act of cast-ing off, banishing or pushing someone or something away. This often happens when the person is cast-off, or is not accepted by another or others. A person may experience rejection from a spouse, romantic partner, family member or members, friends, colleagues at work, business partners, team or group. Rejection happens in our everyday lives. A child or teenager for instance might feel they are not accepted by one or both parents, teachers, siblings, classmates, peers or other members of a society or community. Similarly, an adult may feel rejected by their spouse who no longer values or is disinterested in their relationship. A parent too can feel rejected by a child or children. Rejection can also result from life events and circumstances especially those involving relationships. This happens when a spouse or friend turns down an existing or would be desired or expected relationships.

In psychological and emotional terms, rejection is associated with feelings of abandonment and shame. This is because the person feels cheated on chastened, humiliated and untrustworthy in a relationship with family or friends. Since human beings desire social contact, the resulting emotions arising from rejection can often be painful and unbearable. This is because people crave for acceptance from others including the spouse, family, neighbours, group members, colleagues and society and hence being rejected incites negative feelings and emotions. In addition, rejection can be experienced on a small or large-scale, in small or great ways depending on the cast-off and the ensuing abandonment for a desired position at work or receiving a rejection letter from a college. Any rejection can be, and is often painful. However, in certain instances, some rejection may be more impactful than others. In the same way, some rejection may be more hurtful than others.

Rejection is part of life. Nonetheless, rejection hurts regardless of who is rejecting you, or how you are getting rejected. The greatest damage that rejection causes are usually self-inflicted. This is because it affects our self-es­teem, which hurts most, and if unchecked, can also damage our lives, including our relationship with others. In other instances, rejection elicits swells of anger and aggression.

Understanding Rejection and the Fear and Anxiety of Rejection

Rejection is the single most common and worst emotional wound that we sustain in our daily lives. Therefore, we work out every moment of everyday to reduce the risk of rejection. This includes our actions, thoughts and behaviours such as the manner of dressing, talking, etiquette, whom we choose as friends, and even our work and careers. We seek friends and family to talk to or chat with so that we can feel accepted. There are minor rejections such as when we say something and someone blushes it off as useless like when you put on your best dress or shoes and no one notices or put a lot of effort in a task but it goes unnoticed. Still, we get fired or are terminated (with or without notice) from our jobs, snubbed by our close friends and family members, or ostracized by our families and communities. This demonstrates that as human beings, we are still vulnerable to small and of course serious and more devastating rejections. Rejection affects our moods and attitude towards people, events and circumstances. Most of all, and for the purpose of this column in The Counsel-ling Magazine we are devastated when our spouse leaves us or walks out on us. Needless to say, the pain we feel can be absolutely paralyzing. Rejection can occur in a variety of circum­stances.

Indeed, rejection can be physical or psychological (emotional), while the effect is actually in both, that is, rejection has both emotional and physical pain. The physical and emotional effects happen because some people will show you outright rejection and sometimes say as much. In other instances, someone or some people will discard you in their heart and keep it that way. This is significant since typically, rejection or rebuff describes an instance of a person or people pushing someone or something away or out. In that case, a person may reject, or refuse to accept a person or something. People also reject things such as gifts or rewards, compliments, work, place or event. In many instances, people take rejection to be personal whereas it is not. Instead, most rejections, whether professional, romantic or social are elements of our relationships, while others are due to unfit circumstances. Therefore, going through an exhaustive search of your own deficiencies in an effort to understand why someone does not want, or dislikes you and thoughts on why they wanted you out is not only unnecessarily but highly misleading. For the purpose of this article in The Counsel-ling Magazine and this column on longlifelovelines, we will focus more with relationships and related rejections.

According to sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists, the feeling of rejection could have developed as an evolutionary tool to alert humans who were often at risk of being ostracized from the community or social groups that they belonged to. The rejection as a punishment was painful and set the person away from others in the community. In this way, it served two purposes; one, it ensured that people adhered to set norms and values; and two, it served as a constant reminder that failure to adhere to the set community norms would have serious repercussions. This explains why Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is banished from the community. Okonkwo’s gun accidentally goes off and kills Ezeudu’s sixteen-year-old son. Killing a clansman is a crime against the earth goddess. Subsequently, Okonkwo is forced to atone by taking his family into exile for seven years.

