Rejection sucks. It is a normal but painful part of life. It can impact your emotional, mental and financial well-being yet we all have to learn to live with it. The sad thing is no one really teaches us how to deal with rejection. Some semblance of comfort in the moment may help, but what happens as we continue to experience all kinds of rejection throughout each part of our lives?
Rejection comes in many forms: romantic, friendship, family, social, academic, career, economic, etc. And our responses can vary greatly depending on the area of our lives the rejection occurs in. We can become incredibly triggered and destructive in one area of life but respond in a healthy and mature way in another. And the way we respond can change over time, especially as rejections build up in one or several areas over many years.
So, how do you know if your rejection response is healthy? Well, here are 6 unhealthy rejection responses and tips on how to change them.
We've all heard of the guys who catcall women on the street then immediately call them a “bitch” when they get ignored or rejected. This is just one form of aggression that can happen after rejection. While men are notorious for this kind of behavior (encouraged by toxic masculinity) anyone can feel angry after being rejected. But it's what you do with that anger that counts.
Some people see rejection as an affront and attack. Their natural reaction is to attack back. This can come in the form of verbal insults or physical violence. They can also retaliate with harassment or threats, or try to ruin the other person's life, relationship, career or peace of mind. The rejectee can also become jealous of the person who does get the thing or person they wanted. Rejection takes away their agency and makes them feel they are not in control of the situation or their life. So they will lash out in an attempt to regain control, sometimes at all costs.
Unfortunately, modern entertainment media has done a great disservice to the men and women of dating age. Much of what movies and television deem cute and endearing is actually quite creepy and intimidating. This along with the “never give up” attitude (also encouraged by toxic masculinity) makes a lot of people see rejection as a challenge. In every facet of life, we need to understand that “no” means “no,” not “I need to change my tactic until that 'no' turns into a 'yes.'” Some people simply ignore the rejection and use it as an opportunity to bargain with the other person and try to convince them to get another shot. People may also object to the merit of the rejection and try to argue and negotiate their way out of it. It's one thing to stick up for yourself or clarify the circumstances. But seeing a rejection like a used car salesman trying to get the other person to buy into you no matter what is not flattering no matter how good you try to make yourself look.
Still others like to pretend they didn't want the thing or person anyway after it is no longer a possibility to have them. These people rewrite history to avoid embarrassment and other negative feelings. It is better to not want someone who doesn't want you, or not get something not worth having, than be the only one who wants the other. Socially speaking, rejection can put someone in a lower position than the coveted person or prize. So instead of feeling less than, these rejectees stand above the others and act like they weren't interested in the first place.
On the more extreme side, some people pretend the rejection never even happened. This could mean the person or prize never gave a response to an expression of interest, or the advance was never made. In more severe cases the person and coveted don't know of each other, or the person or prize doesn't exist. They erase history instead of rewriting it. This is a form of denial and can create a web of lies too difficult to untangle.
We all know people too self-unaware to consider any criticisms or objections to their behavior valid and continue to be the same intolerable person year after year. These people ignore complaints and so don't learn or grow regardless of the number of rejections they receive. They automatically blame the other person for their rejection and don't think there's anything they need to do or change to warrant better treatment or acceptance in the future.
Unfortunately, a lot of us take rejection very hard. Every “no,” no matter how small, adds to the reservoir of self-doubt and self-loathing held by defeated individuals with low-self esteem. Each rejection is a conformation that you're not good enough, will never have, and don't deserve the things you seek: love, success, wealth, accomplishments, validation, acceptance, etc. A lot of value is placed on things outside of ourselves and what others think of us carries far too much weight.
Accept rejection as a part of life. If there are legitimate lessons, learn them. If the criticisms have merit, consider them. Most rejections don't say anything about your value or worth, and will mean nothing in the grand scheme of life. Grow and evolve into a better version of yourself as often as you can. Success and failure, acceptance and rejection will be a part of this process and progress. Be open to rejection. Use it as a tool, don't fear it as a punishment. Let rejection fall away like water off a duck's back. Pick yourself up, shake yourself off, and keep going until you reach your goals.
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