Feeling Rejected? Reconsider What You "Know"
Explore your thinking to help you feel better about you.
Posted Oct 28, 2019
When you feel rejected — especially when you are particularly sensitive to it — it can be truly difficult to think clearly about the situation. You may find that your feelings of distress overpower you, causing you to dig yourself more deeply into self-critical thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. You may be sure that you deserve to be avoided, abandoned, or rejected. But these reactions are more emotional than “objectively real.” With some time, you can calm down and reflect on the situation and yourself with greater clarity.
I offer an exercise in my book, Bouncing Back from Rejection, that guides you in reflecting on your thoughts and feelings about yourself. This “Explore Your Thinking” exercise can be completed with just a paper and pencil, or you can download a worksheet to complete it. (The download also offers an example.) If you decide not to download and use the worksheet, copy the chart below on a full sheet of paper, being sure to give enough space in each cell to fill it out fully:
Now complete the downloaded or copied chart:
Label the situation. At the top of your paper, write a sentence to explain a situation that causes you to struggle with rejection. You will be reflecting upon this.
Complete the “Immediate Thoughts” column. In the appropriate rows, answer the question, “What are your immediate thoughts about yourself, others, and the situation?”
Complete the “Reflection on Thoughts” column. In the appropriate rows, answer the question, “Objectively speaking, how accurate are your thoughts?” (Remember that even if they are not accurate, you might still believe them. People’s beliefs are often based on their emotional experience, not their intellectual assessments.)
To help you assess the accuracy of your thoughts, you might consider these questions:
- What evidence supports these thoughts or beliefs?
- Are there times when they are not true? (Even one example of it not holding true shows that it is not absolutely true.)
- With regard to any harsh judgments about yourself or others, are there kinder ways to understand you or them that account for all of the other person’s experiences or “facts?"
- Are there ways of looking at the situation that could encourage greater empathy or compassion?
People who struggle with judging themselves harshly sometimes find it helpful to consider how a good friend might think about them or how they would think about someone else in their position.
Complete the “Feelings” column. In the appropriate row, answer the question, “What am I feeling?” Consider how much your thoughts might be more a statement of how you feel than how you intellectually assess yourself, others, and your situation. If you find this difficult, fill it out the best that you can. You might find it helpful to look at a list of emotions.
If you are unsure about how to complete this exercise, consider Robin, how she thought about a situation she struggled with, and who completed this exercise. Robin identified a situation that caused her to feel not only rejected, but also verbally attacked. She had stopped her car at a red light and then turned right into a gas station. As she pulled up to the pump, a woman stormed up and yelled at her about how it is illegal to turn right on red at that light.
Completing this exercise can help you gain more perspective on your reactions. Also, practicing it with different situations can strengthen and reinforce this ability. Eventually, you may find that this perspective comes more quickly and easily, helping you remain calmer and respond in a more self-compassionate and supportive way to feeling disrespected, dismissed, or abandoned.
"Making Change" blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation, and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.