Why Do People Reject Others?

People reject you and others for some reasons. A major reason is that you may have different values and norms. Another reason is that one may fail to meet the expectations of others or a group. In that case, they are likely to go for someone else who has certain desirable characteristics that meet their expectations. In that case, rejection can be the result of values, beliefs, or personality. In other instances, rejection happens because people disagree with others, or because they have different opinions, ideologies, lifestyles, or personalities.

Rejection can be also be an alternative to acceptance. This is because rejection can serve as proof of who you are vis-à-vis others. In this way, you could be having certain norms and values that are not acceptable to others. People who become too afraid of rejection might hold back from going after someone or something they want. This is because you can miss out on what you want. In this way, you could be living your life to the fullest even with rejection.

There are several words and phrases that indicate rejection. The most common and obviously worst hurting is the two-letter word, NO. Some are somehow polite while others are outrightly rude. They include: I don’t want you anymore, I don’t like you, we are no longer together, I don’t love you at all, I don’t love you anymore, you mean nothing to me, I don’t want to see you ever again…

Dealing with Love and Rejection, Abandonment and Cut-offsIn several instances, a person can be rejected by his or her partner or spouse. It is important to know that the greatest damages that rejection causes are usually self-inflicted. Indeed, our natural response to rejection or being dumped by a dating (romantic) partner or spouse should be, in several instances spontaneous prompting in us positive energy that gets us going. However, in a variety of instances, we become intensely self-critical. It starts with you trying to find out what you didn’t do right and what you should have done. I have met people who call themselves names (inadequate, failure, poor, lazy, let down, loser, incapable of love), while others lament about their shortcomings, inadequacies and alike. There is all that feeling of being disgusted with ourselves. Another common mistake is to assume a rejection as personal when actually it is not since the person rejecting you might have wanted to move on with their life without you. Unfortunately, rejection does not have all these things that we put up with in our mind, thoughts and atitudes. Sometimes, the person just wanted you out of his or her life or they have someone else. Therefore, the rejection or abandonment has absolutely nothing to do with you.

Our first reaction to rejection is obviously self-critical and this is what leads to the hurts and wounds. It is important to know that the greatest damage that rejection causes are usually self-inflicted. On the contrary, we should be able to lick our wounds and move on. Rejection is never easy. However, knowing how to limit the psychical and psychological damages it inflicts, and how to rebuild our lives including our self-esteem when it happens, will assist us to recover sooner and move on with greater confidence.

A major danger is that rejection affects our self-esteem and at the time when we are hurting most. In that case, you should not, and should never, damage yourself even further. Instead, deal with the rejection in a logical sequence and calm manner. Of course, there will be the emotions including crying and feelings of sadness, as well as the physical effect of being alone and suffering from loneliness. Then people chastise themselves for what you did ‘wrong’, or what you did not do ‘right.’ However, you will also need to patch your torn dress by sewing it in order to avoid unhealthy and psychologically self-destructive habits. In that case, you have to adopt better and healthier ways to respond to rejection, abandonment and cut-offs.

There are several things that we can do to heal our broken hearts. First, we must curb the unhealthy responses. Secondly, we need to soothe our emotional pain. Thirdly, there is need to rebuild our self-esteem.

We need to deal with our self-esteem before and after a rejection. Rejection hits at your self-esteem and when it does, you need to remind yourself of who you are. This means that you must be able to identify who you are, where you are and where you are going or aiming at as opposed to listing your shortcomings.

The most tempting thing after a rejection is to reflect on your inadequacies. If you focus on your inadequacies especially at that wrong ‘timing’, there certainly will be a full list of all your faults in the aftermath of a rejection. Naturally, you will embrace them and go on to chastise yourself for all the things you did ‘wrong’, and several others you never did ‘right.’

By all means, do not try inappropriate and negative methods of coping with rejection. Instead, a more profound approach is to review exactly what happened. Indeed, the best way to boost feelings of self-worth after a rejection is to affirm aspects of yourself and assuring yourself that you are still valuable. You can also consider what you should do differently in the future as this enables you to build your confidence going forward. Most importantly, there is absolutely no good reason to be punitive and overly self-critical.

