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Last Updated on December 8, 2020

How to Handle Rejection and Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected

How to Handle Rejection and Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected

We have all experienced rejection at some point. It can hurt and can take years to heal from. As human beings, we innately want to be loved and accepted. A sense of belonging to a community is one of our fundamental ingredients for survival, so a fear of rejection has naturally grown into our psyche.

Receiving rejection today is certainly not what it used to be. With technology, we are somehow more connected than ever yet more socially isolated as well. 

In the split-second instant we post on social media, we’re unconsciously broadcasting our desire to be seen and to connect. But when that Instagram selfie or Facebook post doesn’t receive the number of likes or comments we thought it might, we feel disappointed, overlooked, and left behind.

We then flog ourselves with self-blame, debilitating guilt, over-accountability, and hopeless thoughts about the future. Romantic rejections are where we tend to be most vulnerable and left raw to our core. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can recover.

So can you learn how to handle rejection? Absolutely! Here are six ways to help you rebalance the washing machine of emotional and mental turmoil you can be thrown into (sometimes without any warning) so that rejection can become one of the most positive life-changing gifts you can receive.

1. Allow Yourself to Acknowledge and Feel Emotion

After twenty-five years of marriage and a couple of adult-age children, being told “I don’t love you anymore” would and should feel like a dagger piercing your tender heart. The psychological blow can hurt just as much as the physical pain of a right hook to your jaw or punch to the stomach.

To overcome the sting of rejection, stop trying to avoid feeling that sting. Stop pretending you’re unaffected if you are. Acknowledge that the sharp, heavy emotional pain you feel is as valid and real as any physical pain. Trying to sugar coat what you feel and experience will do you far more harm than good.

Listen to the voice inside you that describes the injustice you feel. Give it air time. Allow that voice to talk and lick the emotional wounds.

If you don’t, that emotional energy will continue to tug at you like the child constantly pulling at the mother’s skirt to grab her attention. Listen to the voice’s mix of rage, sadness, loss and loneliness. You will start to feel relief simply by no longer pretending you’re invincible and allowing the flood of your feelings to flow.

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2. Don’t Connect With Rumination

If your friends are rolling their eyes and sighing when you describe to them for the fifth time in minute detail the story of how you were unfairly treated in your dream job interview process, it’s time to shift. You’re wasting time and energy — theirs and yours — and stopping yourself from moving on. Instead, enlist the help of your partner, family, and friends.

Make a contract with someone who cares about you, allowing them to catch you in the throes of verbal diarrhea and stop you purging yet again.

Work out three or four different activities that will distract you and turn your attention to something productive. Choose the activity wisely, though. It’s not simply about distracting yourself and keeping yourself busy. Choose something that catalyzes good energy within you, occupies your mindset and shifts your mood. Physical activities are great examples.

Some other activities you can engage in for distractions include:

  • Exercising
  • Listening to music or a podcast
  • Playing a favorite sport with friends
  • Volunteering

Also consider starting a small project completely unrelated to your rejection experience that engages you to purposefully contribute.

By activating neural pathways that increase a healthy mental state, the shackles of rumination will start to lose their grip. Use your friends and family to keep you accountable and break the debilitating rhythm of rumination.

3. Regulate Your Exposure to Rejection

We all have a different threshold of the amount of rejection we can handle. Repeatedly receiving the notice “we regret to inform you that your application has been successful” becomes a soul-destroying exercise before too long if you’re desperate to find a new job.

When times are particularly tough, you need to protect your mental and emotional states. Wisely considering how much more you can handle is essential. Before you take another step forward, ask yourself if you have the right resources and support in place to catch you.

In his popular TED Talk, “What I learned from 100 days of rejection,” Jia Jiang describes how, after finding that his threshold for rejection was too low to allow for any genuine growth, he decided to seek out rejection for 100 days, ultimately desensitizing himself to it.[1]

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Now, this approach isn’t for everyone, but there is something to be said for identifying how much rejection you can take and how much you should seek out to grow.

If you have stood at desperation station, hoping to board the train and it keeps passing you by, sometimes the best thing you can do is stop trying to board for a while. Take a rest. Allow your mind and your thoughts to breathe.

If you’re completely battered by rejection, turn your attention to activities and opportunities that don’t put you at risk again of rejection, at least for a short period. During the rest periods, your muscles repair and become stronger after a weights workout. Your mind and heart are the same. You must allow them to breathe before you put them at risk of future battle and bruising.

Know that you will always have a different capacity and resilience to handle rejection than your neighbor, so be careful of setting goals to step back into the boxing ring before you’re truly ready.

Get familiar with what your thresholds are and honor them. If you need to take a few days off from doing job application after job application, do so. Your mind will be refreshed, better focused, and relaxed so that you can put your best foot forward next time.

4. Reconsider the Meaning You Attach to Rejection

Several research studies by Carol Dweck and Lauren Howe at Stanford University have revealed that individuals with fixed mindsets in romantic rejection contexts experience negative effects of rejection for longer.[2]

Participants who believed personalities were generally set in stone and unchanging ascribed “faults” in their personalities, as opposed to identifying that the rejection could be an opportunity for positive change or growth. They believed these “faults” were permanent and also worried about how future relationships would be continually affected.

