How to Master Rejection
(and Let it Guide You to Be Fully Alive)
ShoomKloom Editorial Staff
This morning, right before my sales pitch, I saw myself thinking: ‘I so hate to do this. I feel like an idiot. Like a beggar. Needy and totally obnoxious. Who wants this?‘
I felt worse with each thought:
‘I won’t know what to say. I will mumble, start panicking and be totally blank.
And in the end all I will get is a big: NO! And be rejected again.’
And we all know how it feels like – like shit.
So we all decided that we want nothing to do with rejection. Moreover – we do everything possible to avoid it.
Do you agree?
In this blog I will share with you some (literally) mind blowing tools and techniques on how to master rejection. And even better – to use rejection as your guide to be fully alive.
But first let me share some scientific background and ground breaking research about rejection.
The Science Behind Rejection
Once we had the technical equipment, neuroscience was able to start digging into these questions:
- What happens to the brain when we are rejected?
- Is there a difference between actual and imagined rejection?
- How painful is rejection compared to actual physical pain?
It was time for some answers why most of us are struggling so much with being rejected. (And believe it or not, the ones who don’t admit it are the ones which are struggling the most).
Rejection and physical pain are no different to the brain according to scientists
A neuroimaging study by Naomi I. Eisenberger and colleagues shows the following:
The results from testing exclusion (being strongly rejected as one is being outcast) are paralleling the results of actual experienced physical pain.
Translated: Rejection hurts physically.
These results were supported by a study at the University of Michigan with the following experiment:
Part 1: Relived rejection
People were shown pictures of their ex-partners and they were instructed to relive (think about and feel) the painful rejection they experienced.
Part 2: Physical pain
For that, test subjects had probes put on their forearm so that it could get extremely hot. Simulating a spilled hot coffee.
The results were indistinguishable.
Both, the affective (emotional) part as well as the physical sensation (sensory) part of the brain were affected the same during the test.
Rejection hurts just the same as physical pain does. The brain actually does not differentiate between the two.
Now, is not that astonishing?
The one big difference between rejection and physical pain
There is one more thing you need to know:
Humans are unable to imagine (pre-act) physical pain.
You can try it out now. Imagine your next headache. Does it work?
Your brain will not let you do it.
This is quite huge. We know now that the reactions in our brains are the same whether physical pain or rejection is inflicted on us.
But only rejection is truly imaginable. Humans are capable of reliving and experiencing rejection again and again.
In fact, most of us are experts in imagining the next rejection, such as:
- He will not say yes to the date
- I will not be invited to the party
- They won’t like my latest post
- I will not be chosen for the job
- She will rather meet up with someone else
- They will not like me
just to name a few.
Is there a difference between actual and imagined rejection?
We are able and imagine all those scenarios of being rejected. It is like a movie we are playing in our own heads. And when we do so – it feels absolutely real.
But it does not just feel real.
It came as a surprise to the scientific community. And it might be one for you:
There seems to be actually no difference at all if the rejection was real or imagined. The brain areas suggesting physical and emotional pain responded similar in both situations.
No wonder we all fear and hate rejection.
Rejection gives us the double dose:
We feel pain when we are being rejected AND we feel pain when we imagine or relive being rejected.
That’s worse than physical pain – which we feel once only. And that is, when it is actually happening (like spilling coffee on our arm).
I have always dreaded rejection. I ran away from being rejected as fast as I could.
In fact, I was so fast rejecting others that they didn’t even have a chance to reject me.
So what is the real story behind rejection?
Do you know this?
I reject you before you can reject me.
The question is: whom is rejecting whom?
It started in the sandpit or even earlier. We slowly learned to trick ourselves so that it would not hurt when the other kid does not want to play with us.
In an oversimplified way this is what happened:
We began protecting ourselves by saying what we don’t want (isolate and retreat) or by being pushy in reaching our goals (become agressive). Both of these tactics – these are only the two main ones – are put into place so that we do not (or less) feel the pain of being rejected.
We do it once, twice and before long they turn into habits and a way of being.
That is the point where we don’t even realize any longer that it was and is us who is tricking and rejecting (ourselves) first.
Can you see it?
We start blaming the world for what originally we started to do against ourselves.