Rising Up: Dealing with Rejection

It is not possible to avoid rejection altogether, so there is need to adopt effective coping mechanisms. The following 7 tips are highly suggested to enable you deal with rejection:

  1. Understanding rejection. Feeling rejected is sometimes the opposite of feeling accepted. Therefore, rejection happens often and does not necessarily mean that someone isn’t liked, valued, or important. It just means that at one time, or in one situation, things did not work out as expected.
  2. Acknowledging the rejection. Coping with rejection involves working with two major things, that is, what happened, and how you feel and think about it. Get to know and understand what happened by dealing with the facts and accept it. Then deal with the rejection. Don’t try to brush it off as unimportant or pretend that it does not hurt or never happened unless if you had seen the red signs and you were therefore well psychologically prepared. If you pretend that it is not painful, it only hurts more. Instead, the natural way to release emotions is to cry, take a healthy break from work and certainly talk about it with someone you can trust.
  3. Taking care of your feelings. The rejection will depend on the intensity of feelings arising out of the relationship, or your expectations. It is important to notice how intense your feelings are. Are you angry, upset and to what extent? This allows you to seek for appropriate alternatives.
  4. Talking about it. Telling someone else what happened can help for several; reasons. One, you are able to come to grips with what happened. Two, you are able to put your feelings into words. Three, the other person can explore the situation with you and you are able to comprehend it much more. Finally, talking to someone is reassuring as it enables you to know that someone cares for you and understands what you are going through.
  5. Being positive. Focus more on what you have than what you lost. When we are dealing with a painful emotion such as rejection, we easily get caught up in the negative or bad feelings. However, dwelling too much on the negative can lead to reliving the experience over and over again, which hurts even more. Negative thinking influences our perceptions and expectations, our actions and reactions. You need to move on.
  6. Keeping things in perspective. At this stage, you need to be more critical and do a lot of self-reflection. This is because self-blaming and exaggerating your faults or failings can lead you to thinking more about being rejected than your own life and abilities. These includes negative thoughts that amplify the rejection like, “I’m not as attractive,’ ‘No one likes me,’ ‘I’ll never go out on a date.” Think about your abilities and what you are good at, and feel good about it.
  7. Using the rejection to your advantage. A rejection can be a golden chance to relook at several things and consider those that you can work on. This includes your goals and skills. Many people after rejection, in an application, interview or relationship have used it as an opportunity for self-improvement with greater success. In the same way, accept that sometimes, a rejection is a harsh reality check – it gets us to see the truth. Therefore, approach it right, and it could as well take you in a direction that turns out to be better fitted for your personality, talents and abilities. In the end, you find out who you are and what you want in life.

Rejection can hurt, it is disappointing, but it is not the end of the world.

Make a list of five qualities you have that are important or meaningful. This should include things or aspects that make you unique and good in relationship prospects (such as being kind, caring, concerned, supportive, helpful, emotionally loyal, available, responsible, trustworthy).

Human beings are highly social. We all desire and need to feel wanted and valued by our spouse, family, relatives, friends, colleagues at work, neighbours, social groups and other people. That is why we are affiliated with various associates. Yet, rejection destabilizes our very need to belong, thus leaving us vulnerable, unsettled and socially deprived. Therefore, we need to continuously feel appreciated and loved so that we can feel more connected and grounded. If your spouse leaves you, your work colleagues fail to invite you for lunch, or your parents or children don’t like you, relax and allow life to live on. If your child gets rejected by their friends, encourage them. If your friends are dropped by their spouses, encourage, and cheer them up and take them out for lunch or for a drink. Always remind yourself that God and your voice alone bring joy to you and others.

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Dr. Geoffrey Wangohttps://counsel-lingmagazine.co.ke/
Many people often ask me about my personal stand, my passion in life and how I got into Counselling Psychology and why in particular the establishment and writing in their favourite publication, The Counsel-ling Magazine. Colleagues and students, participants in various seminars and others suggested that I should include some information that would assist clients, practitioners and students to perhaps establish a career, or even assess and evaluate their ethical, moral and professional standards. Well, this allows for personal reflection and I feel it wise to include a few remarks about my fervour on counselling, mentoring and education as well as various aspects of life.
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