If you feel experiencing a rejection means there is something wrong with you, you’re far from alone. But this doesn’t mean your thinking is accurate. Invite yourself to consider:

  • Is it possible that the deductions I am making about myself are actually not true, that they are simply fueled by the intense emotions I am feeling in these moments?
  • Is it possible that this rejection is just an indication that what I wanted to belong to and be part of is not a suitable fit for me?
  • Could this rejection be a guide to steer me back to the course I am truly meant to be on, or something even better I have not yet been able to imagine?
  • Could this actually be a grand opportunity to grow and expand into a better version of myself?

When Steve Jobs was rejected and sacked from his own company in 1985, he went on to generate his first billion dollars with Pixar Animation Studios after purchasing it from Lucasfilm in 1986.[3] Today, Pixar is the most successful animation studio of its kind.

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By being rejected and insulted colorfully by the seemingly attractive man or woman you approached at the bar, you could have saved yourself a marriage of heartache and abuse. In fact, the door is now open for you to continue your journey of finding someone who is a much better potential complement and at the very least has far superior manners!

Where rejection is possible, hold a card containing the above questions in your pocket to access a reality check. See if you can step into a growth mindset and practice thinking more widely about the consequences of your being rejected.

What have you learned and discovered about yourself? What have you learned from the rejection experience? What opportunities can you now see that perhaps you weren’t able to see before? When you feel ready to step forward again, will you go in the same direction again or will you pivot? Might you do things differently this time?

Rejection can, in fact, be a glorious unveiling of new possibilities.

5. Stop Idolizing 

Think about times when you have wanted something that has been out of your reach. There was a risk, a gap, or an obstacle that was in the way of you getting what you want. Do you want it more?

The scarcity of your being able to reach the prize or reward you’re stretching for seems to become more attractive and valuable when it’s harder to obtain. It’s a key sales psychology feature businesses use to effectively sell to their customers; they market to your fear of missing out[4]

When you get the defining negative answer, the yearning for that thing you so strongly desired somehow becomes stronger. The reality, however, is that nothing specific changed about the person you longed to date. The job description or remuneration package remained the same whether you were the chosen candidate or someone else was. However, in your mind and heart, you feel a greater sense of loss.

Can you recognize if you do this? If so, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Did I idolize the situation or person which has now led me to feel a sense of loss and unworthiness? 
  • Are there negative attributes about the situation that I was not seeing because I wanted this so badly?

It’s only after you have allowed some time to pass after the initial experience of your rejection that you will be able to more objectively answer these questions. Only reflect when the initial intensity of the sting has subsided. It’s only then you’ll be able to see the other side of the coin.

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Sometimes it’s only through rejection that you can see the grass is not as green as it appeared after all. Your loss is not as great, and you’ve not fallen as far as you thought.

6. Build Resilience and Self-Confidence

You can grow confidence through being rejected. It comes down to proactively reviewing your behavioral patterns and resources and forecasting your recovery strategy should you be in the firing line to take a fall in the future.

After you have licked your wounds, take time to reflect and look at how you reacted and responded. What were your patterns? How well were you resourced to handle the fall? Did you withdraw and isolate yourself to recover? Was this helpful or would talking with close friends or family have helped you? Did you have a plan prepared for the potential rejection?

If you don’t have a plan, develop one.

By predicting how your emotions and thoughts could be sent into a spin, you give yourself a stronger sense of maintaining self-control should rejection hit. You lessen the shock of the blow if you also know you’ve got a first-aid plan in place.

Write down what thoughts and emotions you could experience in the face of a rejection. If it’s anger, have a healthy strategy prepared to process the energy of that anger. If it’s sadness, build time in your schedule to allow yourself to feel the sadness either alone or in the company of a supportive friend, colleague, family member, or therapist.

Once you’ve managed to process a fair amount of the emotional and cognitive fallout, now invest in things which restore your energy, strength, and willingness to bounce back. Then, consider stepping back into the boxing ring.

When you have plans and strategies in place, overcoming rejection and the fear of it becomes more like cruising over a small speed bump rather than giving up hope completely of walking again after tumbling to base camp from the summit of Mt. Everest.

More Tips on How to Handle Rejection

Featured photo credit: Michael Afonso via unsplash.com

Reference

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Malachi Thompson

Leadership & Performance Edge Strategist

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Last Updated on January 19, 2021

How To Overcome Self Imposed Limitations For Goal Setting

How To Overcome Self Imposed Limitations For Goal Setting

When it comes to setting our goals we need to take a few things into account – what we need to do to start achieving our goals, how we’re going to achieve our goals and what our motivations are behind them.

For many of us goal setting can bring up a sense of anxiety which usually comes down to our limiting beliefs. These manifest as thoughts around our lack of ability, our current situation, expectations from others and comparing ourselves with other people’s lives. All of these results in us setting goals that may not be inlined with what we truly want and our motivations are not focused on our inner growth and development.

