A Reflection On Rejection

I can imagine that every living human being has at least one experience with rejection, if not multiple experiences. And, anyone who has been on the receiving end of rejection knows that it hurts, whether it’s the rejection of someone you love or some opportunity you’ve been dreaming about.

Everyone handles rejection differently. Some people are able to use rejection to improve their situation while others are completely devastated by the experience.  Much research has been conducted on the subject of rejection and there are strong reasons that rejection creates such strong emotions in us humans.

I recently read an article that gives a clear explanation for the role rejection plays in society. “Rejection served a vital function in our evolutionary past. In our hunter/gatherer past, being ostracized from our tribes was akin to a death sentence, as we were unlikely to survive for long alone. Evolutionary psychologists assume the brain developed an early warning system to alert us when we were at risk for ostracism. Because it was so important to get our attention, those who experienced rejection as more painful (i.e., because rejection mimicked physical pain in their brain) gained an evolutionary advantage—they were more likely to correct their behavior and consequently, more likely to remain in the tribe.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201307/10-surprising-facts-about-rejection)

Fear Of Rejection

We probably all know people who have become paralyzed by rejection as well as those who have used rejection to propel themselves to great success. One of the most extraordinary things I learned from my mentor, Jack Canfield, is that “Rejection does not prevent success – fear of rejection does.” http://jackcanfield.com/blog/7-principles-of-success-and-happiness-that-you-can-do-today/ We have come a long way from our hunter/gatherer past and we have learned much about the way our minds work. So even, when we are faced with rejection many of us have tools that can help us get over it and get on with our lives.

However, it is important to understand that not everyone has been exposed to the education that gives us the tools to handle rejection. The psychologytoday.com article I cited above explains that, “Rejection destabilizes our “Need to Belong.” We all have a fundamental need to belong to a group. When we get rejected, this need becomes destabilized and the disconnection we feel adds to our emotional pain. Reconnecting with those who­­ love us or reaching out to members of groups to which we feel strong affinity and who value and accept us, has been found to soothe emotional pain after a rejection.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201307/10-surprising-facts-about-rejection)

In addition, not everyone who experiences rejection has a family or a group who loves and values them. Which is one reason why rejection plays a role in acts of violence and aggression. As the same article points out, “In 2001, the Surgeon General of the U.S. issued a report stating that rejection was a greater risk for adolescent violence than drugs, poverty, or gang membership. Countless studies have demonstrated that even mild rejections lead people to take out their aggression on innocent bystanders. School shootings, violence against women, and fired workers going “postal” are other examples of the strong link between rejection and aggression.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201307/10-surprising-facts-about-rejection)

Reject Rejection

Jack Canfield has given me a tool that comes in handy in every aspect of my life and I’m sure it can be helpful in yours. He advises that we should “reject rejection.” He reasons that the fear of rejection is what holds people back and that whatever you are doing that you are afraid of being rejected for is going to be the same after the rejection as before. Here’s an example that Jack gives: “If you ask a successful person to give you career advice, and that person says ‘no’, you didn’t have his or her advice before you asked, and you don’t have it after. So, you’re no worse off than when you began. So why be afraid of asking?” http://jackcanfield.com/blog/7-principles-of-success-and-happiness-that-you-can-do-today/

I believe that, as Jack says, “If you want to be a success, you must treat rejection as an illusion –a negative response conjured up by your mind that really doesn’t exist.” http://jackcanfield.com/blog/7-principles-of-success-and-happiness-that-you-can-do-today/

Likewise, when dealing with others, we can soften our methods of rejection because not everyone believes that rejection is an illusion. Until that time, be gentle. Be kind.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy Olson