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Published on November 27, 2018

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 cut us deeply. 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. We were never meant to live in isolation.

Receiving rejection today is certainly not what it used to be, given how far less connected we are in this digital age of technology.

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 how to handle rejection? 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. Diffuse the fear of being rejected by acknowledging and expecting it can and will hurt

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 stings. Stop pretending your unaffected if indeed, 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.

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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.

2. Physically sever your connection 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 your partner, family and friends allowing them to catch you in the throes of verbal diarrhea and stop you purging, yet again. Work out three or four different activities which 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. Move your body, listen to music, go and shoot a few hoops with your mates in the lunch break or after work. 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 the amount of rejection opportunities you expose yourself to

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.

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.

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Turn your attention to activities and opportunities, which 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 at your next attempts.

Elite athletes experience peaks and troughs throughout their training regimes and competitions. It’s a given fact of their journey. So too is the ebb and flow of recuperating from rejection and then jumping back on the horse and getting going again.

4. Attach a different meaning to your definition and experience of 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.[1]

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, turbulent 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 guiding rail to steer me back on the course I am truly meant to be on, or something even better I have not yet been able to fathom?
  • 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.[2] 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 discovery 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 palm 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 have not been 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. Learn to recalibrate the rejection experience to reduce its impact on you

Think about times when you have wanted something that has been out of your reach. There has been at least a risk, a gap or an obstacle that is 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.

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, for some reason, feel a greater sense of loss.

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

  • Could I have idolized the situation or person which has now led me to feel such a deep sense of loss, sadness and unworthiness? Could I have put the person or opportunity on a pedestal which made the fall of being rejected so much harder on impact?
  • Are there negative attributes about the situation that I was not seeing because I was wanting 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. Learn to build resilience to diffuse the fear of future rejection

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 lick your wounds? Was this helpful or might having talked with other close friends or family helped you process the emotional pain faster and more effectively? Did you have a plan prepared for the potentiality of experiencing the 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 hump rather than giving up hope completely of walking again after tumbling to base camp from the summit of Mt Everest.

Featured photo credit: Michael Afonso via unsplash.com

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Malachi Thompson

Executive Leadership and Performance Consultant

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

5 Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude

5 Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude

Cultivating a positive mental attitude starts with a realization — a realization that you’re not the only one who has struggled, who has survived, and who has started over again. You are not alone, and there is a way through the darkness. There is simple wisdom, which can be relied upon, to help.

Find support, but also learn self-care in how you treat yourself which is what positivity is all about. That self talk, that perception, that attitude you choose changes you and changes those around you.

According to New Stanford Study: A Positive Attitude Literally Makes Your Brain Better by Jessica Stillman,[1] Stanford researchers studies how the brain was impacted in achievement and learning when one felt or was positive about a subject. The result? Outcomes were much more favorable for that student.

We do well in areas we are positive about. But what if we can choose to be positive about, well, anything? That would change everything.

Positivity is not about just being happy, which is often the misconception. In fact, acknowledging a range of emotions is healthy. Positivity is persistence while using positive thinking strategies. It is sitting with your feelings; it is acceptance of what is; it is holding onto what makes you happy; it is purpose found in pain.

And the reasoning behind choosing to be positive — you get what you give. You receive what you believe.

Here’re 5 steps to cultivate a positive mental attitude. In part, they detail why it’s important to be positive as an understanding assists in the pursuit as much as the adoption of the mindset.

1. Attitude is What We Can Change

There’s a Maya Angelou quote that goes:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

When you choose positivity as your attitude, you select an attitude far more destined for resilient behavior than the alternative.

When you have a negative attitude, your brain gives itself permission to develop negative thinking patterns and in turn, difficult and dark emotions. You spend all your days ruminating, or worrying about the same thing over and over again, thinking that will solve it. Doing this will cause you to miss the answers rather than make the most of the moments in front of you.

In actuality, the first thing you need to do is calm yourself. It feels counterintuitive, but that means to release your troubled mentality. When you release what is bothering you, you choose a safer attitude. One that helps you to accept your emotions, accept what is happening and accept that you don’t have all the answers. You’re less afraid of that fact.

