Rejection hurts. It feels like a kick in the gut, leaving us with a plethora of debilitating feelings such as outcast, inadequacy, and insecurity, but those who experience rejection are already ahead of the competition…
WHY REJECTION FEELS SO UNCOMFORTABLE
Humans are social creatures by nature. We want to “fit in” and feel a sense of belonging. Dating back to pre-historic times, humans would seek acceptance within clans for shelter, food, and protection from predators. Our behavior hasn’t changed much. In modern times, we still seek and crave acceptance from our communities and peers, only now it is more of a social/psychological need rather than a necessity for survival.
When we experience rejection, we experience a powerful, unsettling feeling in our body chemistry telling us that something is wrong with our social well-being. This chemical reaction is rooted in our genetics dating back to prehistoric times when being rejected from a clan was met with tremendous feelings of fear because it meant having to fend for yourself and survive on your own.
This natural response signal is easily compared to grabbing a piping hot object in your hand and feeling that sharp jolt of pain and spike in adrenaline. The pain sensation is one of your hardwired survival instincts at work, triggering an immediate response to your brain telling it to let go of the object to prevent further damage to the body. The “trauma” experienced through the event creates a sense of fear to prevent you from doing it again in the future, forcing you to learn and adapt to preserve your health and wellbeing.
Rejection works under the same principles. In today’s society, when we get rejected, we feel tremendous discomfort. This unsettling feeling is the same chemical signal dating back our prehistoric DNA which is warning us of “danger” and pushing us to better consider our social circumstances and change our behavior to adapt to our desired situation.
USING REJECTION AS A TOOL
Rejection is an incredibly unpleasant feeling, but it is one of our natural biological response mechanisms and guiding instincts. Think of it as a compass in life, repelling us from poor decisions and guiding us towards a batter path. It is a tool, but we need to understand how to use it.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “my emotions got the best of me.” As humans, we are all deeply rooted to our emotions which drive our decisions in life. When in a deep emotional state, we tend to lose our sense of rationality and pragmatism, clouding our judgment and obstructing our compass. Let’s look at two common examples:
- RELATIONSHIPS: A component of our lives that is chock full of rejection. We form an emotional attachment and we focus more on the pain of feeling rejected and unwanted rather than the message that is behind the pain. If we could remove emotion from the equation and think more sensibly, we’d immediately rationalize the situation as a clear mismatch between two people, cut our losses, and move on to find a more suitable partner.
- CAREER: Here is another common breeding ground for rejection. When we spend hours on that cover letter and ace that interview, we tend to have our hearts set on a certain outcome and it becomes extremely difficult to accept reality when we receive that dreaded “Thank you for applying, but unfortunately…” email. It’s disheartening. What did I do wrong? Did I (mis)behave a certain way? Perhaps… or again, if we can remove emotion from the equation and think logically, we can decipher the message behind the hurt and come to the conclusion that maybe your skills weren’t up to par with what was desired, therefore this is your call to action to better yourself.
Have you noticed how we look back with an entirely different perspective as we get older? It’s not because gray hair magically makes us wise, but because time heals our emotional wounds and allows us to think and assess clearly without clouded judgment. If we can stay cognizant of his fact, we can save ourselves decades of aimless pondering and feeling sorry for ourselves.
Though it is much easier said than done, practice thinking logically and pragmatically to remove your emotional attachment from the situation and assess the reason for your rejection. You may have been happy in your relationship, but did you pay attention to your former partner and meet their needs? Perhaps you thought you rocked that interview by making the interviewer laugh, but did you meet the needs of the employer? Sometimes you need to look outside of yourself to understand where the compass is pointing.
EVEN IF YOU FEEL DEFEATED, HERE IS WHY YOU ARE AHEAD
If you’ve felt the searing pain of rejection, congratulations, you’ve already accomplished more than most people will by putting yourself out there and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Incompatibility, lack of skill, a lapse in perception… there is a multitude of reasons for rejection steering you away from what isn’t right for you at the time, but with each rejection, a valuable takeaway is left for you on the table. We need to identify what that takeaway is.
Understand that to figure out who you are, you have to first figure out who you are not. Cliché as it sounds, rejection is part of life. It is a process paved with heartache, confusion, and disappointment, but every experience in rejection provides us with the guidance, resilience, and grit to pick ourselves up and continue on this wild adventure which we know as “life.” Try harder, try smarter, or try different and push forward.
“Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.”Steve Maraboli
You are further ahead than you know, and your journey doesn’t end just because you find yourself lost in a fog. Use your tools and you will begin to see clearly again.