Remember the pain of being bullied, turned down for a date, not picked for a team, lied to or losing a job? Acceptance is a basic human need, when denied it’s perceived as rejection - and rejection knows no bounds. They invade all interpersonal relationships communicating a sense of not being valued which causes pain and anger.
The Psychology of Rejection
Why does rejection hurt so much? The answer lies in our evolutionary past.
Racism is rejection. For African Americans rejection has been passed down for generations through recalling the Jim Crow Laws of the American South which actually impact people physically: When members of the same race reject each other blood pressure increases.
When the opposite race rejects an increased rise in cardiac distress occurs in a response to a threat. High blood pressure leads to cardiovascular disease, which plagues the African American Community.
"Everyone fears rejection."
- Derek Jeter, NY Yankees
Ask yourself "What’s going on with a person or group who needs to feel better by making others feel worse?" The more you accept rejection the more you get it. The more you project self-acceptance the more you will get it in return.
Violence is rejection. A Surgeon General report stated that rejection was a greater risk for adolescent violence than drugs, poverty, or gang membership. Untreated, the painful feelings remain as anger beneath the surface. Repressed feelings can explode onto innocent bystanders as evidenced by riots, school shootings, violence against women and a list of fired employees going “postal” linking rejection and aggression.
Homophobia is rejection. In the Gay Community “coming out of the closet” means fear of rejection for sexual orientation which forces some people to hide from the world creating isolation, anxiety, and depression creating thoughts of being an accident at birth, that he or she is a lesser human being.
Self-hate is rejection. When the same external rejection is internalized it becomes the ultimate form of rejection against oneself.
This vicious cycle of self-imposed pain is intensified when people repeat the same rejections in their minds. Self-talk screams unannounced, worthless, different and unlovable.
Humans are social animals. Being rejected from our social group in our pre-civilized past meant losing access to food, protection, and mating partners, making it a death sentence. To survive, our brains developed an early-warning rejection alert system by triggering sharp emotional pain that feels the same as physical pain.
Ruminating is an addictive maladaptive form of self-reflection coloring all aspects of life driving people to self-medicate through drugs and alcohol to manage the distressing feelings, which can lead to the ultimate self-rejection: suicide.
Rejection knows no bounds whether the source is race, religion, physical appearance or ethnic origin. Just as social inclusion through positive relationships fosters growth, social exclusion engenders distress.
Catching oneself engaging in it can break the vicious cycle. Find ways to distract from the negative thoughts and self-talk by not reinforcing its allure and the cycle will diminish.
Building resilience helps change thinking. Ask yourself "What if the rejection never happened? What kind of person would I be in that case?"
Begin by making a list of qualities you know make you valuable.
Remind yourself when the negativity creeps in that you are loved and you have worth. Remind yourself that rejection isn’t always about you.