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Rejecting rejection

a bored looking teenager
Posted July 5, 2019

Rejection is a fact of life—from job interviews to human relationships. But many of us treat rejection as a mortal enemy, trying to avoid it at all costs. How can we befriend rejection?

‘I could never let someone know that I was interested in them romantically—I just felt like if they didn’t like me back, I would be so humiliated,’ said one young man.

‘Well, I was interested in a girl, and so I told her. She wasn’t interested in me, but at least I knew and could move on, so it was good, actually,’ said another.

These are two real life situations—so why did these young men have such different reactions to the experience of rejection?

Carolyn Joyce, editor of Psychalive, says our response to rejection is not so much about our circumstances, as about our self-talk. ‘So much of the hurt and struggle we endure isn’t even based on the loss itself but on what we tell ourselves about the experience,’ she says.

Research shows that early experiences and childhood attachments hugely influence the way we react to rejection. ‘As adults, we often unconsciously seek out and recreate the emotional climate of our past, even though it was painful,’ says Joyce—which is why it’s important to examine our response to rejection and learn to deal more positively with it.

‘Our ability to see things as “changeable” can have a strong influence on how we deal with rejection,’ she says. People with a ‘growth mindset’ can accept they may need to change and learn through the experience.

This helps them move on positively.

Similarly, people who understand rejection as a common experience, recover from it more easily. Any loss is accompanied by a sense of loneliness. But people who see relationship difficulties as a normal part of life—whether in marriage, friendship or family—are able to take it less personally.

Your inner voice will ‘make or break’ how you experience rejection. Critical self-talk will focus on things like: ‘If only I was more …’ or, ‘If only I was less …’ Or, perhaps, ‘See? No one will ever like you’.

When we reject ourselves, rejection from another person becomes catastrophic to our identity.

On the other hand, a University of Arizona study of people going through a divorce, found that people with a high level of self-compassion, ‘reported fewer intrusive negative thoughts, fewer bad dreams about the divorce, and less negative rumination’.

The first young man in the previous example had a strong inner critic that told him rejection was highly personal and humiliating. But the second young man was able to show self-compassion, see rejection as normal, and even as an opportunity to move on!

(c) 'War Cry' magazine, 29 June 2019, p10.  You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.