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Why Rejection Hurts So Bad – And How To Overcome The Pain

Why Rejection Hurts So Bad – And How To Overcome The Pain

We’ve all been there. A big interview you thought you did so well, only to be told they’ve found a better fit. A heart-wrenching breakup. The boss denying our big project request. Why does hearing “no” hurt so much? And, for that matter, is there anything we can do about it?

The pain of rejection is self-inflicted

You know what I mean: Beating yourself up after getting dumped or being rejected. It’s bad enough that our brains are wired to feel pain from rejection. Scientists placed people in functional MRI machines and asked them to recall a recent rejection, and they discovered something remarkable. It activated the same areas of our brain as physical pain! That’s right – rejection causes you literal pain. Sure, it’s emotional pain, but that’s often the worst kind.

Why does our brain do this to us? Scientists believe it dates back to our time as hunter-gatherers. Back then, if you were rejected by your people, you died. You couldn’t survive alone; you needed those people closest to you. This is probably also why most people have a “herd” mentality and like to follow along with the pack rather than taking charge of their lives and actions.

Of course, rejection causes us more than some emotional pain. It hurts our self-esteem, causes us anger or sadness, and knocks us off course from feeling stability in our lives. But there’s something you need to know. Most of these side-effects are self-inflicted. We call ourselves names, tell ourselves we’re not good enough, and feel downright disgusted with ourselves. It doesn’t have to be that way!

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Use pain to your advantage

It is often in moments of extreme emotional pain that legends are born. Take Anna Wintour, for example. Anna is one of the most famous and successful magazine editors in the world. But it wasn’t always that way. She was fired from her role as a junior fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar, long before she become the success she is today. If only they knew who they were firing!

However, she didn’t let this rejection ruin her. In fact, she now openly states her belief that “Everyone should be sacked at least once in their career because ‘perfection’ doesn’t exist.” Here’s the secret: Rejection can strengthen our mentality and contribute to our future success, if we only let it. Anna used the pain of rejection to push herself to do more with her life. Countless overs have done the same, like Tony Robbins (author, investor, and philanthropist), Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks), and Steve Jobs (founder of Apple).

Every one of them has overcome the pain of rejection and used it to fuel their passion for a better life. You can do the same.

3 ways to adjust your mentality to overcome rejection

You’re probably thinking: “That’s great for those people. But I’m not an Anna Wintour or a Tony Robbins. How can I possible do what they did?”

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One word: Strategies.

There are proven strategies to make a mental shift and change your outlook. Here are three you can use today:

1. Have zero tolerance for self-criticism

The first thoughts that pop into your head after a rejection are probably things like, “I’m such a loser/idiot/insert explicit word here”. You need to stop that. Right now. Most rejections, whether romantic, professional, or even social, are due to circumstance and really don’t have anything to do with you.

Maybe your partner really isn’t ready for a serious relationship and needs to take time to learn more about themselves (which everyone should do, by the way). Maybe the company you applied for needed someone with a particular skill you just didn’t have yet. Even if it is your fault, beating yourself up isn’t going to make things any better. By all means, review the situation and think about why it happened. But, don’t go to “I’m a loser” as the reason. Be more constructive than that.

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Think about things like, “I need to acquire a certain skill for this job first” or “I should give my partner the space they need and take some time to figure out more about myself.” The bottom line is this: Don’t tolerate self-criticism. Period.

Remove it from the list of things you’re willing to accept in your life. If you find yourself thinking these thoughts, tell yourself “These thoughts are self-destructive. Instead, I should think of something constructive I can do so I won’t be rejected again. I’ll see rejection as an opportunity to learn, rather than a failure on my part.

2. Bolster your self-worth

The best way to overcome the pain of rejection is to feel like you matter. In other words, you need to increase your feelings of self-worth. Stop what you’re doing right now and do this simple exercise: Write down five things you like about yourself. Things that make you a good relationship partner (e.g., you are supportive or emotionally available), a good friend (e.g., you are loyal or a good listener), or a good employee (e.g., you are responsible or have a strong work ethic).

Next, pick one of those five things and write down (physically write, don’t just say it in your head) one or two paragraphs about why that quality matters and how you could apply it in a situation like the rejection you just went through.

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3. Reach out to strengthen your social connections

People are social creatures. We’re wired to crave social interaction. The reasoning probably also stems from our time as hunters and gatherers. Whatever the reason, a lack of these social connections is sure to spread to everything in our life like a virus. It can sap our physical and emotional health and make us less productive.

Rejection hurts our feelings of belonging and thus dampers our feelings of social connections. We need to take actions to undue the damage done. When your crush doesn’t answer your calls or you just got fired from your job, call a friend or family member, and remember that your voice alone can bring happiness to others. We all have family we haven’t talked to in ages – now is a good time to call them and catch up.

It’s a win-win: You’ll bring them a happy surprise, and they’ll increase your feelings of social connection and importance.

Remember, rejection can cause a lot of pain, but most of it is self-inflicted. The best way to overcome this pain is to take actions! Do something, right now. Write out that list, call that family member, apply for more jobs – whatever. Just don’t sit in self-pity and criticize yourself. You are important. You are loved. You matter.

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Bill Widmer

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Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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