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Rejection Sensitivity

What's the Best Way to Ease the Pain of Rejection?

10 constructive ways to cope with any type of rejection.

Rejection is painful for the vast majority of us. It kicks into gear emotions and fears that have been encoded in our DNA since we were cave dwellers whose lives depended on social support and group protection from predators and enemies. Being rejected kindles the flames of our survival instincts and, whether we realize it or not, may trip primal instincts that make us feel as if the rejection is a "life or death" matter.

Even when you rationally know you're going to be fine, instinct says otherwise. That's why we start building thought trains that hurtle us down perilous paths leading nowhere good—just into a pit of despair we don't deserve. We give rejection a lot more attention and power than it should carry.

Rules for Dealing With Rejection

1. Retrain your brain to see the good in any potentially negative situation so that you're able to find the gold that will feed your forward movement and leave behind the heavy weight of negative self-evaluation.

2. Ignore any words of rejection that won't help you become a better person or grow from the experience.

3. Connect with friends and supporters ASAP. Everybody's been rejected in some way at some point in time, so there is a lot of empathy and commiseration that can help you normalize your rejection and put it in perspective, rather than letting solitude magnify its impact.

4. Don't take rejection personally. People often don't realize the self-recrimination, self-esteem damage, and confidence-busting that rejection can cause. They are only thinking about what their own needs or desires are—not those of the person who is on the losing end of the rejection. Don't spend any more time worrying about pleasing the person who's rejected you than necessary. Just move forward with your life and chalk the rejection up to a "bad fit," not you being a "bad person."

5. Write a "love letter" to yourself in which you offer support, cheerleading, and kindness. List the qualities you value most in yourself and describe a few ways that these qualities have been appreciated by others in the past.

6. Write a letter (that you'll never share) to the person(s) who rejected you, and describe exactly how their actions or words made you feel or hurt you. Express yourself honestly, knowing no one but you will see the letter. Sometimes, if we go back and read about what caused us distress in specific situations, we can begin to see patterns in events—whether it's a pattern of us making bad choices or seeking the same dead-end goals, or letting ourselves be hurt by others in a way that is not proportionate to the event itself.

7. Look back over your life and remind yourself about a time you did get that job you wanted, won someone's heart, or actually did have the last word. Whatever flavor your current rejection takes, recall a time when you tasted victory in that flavor. This positive replaying of a memory can "tape over" or "erase" the negative feelings generated by this current rejection.

8. Let yourself get mad and express your anger in a productive, safe manner. Whether you work out your frustration by cleaning the kitchen or kneading dough, taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood, having a mad session at the gym, or swimming more laps than usual, let your activity be fueled by your disappointment, hurt, and anger. After the tantrum subsides, you'll feel better for having expressed those negative feelings as well as about what you've accomplished. Learn to let your negativity feed positive activity.

9. For catharsis of a more gentle kind, create a journal entry or document describing exactly what happened and what you heard and what you said. By telling the story and naming your feelings, you're actually getting a handle on the experience. Once we name it and share it, we usually feel much more in control. We're able to make it "a part of our story," not simply "our story."

10. Finally, if it's a goal that you've realistically set for yourself at which you failed, then sit down and develop a new strategy for reaching that goal. Think about what you could have done differently, ways to approach the goal more effectively, and ways that you can better show your readiness and enthusiasm.

Remember that sometimes the goals we choose are not appropriate or realistic. Don't waste your energy on goals that don't make sense. Take a realistic look at your circumstances, abilities, and identity, and choose goals that are congruent with who you are or who you see yourself becoming.

More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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