The crazy thing is that I didn’t know it. I really thought that I was the one constantly being rejected (mostly by men). That I just wasn’t sexy enough, or too much or whatever story I could come up with.
I didn’t see that in my fear of rejection I was being harsh and unfriendly. I was pushing the people away who just wanted to be close to me.
I played my games (of being a true b*tch) so that nothing and nobody could hurt me. And to top it all, I thought of myself as „poor me“ and got depressed.
That’s pretty mad, right?
The Fear of Rejection in Modern Life – Are We Really at the Mercy of Our Old Reptilian Brain Habits?
With fearing of being excluded, abandoned and not belonging our social animal is triggered deeply.
We simply are fearing that without being part of a group we will not survive.
Here is the reason:
In our past as hunters and gatherers, we were not able to survive alone. So nature did all to make sure we stay close to the tribe. It arranged that social rejection hurts the same as physical pain.
By adopting to the rules and behaving correctly our ancestors avoided getting kicked out. That way they made sure they survived.
Does this behavior still make sense today?
Today, our brains are still telling us the same.
Often this gets translated into: we will not be happy alone (romantic love ideal). But if you look closely, the madness which is happening in relationships would not be happening if underneath there wasn‘t a deeper fear – the fear of survival.
Look at some examples of rejection today:
- He does not want to talk with me
- She never thinks about me
- They totally ignored me
- She did not call me back
- He wants to divorce me
- They gossip about me
Now, ask yourself: Are these survival issues?
For real, even if you do not get the job or are having a divorce. Will you die of this? Will you not be provided for? Not have food, clothing and shelter?
I am not suggesting, these rejections do not hurt.
As seen in the above, science shows us that they actually really do.
But the real question is:
Our fear of rejection, or
Living life to its fullest (which includes being rejected and experiencing pain)?
3 Simple Tools: How to Master Rejection in Your Daily Life
#1: Check it! Is the rejection for real or just in your imagination
Look at how you perceive rejection and check the reality. You can use some of the following questions as a start:
- Am I really being rejected right now or am I imagining things?
- Am I the one who is rejecting?
- Am I making up a story because it fits better?
Check out your story – your thoughts – when you think you are being rejected. Be like a scientist who conquers unknown new territory: your own mind.
Some rejections are real. At times everyone gets rejected. Somebody says „no“ to a date or you do not get that job.
Others are simply in our heads and act as self-fulfilling prophecy.
Starting to see the truth about how your mind is trying to trick you will give you a boost in not wanting to fall for it.
#2: Watch it! Use your real life rejections to see your self judgments
When you get a „No“ – use the time. Have a look at your stories which starting to grow and grow the more you mindf*uck about it.
It can look like that:
- I didn’t get a like from her on my newest profile pic
- What a b*itch
- But what if the picture was not nice
- I should have put another one
- I look a bit fat on this one
- No wonder I don’t get more likes
- I am just ugly no matter what I try
You might think I am joking. But this is what is happening in our heads all the time. And it’s just the start. This list continues on forever and ever.
Have a look and see what are your thoughts from a simple „No“ that someone is saying and where you are ending up with it.
#3: Stop it! Use your capacity to discontinue your thought trail
Now, that you are able to see this jumpy mind of yours (you might find it as funny as I do) – you have a choice.
You can “cut out” all the “follow up” thoughts of the original (rejection) one which there was:
- I didn’t get a like from her on my newest profile pic
That’s it. You simply did not get a like. That’s a fact. Nothing more and nothing less.
Unless you and your mind are making it more with interpretations, self judgments, memories of past rejections or an idea that it will never change.
You can turn it around.
Use the energy which usually goes into the endless list of tag along thoughts into letting your creative juices flow.
Just imagine what space there is when you do not go along with this list and how much energy you have for the things you really want to do.
You will actually have time and energy to do it.
Most important of all: Try it out!
And let us know how it works for you.
Truth is that today I have a choice when making a sales pitch.
I can pick up the phone as a victim of my fear and expectations. Attempting to not get rejected but preparing for the worst.
Like in the old days with the other kids in the sandpit – just with some more wrinkles.
Or, I can pick up the phone without being prepared. I can actually listen to the other person, meet him or her in the conversation.
And then, there is the possibility of me saying what comes out of the moment. I can respond instead of react.
And the call actually becomes a playground for creativity and fun.