The R word, uncovered.

Is it just me, or does the “It’s not you it’s me” make your heart beat like a drum and send you into flight mode instantly? If you’ve been there- you know exactly what I’m talking about. The selfdoubting stress cycle, the very real shame of expectation versus reality. Whether from a first date or serious long-term partner, the R word is so terrifying- you can’t even say it out loud to your friend or therapist when you’re seeking advice. But what is so bad about Rejection that makes it hard to acknowledge? And how to Recover from it? Read on to find out.

I don’t get rejected and tell…( but why do I feel so shitty?)
Maybe it’s so hard to say out loud because rejection is so tied to our self worth. When someone says “no”, although they may be saying it to our observed behavior on a given day, our opinions, or merely just because we are just not a good fit for them, it kind of feels like they’re saying no to our identity. This may be connected to over-personalization, activating our inner ego. Although our ‘ego’ is essential to survival, it may actually get in the way if it makes us overly self-centered. Well, sometimes- rejection really is a “its not you it’s them” scenario and it sure might hurt a little less if we were open to accepting that reality.

The world through your (mis)colored glasses
There is no denying rejection is a fairly negative experience- in fact, a study by Eisenberger showed that the kind of pain we experience when we feel socially rejected is not that much different neurologically from the ache when we break a leg. The circuitry responsible for both emotional and physiological pain can be traced back to the anterior cingulate cortex. This being said, our view of the situation might sometimes act as salt to a wound. Scientifically put, cognitive distortions we have about rejection may cause us to make inaccurate attributions as to why we were rejected in the first place- causing anxiety, depression, and/or feelings of negative self worth. Here’s a break down of what might be going through our brain when we hear the R word:

  1. Overgeneralizing – Thinking that this rejection through the lens of our past experiences where we have been rejected, and predicting that we will fall into a pattern and ALWAYS get rejected, often leading to sadness and possibly avoidance of future dating situations.
  2. Labeling – Affiliating a judgement with the rejection experience, and ourselves. For instance thinking that we are “unlovable” and “not good enough” leading to a low self esteem.
  3. Personalization – Blaming ourselves for a situation that might be out of our locus of control. For instance- “I could’ve dressed better “ or “I could’ve spoken more”

R for Recovery
Here are some ways you can get yourself to Rethink your Rejection and maybe even see the
beauty in the breakdown.

  1. REJECTION, (Repeat) – Say it out loud. No one likes being rejected, but isn’t it an inherent part of life? If we think back at the time we got rejected by the job we wanted, the ivy league we wanted in on, the sports team we worked hard to be part of we might recall going through the same pain. And we came out of that, didn’t we? So there’s no evidence we won’t get ourselves out of this cycle. We have everything inside of us to be able to cope already!
  2. Remember when you rejected – Let’s also remember times when we did the rejecting. Along the way there was probably someone who was interested in us that we weren’t interested in pursuing. When we look back at it- was it that they had an innate flaw or more that we didn’t see their personality as a good fit for ours?
  3. Remember who accepts you – Maybe it’s also important to remind ourselves of all the times we have been accepted. By our dream job, partner, social circle. There is likely nothing unlovable about us and the fact that we have in fact had positive interactions and relationships is evidence.
  4. Reframe and Rebuild – Think of this romantic rejection as a tiny stroke in the larger picture. Something that might seem very intense and intolerable right now, but is only a passing cloud. When you’re done processing, ask yourself- what did this experience reveal about the way I thought of myself that I didn’t see before? How can I work on this and capatalize on my strengths either on my own or with a therapist to make sure I am better fortified for the next time I may be rejected

Maybe this experience gets you to rethink if feeling rejected and being rejected is really the same thing after all!