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Attitude is everything. It’s how we heal ourselves. It’s how we stay positive. It’s how we secure things. It’s how we overcome.

Without a positive attitude, we cannot persevere. Perseverance is the point of positivity.

A positive attitude is how we fuel willpower. Willpower is how we fuel positivity. It goes in a circle. They are interchangeable.

Positivity denotes willpower. You can be standing in a storm and feel completely calm when you use positivity. You stay grounded. You stand firm. You do not fall over. And you know what? Even if you do, you get back up again.

There is a Japanese proverb, “Nana korobi ya oki” which means fall seven times, get up eight. This means you do not stop; you keep going. You make it through the hard times to find the good.

A positive attitude is about understanding you have power over your problems. Once you understand that, you can change your attitude. You have to choose positive thinking first in order to reap its benefits. Once you’ve chosen to be positive, you can do anything.

2. Positivity Is Your Unique Power

When you have lost it all, a positive attitude can help you regain it or to regain your strength. It’s the best way to live. It’s the best way to learn from life and love. When you are positive, you have a power that circumstance nor others cannot take from you.

Recognizing the power you have to carry on, to make the best of things, to keep going when everything inside you wants to quit is worth everything.

You can’t always have it all, but you can always have a positive attitude. This in itself helps you stand out, helps you to shine. It’s enough to save yourself (and others potentially) with. That power keeps you grounded and safe.

For example, say you lost someone to a disease. Instead of just thinking about the loss and seeing it as the end, a positive person may decide to contribute to a cause dedicated to that disease. In doing so, the positive person becomes a beacon of hope. They become a voice for something which in turn gives them power over their hardship.

This is how people keep going: Meaning. Meaning creates a power over our emotions, over our loss so that they do not define us.

According to the Mayo Clinic, positivity affects one’s stress levels and overall health.[2] It is that powerful. When you are positive about a situation, you are less stressful and more calm and able to reason better to solve the very problem in front of you.

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Cultivating this power is about realizing a sense of meaning can be derived from all circumstances, even senseless tragedies. People often contribute to something greater than themselves when they are searching for meaning, for purpose, for positivity, for power.

You don’t always have to have a reason for why something happens, but you can use whatever happens for a greater cause. It’s subjective, changing from person to person. That’s why no matter how much you want to derive meaning from an event, there are no outright answers about how to do that.

So, what do you do? Meditate. Listen.

“Whatever purifies you is the right path, I will not try to define it. Let go of your mind then be mindful. Close your ears and listen.” — Rumi

3. Be Absolutely Present

In life, you have control over your ability to be present in the moment, even if not control over everything. You have the moment.

Positivity is telling yourself that this moment is what matters. You can’t regret the past or see the future. The only way to be positive is to be here. What do you have right in front of you? Suddenly, your life shifts to gratitude.

Gratitude serves us in letting go of what we do not need. Listing what makes us happy is one way to stay present. What do you have right now that you can use? You have the tools to be positive.

Some techniques to getting there are through meditations or mantras. For example, “Nothing bad is happening right now” is an easy one to incorporate. Your past traumas can’t trip you when you ground yourself in the present, and your ability to reason further develops to the point that even if you can’t see the future, you know it will play out like this– with you empowered and in the moment, using all your wisdom and tools and positivity to persevere. That’s all you need.

Focus on the moment. In a blog about Mindfulness, Courtney Ackerman writes that one such exercise is to live in the moment to reduce worrying.[3] Think about the past and future in small, manageable doses. But focus mostly on the present, what is happening right here and now. This will reduce worrying and therefore stress as well as other negative emotions significantly.

This will allow you to be positive.

4. Practice Self-Love

Self-talk is the core of self-love, the core of what positivity is all about. Positive self-talk leads to self-love. And when our own cup is empty, we can pour into another’s. We have to help ourselves first before we can help others.

What we say to ourselves is how we practice positivity or put it into action.

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For example, there’s a children’s book called The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper where the train thinks, “I think I can, I think I can” the whole way through its travels. The result? It could because it told itself that it can.

Such a simple concept for a complex world. And yet, it works.

