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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
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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

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Reference

More by this author

Dr. Malachi Thompson III

High-Performance Consultant

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd
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If you are like most people, you probably have big goals and dreams that you would like to succeed in — you want to be the top in your career, live a healthy lifestyle, or flourish in your relationships.

Everyone dreams of a positive future, but most people don’t realize the secret to a truly successful life:

You determine your future in the way you spend your everyday moments. If you want to be a successful person, you must consistently develop good daily habits. As Aristotle pointed out:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.

Building positive daily habits is a huge challenge, but can you imagine the amazing things you could accomplish with just a little commitment and determination?

Creating lasting, healthy habits is the real key difference between people who are successful in life and those who are unsuccessful.

You might be wondering which specific habits make the biggest difference. Not to worry, I’ve compiled a comparison list to help you get a jump start on a successful future.

1. Successful people embrace change. Unsuccessful people fear change.

Change is a constant for all of humanity, and it is important that you develop a positive relationship with it.

When unexpected or unwelcome changes arise, ask yourself how you can embrace it instead of running away. A few practical ways to reverse a change-fearing mindset include:

  • Take a moment to recognize and address any fears associated with the upcoming change.
  • Communicate with a person you trust about your negative feelings toward change.
  • Practice positive thinking, which you can read about in the next section.

2. Successful people exude joy. Unsuccessful people think, say and do negative things.

A joyful, positive disposition can seem like a distant reality in today’s cynical world, but it may be easier to achieve than you think. All you have to do is notice the good things around you and practice being thankful.

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Mindfulness and gratitude are not just buzz words – choosing a positive attitude can honestly change your life. Many studies have found that thankfulness leads to greater happiness. Furthermore, research indicates that gratitude may even have a lasting positive impact on the brain and overall mental health.[1]

3. Successful people forgive others. Unsuccessful people hold grudges.

As a human being, you have likely been offended or hurt by others plenty of times. Don’t give in to the temptation to hold a grudge. Let it go.

Note that forgiving someone does not equate to giving up your boundaries (which are very important) or even admitting that the offending party is right. You should choose to let go for your own peace of mind.

4. Successful people track progress. Unsuccessful people just criticize.

Some kinds of criticism, such as constructive criticism, are good for personal and professional development. The kind of criticism I’m talking about is the pessimistic, nagging, unhelpful variety. This is the kind of criticism in play when you are unfairly harsh to yourself or others.

Toss unfounded criticisms aside and consider tracking your “wins” or your progresses, no matter how small. Take mental notes or keep a progress journal.

If you have a solid sense of what you have achieved, you will be less tempted to be hard on yourself.

5. Successful people share information, data and ideas. Unsuccessful people hoard.

If you have useful information or generate brilliant ideas on the regular, your first instinct may be to keep it all to yourself for personal gain and solo recognition.

Instead of hoarding bright ideas, share them with your team. Your talents will be on display for the team, and the team will be able to support you and make your ideas a reality.

6. Successful people are humble. Unsuccessful people talk more than they listen.

Humility is key. The ability to listen to other people, really listen and understand, is essential to success in both work and relationships — and to listen you have to be humble.

Everyone has experienced the frustration of being in a one-sided conversation. When someone approaches you with a question or concern, put your own world aside for just a moment and give them the kindness of your full attention.

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7. Successful people take risks. Unsuccessful people take the easy way out.

The next time your heart is racing and you want to walk away, consider embracing the risk. You never know what might happen if you take a chance.

Embracing risks looks like accepting the speaking engagement even though it seems a little scary. Success takes the courageous route, not the easy route.

8. Successful people learn, improve and read every day. Unsuccessful people stop learning.

Instead of binge-watching a show tonight, save an hour before bed to read a book and expand your mind.

Unsuccessful people are afraid to be flexible – they don’t challenge themselves to learn new things. Avoid this pitfall by exposing yourself to new thoughts and ideas every day.

9. Successful people handle problems well. Unsuccessful people act before they think.

The next time you run into a problem or even an emergency, try to work through your initial panic reaction with a few deep breaths.

Instead of acting rashly, think through your next actions as quickly but as logically as you can.

Learning to handle problems thoughtfully is an absolutely essential tool in the successful person’s toolbox (that’s you!).

10. Successful people accept responsibility for their failures. Unsuccessful people blame others.

Along with a previous tip about humility, this is one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do – but also the most rewarding. When you’ve failed, you must fight the urge to pass the blame. Successful people are able to fail honestly and gracefully.

And, hey, don’t feel bad about failing. Some of the most successful people in the world have failed too many times to count. It’s all a part of the process.

You can check out this article for more tips on how to fail well:

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How Failure Helps You To Succeed and Grow

11. Successful people work with passion and commitment. Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.

A short and sweet lesson for you:

You should never expect to achieve the things you want without working hard.

Follow your passion and stay committed to pursuing it. Work hard and stick to your habits every day. You’ll earn your reward.

12. Successful people spend time with the right people. Unsuccessful people think they already know it all.

A lot of people miss out on useful relationships and information sharing because they think they can do it all alone.

Spend time with people who inspire you, spur you to be a better person, and remind you that you can’t go it alone.

13. Successful people make to-do lists and maintain proper life balance. Unsuccessful people waste their time.

Ah, time management. Unsuccessful people never master the art of organization and planning.

Here are a few tips for you when it comes to time management:

  • Make to-do lists. Seriously, this will help you. Make time to do it every morning, evening, or whenever you are able.
  • Keep track of your time. Are you happy with the way you are currently balancing things? What changes can you make?
  • Keep a calendar full of your long-term goals (see next tip).

14. Successful people write down goals and think long term about their burning desires. Unsuccessful people get distracted every day.

Why is it so important to keep a long-term goal calendar? Here’s the deal:

The things you are passionate about today need a backbone.

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Give your passionate ideas sustainability by writing down goals and staying on task instead of succumbing to distraction.

15. Successful people compliment others. Unsuccessful people try to bring others down to their level.

There is no greater confidence than saying “no” to sudden jealous or envious feelings and choosing to sincerely admire someone’s talents instead.

Unsuccessful people live in a world driven by competition, but successful people know that building people up is far more rewarding than bringing them down.

16. Successful people want others to succeed. Unsuccessful people secretly hope they fail.

In the same vein as the point above, this tip is all about good intentions.

Care for the people around you. Encourage them toward their successes. Hoping that others fail will not help you at all.

17. Successful people know their purpose and mission. Unsuccessful people don’t know what they want to be.

The last thing that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is one of the most important:

Keep your mission in mind.

Don’t be swayed to and fro by passing emotions and events. Know who you are and pursue your dreams wholeheartedly.

Final thoughts

Above all, stay confident. Truly believe that you can be and are successful. Strive to prove it in your day-to-day habits and activities!

What are you waiting for? Choose one of the habits above and get started today.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Berkeley University of California: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

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