Rejection can send us spinning and ruminating over our self-worth and desirability.
Whether you were rejected from a job, within a relationship, a potential romance, or a friendship, rejection can threaten our sense of self-efficacy, self-image and self-esteem if we don’t learn to embrace and cope with it in healthier ways. Rejection can also maximize people-pleasing because we may feel like we are at fault for it and must try harder to win someone else’s approval.
Here are some crucial ways we can develop a healthier relationship with rejection and cope with it in productive ways without turning to dangerous people-pleasing territory. I call it the “Three R’s of Coping with Rejection.”
1. Challenge the Rumination
Challenge your irrational thoughts and beliefs.
Rejection makes us vulnerable to cognitive distortions, inaccurate thoughts or beliefs that perpetuate negative emotions. When we feel rejected by others, we may engage in “Black and White” distortions where we perceive ourselves or the situation as “all bad” or “all good.” We may also participate in filtering, where we exclusively focus on the negative details of an event rather than the positive ones.
Most likely, rejection will lead to some amount of personalization where we attribute the blame of someone else’s negative toxic behavior to ourselves, as well as overgeneralization, where we interpret that one event of rejection as evidence for a never-ending pattern unlikely to change.
What do you think happens when you carry around these false beliefs? Most likely, you end up with a partial or full-on self-fulfilling prophecy, because cognitive distortions tend to affect our perceived agency in navigating constraints and opportunities in our daily lives. If we think we can’t do it, we often don’t even bother trying – we don’t get the job because we don’t believe we’re qualified to even apply for it. We don’t achieve healthy relationships if we believe we’re not good enough.
We may end up having a never-ending pattern of bad luck in relationships because we sabotage ourselves in ways we may not even be aware of and maintain connections with toxic partners. Rejection can prompt us reject ourselves under these false assumptions and subsequent actions.
Try this exercise. Start by writing down a list of ten negative, false beliefs you hold about yourself, the power of rejection, and its connection to your perceived self-worth. These can include beliefs like, “Rejection means I am a bad person,” “If someone rejects me, it means I am not good enough,” or “I need people’s approval before I can approve of myself.”
Next, write down ten reevaluations next to these beliefs. These include thoughts that challenge the beliefs or provide evidence against it, like, “Rejection is about the other person’s expectations and preferences, not about my worth as a person,” or “I can feel good about myself regardless of someone else’s perception of me.” If it proves helpful, try to think of examples where these challenges were true. For example, you might think about how someone else’s expectations for a relationship differed from your own and shaped his or her rejection of you (or more accurately, the relationship itself).
Or, more importantly, you might remember a time when you yourself rejected someone, not because of his or worth, but because of your own needs, wants and preferences.
Putting yourself in the rejector’s place enables you to gain a broader perspective that resists personalizing the rejection and helps you to move forward. You’re essentially reminding yourself that everyone, at some point, gets rejected by something or someone, and it’s not an experience exclusive to you or indicative of how much you’re worth.
2. Redirection to Something Better
Rejection doesn’t have to be a negative thing—it can be a positive release of your efforts, and a redirection towards something or someone more worthy of you. What are the ways this specific rejection has freed you? Have you gotten laid off from a job and now have the opportunity to work on your true passion? Has the ending of a relationship enabled you to take care of yourself more fully and opened up time and space for friendship, travel, and new career prospects?
For every rejection, make a list of new opportunities and prospects that were not available to you prior to the rejection. Whether they be grandiose fantasies of what could be or more realistic goals, this will help train your mind into thinking of the infinite possibilities that have multiplied as a result of your rejection, rather than the limiting of possibilities we usually associate with the likes of rejection.
3. Rejuvenation of the Self
Remember that there is only one you and that a rejection of your uniqueness is a loss on the part of the rejecter. We’ve heard this phrase, “there is only one you,” time and time again but what does it really mean? It means that your specific package—quirks, personality, looks, talents, dreams, passions, flaws— can never be completely duplicated in another person. You are unique and possess a certain mixture of qualities no one else on this earth will ever be able to replicate even if they wanted to.
Embracing our uniqueness, while depersonalizing rejection, enables us to remember that rejection can be a redirection to something or someone better who can appreciate us fully. Whoever rejected you has ultimately lost out on your uniqueness—they will never again find someone exactly like you who acts the way you do and who makes them feel exactly the way you did. But guess what? It means someone else will. Another company will benefit from your hard work, perseverance, and talent. Another partner will enjoy the beautiful qualities that make you you—your sense of humor, your intelligence and charisma. Another friend will be strengthened by your wisdom and compassion.
You are a gem and you don’t have to waste your precious time attempting to morph yourself into anything else but you just to get someone to “approve” of your unique brand. You are who you are for a reason and you have a destiny to fulfill. Don’t let rejection detract from that destiny. Let it redirect you to better things, remind you of how special you truly are and rejuvenate your sense of self rather than destroy it.
Author: Shahida Arabi
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Todd Huffman at Flickr
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