Rejection hurts! It can cut deep to our core. It can shake our identity. It can detour us and knock us down. IF we allow it!
Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries shares, rejection actually activates the same pathways in your brain as physical pain, which is just one reason why it hurts so much. The feeling of rejection toys with your innate need to belong, and is so distressing that it interferes with your ability to think, recall memories and make decisions.
Rejections come in all sizes, although big or small they do not hurt any less. We are faced with rejections on social medial like an unfollow on Twitter, a swiping left on Tinder, someone not liking an Instagram post, unfriend on Facebook. How about being alone on the holidays, all while all your friends are posting their highlight reel on social media? The emotions we feel are real and I believe are felt more often given today's use of technology. We literally hold the possibility of rejection in our hands! Those forms of rejection may seem trivial but I would venture to guess that many of you have felt that sting at least once! Then there are "bigger" rejections like getting looked over for a promotion, not being accepted into your dream college, or what about that time you were struggling and your best friend ignored you, maybe she walked away from you when you really needed her, or maybe she even down played your situation and degraded you. Ever felt rejected by your spouse or significant other? What about being rejected by your parents, a teacher, a pastor, a colleague?
It has been my experience that the more rejection I have felt the bigger and thicker the wall I build. That's where "fear of rejection" starts to settle in, and if you're not mindful of this fear then it can swallow you up; and before you realize it you are keeping everyone at an arms length. You begin to isolate yourself from others, you say less, essentially you go into self protection mode. The fear of being hurt out weighs the cost of feeling lonely or at least that's how it seems. You become afraid of letting others in because the pain of letting someone in and being rejected yet again seems too unbearable. We as human beings have the innate need to be wanted and accepted.
What if we could not just overcome rejection but overcome the fear of being rejected? I believe in order for us to overcome the fear of being rejected we have to take a deep look inside ourselves. I want to bring light to a couple of areas that I believe can help someone overcome rejection.
First, how do you talk to yourself? We must start to recognize our own self-criticisms. If you can begin to notice these self-criticisms then I believe you will be able to also notice your tendency to sink into the shame these criticisms bring. The shame tells us we are a failure or that we are less than. Our pain is intensified by this shame because not only do we feel the hurt but then we also think something is wrong with us for feeling the pain. We can then begin to open our hearts up to others fully knowing that rejection could happen but that it is no longer the end of the world. We are able to allow ourselves time and space to feel the sorrow, loss, fear, anger or whatever emotion it is that comes up as part of the grieving with out the compilation of shame! This is not an easy feat, and takes a constant renewing of the mind.
Another area of our life we have too look at when healing and working through rejection is our identity. What or who are you? Who or what defines you? Where do you find your identity? I believe each day we are all on a self discovery journey of finding out who we are. Depending on your past and life experiences you may have taken on a fornicated personality. Maybe you began to like certain foods, activities, clothing, etc, because others said that is what you needed to like or enjoy. Then out of fear of being rejected you take it on as your own choices and identify yourself as such. As you begin to work through and overcome rejection and the fear of rejection you have to start to explore new things, try new activities, new foods new clothing styles. Healthy relationships operate within boundaries. We were not created to be just like our best friend and it is absolutely okay to have different likes and dislikes. When I really began to dive in and work on the fear of rejection and feelings of rejection I had to go through my own self discovery of identifying my likes and dislikes. To this day, I still try new things and I'm continuing to learn that it is okay to have an option! Ultimately for me I have found my identity in God the Father! I am a daughter of God! I am royalty and I am highly favored by Him! As I have been able to find my true identity in God I have become more confident which allows me to process rejection differently.
As we become aware of our self-criticism and find our true identity we become more confident in our own skin and thus whatever experience that might arise as a result of being in relationship with others, we can then initiate, deeper healthier relationships in a more relaxing and fulfilling way. We are then able to be less afraid of what we are experiencing inside (we become less afraid of ourselves) and thus we become less intimidated by rejection and then the fear begins to dissipate. We have a fear of rejection because we are afraid of the possible pain that could occur. When we jump over these hurtles then we become more empowered to love and to be loved!
The sooner you let go of painful rejections, the better off your mental health will be and you will be more free! Remember you don't have to do this alone! It won't be easy but it will be so worth it!