Think back to the times when you were not picked for a school project, and you felt like you did not really matter. Or when your colleagues did not include you in their dinner plans. Maybe you have experienced the tough moment of not getting invited to a close friend’s wedding, or when you really prepared well for a job but did not crack it.
These moments of feeling left out or rejected, at different stages of life, big or small, tend to stay with us and affect our feelings and emotional health. Nobody relishes the feeling of being rejected, but some feel the effect of rejection more profoundly than others.
Why rejection hurts
Based on research conducted by Naomi I Eisenberger, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, rejection can be extremely distressing. According to the study, rejection triggers the same brain regions as physical pain. The study found that humans naturally find comfort in the presence of others and experience distress when left alone.
Although the idea that losing someone causes pain similar to the pain of a physical injury might seem metaphorical, evidence suggests that the same neural processes involved in physical pain may also play a role in the pain of social separation or rejection. This connection might be because the social attachment system, crucial for mammalian survival, has adapted alongside the physical pain system.
Dr Neelam Mishra, a rehabilitation psychologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, says that rejection has a way of causing emotional discomfort and self-doubt. However, allowing the fear of rejection to control your life can hold you back from many enriching experiences. “Shifting your perspective and viewing rejection as a chance for personal development, rather than an unchangeable outcome, can significantly reduce your fear,” says Dr Mishra.
Mishra shares six simple yet effective strategies to help conquer the fear of rejection.
Practise self-compassion and positive self-talk
One of the first steps in overcoming one’s fear of rejection is to be kind to oneself. Self-compassion involves treating ourselves with the same kindness and understanding that we would offer a friend. “When you face rejection, avoid harsh self-criticism and negative self-talk. Instead, remind yourself that everyone faces rejection at some point, and it is not a reflection of your worth,” Mishra suggests.
Set realistic expectations and goals for yourself
When we set the bar too high, the fear of falling short can be overwhelming. In such cases setting realistic expectations and achievable goals helps. “Break your goals into smaller, manageable steps, and celebrate your progress along the way,” says Mishra. This will help us build confidence and reduce the fear of rejection.
Rejection can be good
Rejection can be a valuable teacher. Instead of dwelling on the pain of rejection, we should focus on what we can learn from the experience. What did we do well, and what could we improve? By viewing rejection as an opportunity for personal growth, we can turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Build a strong support network
Having a supportive network of friends and family can be a tremendous help in overcoming the fear of rejection. Talk to your loved ones about your fears and struggles and let them provide you with encouragement and support. Knowing you have people who care about you can boost your confidence and resilience.
Take small steps
Start by putting yourself in situations where the risk of rejection is lower and gradually work your way up to more challenging scenarios. This gradual exposure can help you build confidence and reduce your fear.
Rejection is a natural part of life
Lastly, it is essential to remember that it is a natural part of life. Everyone faces rejection at some point, and it does not define your worth or abilities. Rejection is often a subjective judgement, and it does not necessarily reflect your true potential or value.
Time has a way of healing wounds, including the pain of being rejected. What seems like a big deal now may not matter much in a year or even just a few months. To beat this fear, we can be kind to ourselves, set achievable goals, learn from our experiences, lean on our friends and family, take small steps, and remember that rejection happens to everyone. By following these steps, we can face rejection with confidence and come out stronger on the other side.