Coping with rejection

What is rejection?

There are many forms of rejection, such as the body not accepting a transplanted organ, but social rejection relates to how people isolate themselves from a relationship or interaction socially. A common form of social rejection is, therefore, what happens when someone leaves a romantic relationship for whatever reason. So-called peer rejection is another form when people choose to ignore a prior acquaintance. This is common among schoolchildren, but it also occurs in adulthood. A familial estrangement is also a form of social rejection when members of the same family no longer have anything to do with one another. Being rejected often occurs as a result of a misdemeanour or even a more serious crime. Still, sometimes it comes about for no particular reason other than one individual no longer wishes to carry on being social with another.

 Why does rejection hurt?

In some cases, people who have been rejected have no sense of pain as a result of it. However, it is more common to feel aggrieved at least. This is because being rejected may seem unfair or unwarranted. At heart, though, it is because human beings are social creatures who do not like being isolated. We all think we are skilled at keeping friendships and relationships going even when they are strained. Rejection means such social links have finally snapped, and we might not always like to admit the part we have played in it. Being rejected – for whatever reason – often results in a sense of loss plus feelings of loneliness and anguish. It can even lead to depression in the worst cases.

How can rejection impact on self-esteem?

Even if we have done nothing to lead to being rejected and it has come about unjustifiably, we can blame ourselves anyway. Thinking about what you might have done wrong – even if there is nothing you could have done to change things – can lead to a negative cycle of thinking. This means blaming oneself unfairly which, in turn, makes people think they don't have what it takes to avoid rejection in future. Self-confidence can suffer, as a result, which lowers the esteem of rejected people.

What is rejection sensitivity?

Some psychoanalysts and psychologists have put forward a theory about higher sensitivity to being rejected. Under this theory – first put forward by Karen Horney – certain personality types are more likely to be adversely affected by rejection than others. She suggested people with neuroses are particularly overwhelmed when they are rejected. Others associate such sensitivity with poorly formed social attachments in early life.

How can you deal with rejection?

To begin with, understand that negative emotions are perfectly normal no matter what your underlying personality traits are following rejection. Try to be kind to yourself, and these emotions should pass unless you dwell on them. Focus on affirmative actions you can take, such as paying more attention to the friendships and familial relationships you still maintain. Speak to strangers and spark up new friendships even if this does not come naturally to you.

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