Limiting beliefs are usually those negative thoughts you have about yourself like thinking you’re just not clever enough or believing that you’ll fail. Ambition can be hard for a lot of us since limiting beliefs can make us think that high ambition will only lead to failure and disappointment.

But research says that aiming high and having big ambitions actually makes you happier and here’s why.

Ambition Is The New Happy

It’s typical for people to assume that with more ambition comes more risk of failure but this is actually a pessimistic view and one that probably belongs to someone who typically isn’t ambitious. Research has found that ambitious people generally tend to be more satisfied than those who have lower expectations.

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The outcome of several studies show that when people set goals, they have two factors in mind – expectancy (how likely you are to succeed) and value (what the process will do for you). When we set limiting goals or goals that are ‘safe’ and easy to achieve, we don’t get any value from them and get no real sense of achievement or satisfaction. In other words, people who focus on the value of the goal rather than the odds of being successful or not are much happier in the long term.

So to overcome self imposed limitations, the key is all about stretching yourself, aiming high while not focusing on the potential failures but also with a sense of belief that it can be achieved.

How To Overcome Self Imposed Limitations:

When you think of a big goal you want to achieve what comes into your mind? Do you think you’re not good enough? Not smart enough? You don’t have the education or the money? Do you worry about what people will think?

If any of these crop up then they are limiting beliefs. These are usually a result of an accumulation of negative ideas, thoughts and beliefs that have built up over your entire lifetime. They most likely came from others, intentionally or unintentionally, as we made our way into the independent world.

The problem with these limitations is that they create thoughts that stop us from believing we are capable of achieving big things. They make us just settle for our lot in life and never allow us to go after anything that will benefit our happiness and sense of wellbeing. As you can see this is a pretty dangerous mindset as it manifests as fear that we’ll fail or be judged for going after what we truly want.

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1. Investing In Your Self-Development

It’s important to realise that happiness starts from within. If you find yourself having doubts about your abilities, then it’s worth looking into working on your personal development.

If you make excuses around your situation like the the town you live in is too small for good opportunities, you’ll put something off until next year when you might have more money, your family wouldn’t approve, or you’re just too old now, then these may just be excuses in disguise. Most of the time anything is possible. When we make excuses, they can be hiding a deeper issue of low self-confidence and self-limitations.

You essentially need to stop identifying with the limiting beliefs and don’t allow yourself to be defined by them. Working on your confidence, shifting your perspective and cultivating a positive mindset towards yourself and your goals will create a good basis moving forward.

2. Don’t Give In To Societal Pressures

This is a biggie when it comes to limiting our ambitions. There is an immense pressure to conform to social norms but what are social norms anyway? All they are, in essence, is an accumulation of other people’s opinions and ideas imposed on the masses who and has become some kind of universal rule that people should live by.

No one has the right to make you feel like you can’t follow your dream if that’s what will make you truly happy. People have their own lives to worry about so make sure you just stick to concentrating on yours.

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3. Don’t Listen To Negative Opinions

We can get very swayed by what other people think and say especially if they are close to us. It can have the power to stop someone going after their goals and this really is a sad state of affairs. By doing this we are giving our power to other people which naturally leads us to feel less happy.

Even when we’re on our goal journey, we can come across people who have negative opinions about your decisions which can lead us to question whether this is the right thing to do. The key is to understand whatever negative speak you hear, know that it is coming from people’s own fears, insecurities and issues. Make sure you surround yourself with positive people who support your goals and encourage you to carry on.

4. Break The Habit Of Assumptions

Assumptions are a huge ambition killer. Our limiting beliefs cause us to come to all sorts of incorrect conclusions based on what we think we know. But most of the time we don’t have all the information or we base it all on past experiences. We like to seek out examples in our lives for how it didn’t work before and apply this negatively to our new ideas and goals.

If this sounds familiar then you need to test your assumptions, and by this I mean finding ways and evidence that break the pattern of your self-imposed limitations. Take actions that test whether your past judgements and conclusions are actually untrue. By doing this you can build a sense of empowerment, give your mind proof and a different perspective on the situation.

For example, if you want to go back to studying but you think that, because you were never motivated at school, the same will happen again, then perhaps take a short course in something you’re interested in and see if this belief really is true. The chances are you weren’t motivated at school because you lacked any interest in what you were learning but now your priorities and interests have changed. By doing this you give yourself a chance to prove that what you believe isn’t actually true and gain self-empowerment.

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5. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

Last but not least, we need to stop comparing ourselves to other people. We all have a tendency to do this and it only brings up dissatisfaction and a sense of failure if we see other people doing ‘better’ than us. Of course, this really is just an illusion. We are all on different paths with our own set of limiting beliefs that we’re battling with. It all comes down to assumptions again – we cannot know what is going on in other people’s lives so it really is pointless to compare ourselves to them. It’s really unfair to do this to ourselves since we’re making comparisons with something we don’t have full knowledge of.

Give yourself a break – understand that you really can achieve anything and all you’ve got to do is believe in yourself and believe it can be possible. So aim high and live a much more fulfilling and happier life.

Featured photo credit: Vijay Putra via pexels.com

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