This is also how self-love works. What you tell yourself is powerful and makes its mark. Here are examples of things you could tell yourself to practice positivity:

  • I am enough.
  • I am worthwhile.
  • I can do this, I just have to hold on.
  • I will make it through this.
  • I am powerful.
  • I am unstoppable.

Here’re more examples for you: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life. Add to this list with your own!

When you write these positive mantras, you start to feel them. If you write “I am positive about this situation” enough times, you will start to feel that positivity seep in.

Loving yourself is not going to be easy nor come overnight. There will be a mess of feelings, regrets, negative self talk and more that you will have to carefully tip toe through to hold your own heart. Your heart needs love, and often, we deny what it needs in pursuit of purposeless pleasures such as external rewards rather than internal motivation for a life well lived. We live for what others think of us, say about us, and sometimes, losing it all or going through hardship can teach us what we really need: ourselves.

Loving yourself needs to come from an authentic place, not a “fake it til you make it” mentality. It needs to be real. It needs to include those flaws and all. That’s all you can do to become positive about yourself. You have to start within and do the work necessary to heal and be healthy.

Take a look at these 30 Self Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit and try to practice them.

5. Avoid Toxic Positivity (Unhealthy Positivity)

Avoid the white knuckling type of positivity where you don’t acknowledge your struggles or pain (as they also serve you). You don’t just want to tell yourself to move on because that equates to repression.

Emotions are part of positivity. You want to sit with your feelings. You want to acknowledge them, give them a voice. Instead of telling yourself to move on, you let your emotions lead to a breakthrough that helps you cope with the changes of life.

The greatest misconceptions made about being positive is assuming one does not have to feel in order to change. Throwing away hurt, anger, grief, sadness, all those emotions we associate with being “negative” only thwart our growth and power. Positivity is USING these things to better yourself or the world around you because you’re not going to give in to them. They do not become you or your identity.

You don’t have to be the white knuckling soldier you’ve always been. You say your emotions, then follow up with a use or outlet for them. That makes your positivity profound.

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Positivity is not about wearing a mask; it is the opposite of a mask. It is freedom from negative thinking strategies such as jumping to conclusions, black or white thinking, worst case scenario assumptions and more. It’s acknowledging that there may be more strength or ability in you than previously assumed. And it’s worth it to find out.

Toxic positivity may suggest you simply put a smile on and act fine. That’s not real positivity. Healthy positivity is about showing up when you’re tired; loving when you are feeling loss; healing when you want to cling to your hurt. It’s realization that you are worth it, not worth writing off. And you care about the outcome, so you stay to sort it out. You don’t abandon or jump ship. You hold on. That’s healthy positivity.

So that one day you may say to others, “I see you. I feel you. I understand you,” because you have been where they are and got through it. It’s acknowledging the dark as much as the light.

It’s living so others may live; it’s all you need. It’s not an exact formula everyone can replicate, and no one can copy you either. Your story is important. You are meant to be here. You are meant to do well. It will be those thoughts that get you to the finish line. Thriving.

Final Thoughts

In every moment, you’re not going to want to be positive. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel. But even then, choosing your attitude, recognizing the power of positivity, being absolutely present, practicing self-love and avoiding toxic or unhealthy positivity will better your days and assist through your trials.

Being positive isn’t easy, but it’s worth it to see what is going to happen next. Just around the corner may be the change you need, but you’ll never know if you don’t hold on to find out.

Positivity is about being curious enough to stay for the outcome because you simply believe, hold onto and trust in yourself and some goodness in this world. That’s enough to keep one going, and enough to help them go from surviving to thriving which is where you want to be.

Everyone has low moments. There’s nothing to be ashamed of for that. You can feel negative emotions though without shaming yourself for them by practicing healthy positivity. These steps are how to cultivate a positive mental attitude.

That way you don’t live with regret. You live in the moment. You make the decision how.

You can start at anytime. Positivity can be like a switch of perception. Once you uplift yourself, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. And soon, you’ll be onto uplifting others which helps even more.

Positivity is contagious. It spreads like sunlight over the darkness. You can be the source of that sunlight. All you have to do is simple: Believe you can.

Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Court Prather via unsplash.com

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