A clinical psychologist friend of mine posted this interesting article on her practice’s Facebook page, and it really hit home for me. It’s an article about rejection and why we let it hurt us so badly. Rejection is nobody’s friend, that’s true, but why do some of us seem to feel it so deeply, for so long? It can come in so many forms, from small things like a lack of “likes” on a Facebook status to a spouse leaving us, being fired from our job, or a friend breaking up with us. Scientists discovered that the same part of the brain that reacts to physical pain is stimulated by the feelings of rejection — those feelings are very real, and very painful.
Go read the article, I can wait.
I’ve read the article twice now, trying to understand my own feelings about rejection. I seem like a pretty confident person, don’t I? I mean, I am one. I’m sure I’m a great friend, a smart woman, a strong person, and an overall pleasant human. But still. . . even then, I take rejection so poorly. Sure, I was given up for adoption and many would say that’s where the problems all started for me. The Original Rejection. There are countless theories about adoptees’ fears of abandonment. Maybe that’s true, despite not feeling like I care much about the Original Rejection. Either way, what I know is that every rejection feels like a wound to me, no matter how small, so any tools I have to combat those feelings are much appreciated.
I still dwell on an email a colleague sent me ages ago, admonishing me for being impatient.
I still dwell on a long-term friendship split from many years ago.
I still dwell on rejected pitches for articles and submissions.
I still dwell on people unfollowing and unfriending me.
I obsess over harsh comments made to me.
I still struggle with friends growing apart and rejecting me.
What I found so helpful in that article was this line:
“Most rejections, whether romantic, professional, and even social, are due to “fit” and circumstance.”
So it’s not me? It really is you? Phew.
Even when I logically know it’s not my fault, I still internalize rejection. What could I have done better? What actions would have changed the course? I mustn’t be smart enough/good enough/fun enough/enough enough enough. Rejection brings out my biggest critic, and I mull things over on repeat.
I tell myself I shouldn’t care, but honestly, I think maybe only sociopathic people truly give no fucks. It’s impossible, and the reality is that caring is what makes me human, and what makes us all. . . good, you know? Caring matters. I don’t want to turn it all off in the hope that sadness or rejection hurt less. Whether it’s rejection from a publisher, unfriending or separation, we all feel the sting. It’s how we manage it that matters most.
Resilience with rejection is key, I think. In a recent experience with rejection, I literally made a pro and con list about the situation. Staring me in the face was a page-long list of cons about the person, and literally five items in the “pro” column. Instead of dwelling on the rejection, I re-doubled my efforts to strengthen other connections and for the first time in my life, I felt closure quickly.
I choose resilience and self-improvement over tearing my own self-esteem apart, and I hope you do the same.