Raise your hand if you have never heard any of the following lines in one form or another:
- Let’s be friends.
- Unfortunately, we don’t have a position that meets your unique qualifications at this time.
- We regret to inform you that we cannot grant you acceptance to X University.
- You are very talented, and I expect you to do great things…elsewhere.
If you’ve finished reading this list and your hand is raised, please bring it down to face level. Cup your hand to your cheek. Pull it back three to five inches and traveling at an increased velocity slap yourself firmly in the face. Why? If you haven’t experienced rejection, this exercise serves as a simulation of what rejection feels like. Actually, a slap in the face is much more pleasant than rejection. Rejection is more of a swift punch to the solar plexus. But since punching oneself in the solar plexus requires dexterity and the knowledge of the location of your solar plexus, for demonstration purposes you must forgive me for choosing the former.
However, chances are you didn’t raise your hand. I’m willing to bet that if you are reading this article, you are all-too-familiar with that uninvited houseguest. Say hello to your good buddy, Rejection.
Now, what you probably already know about rejection is that he isn’t too shy about showing up at the most inappropriate places and at the most inopportune times.
In fact, some common situations where he loves to drop by include when you are:
- Deeply in love
- Chasing your dreams
- Job hunting
- Starting a new venture
- Pursing your personal projects
- Applying and auditioning
And, God knows this list is not exhaustive. Just when you have filed the restraining order and unlisted your phone number guess who managed to find you? That’s right: Rejection.
Your Old Nemesis: Rejection
Do you remember when you first met that meddlesome stranger? I remember the first time I shook his cold, clammy hand. I can still feel the sweat on my palm. It was summer camp; I was seven. We had to swim across the pool “freestyle” in order to earn a green plastic necklace announcing our admission into the coveted deep end. I thought “freestyle” meant we were free to pick any style we wanted. This is America after all! The style I picked was swimming at the bottom of the pool and not coming up for air. I did not earn the attractive green necklace. Instead, I sported a red one the entire duration of camp. I entered a “highly exclusive” group of non deep-end-goers made up of only two girls, a girl from Honduras and myself. Because she didn’t speak any English, we couldn’t even commiserate about our exclusion.
You probably remember your first encounter with rejection: being picked last in gym class or not getting into the advanced reading or math class in elementary school. Perhaps it came at home or on the playground.
Since a young age we have been tormented by rejection. We have seen rejection crop up at school, at work, in relationships, and in the pursuit of our dreams. Over the years, we have been rejected by significant others, from teams, from programs, from projects, from companies, from roles, from organizations, and from institutions.
Logic would suggest that if we have been confronting rejection since a young age on numerous occasions, over the years we should be experts at getting over rejection by now. We all know this isn’t the case.
Why Does Rejection Hurt Us So Badly?
The honest truth is that rejection sucks. Rejection hurts now and will in the future. (Good on you rejection for at least being consistent.)
The purpose of this article is to build our awareness about why rejection hurts so badly, and why even after years of exposure we are not immune to its pernicious effects. In this article we examine rejection psychologically and evolutionarily, to discover what is happening to us neurologically when we feel rejected and why anthropologically speaking, we are hardwired to fear rejection.
Rejection comes from Latin, meaning thrown back. When we are rejected, we feel not only halted but pushed back in the opposite direction of which we were headed. Now consider this, when rejected, how do we describe the event? We tend to say, “I was rejected.” Notice what is going on here. We are using passive voice. This indicates how we feel about the part we play in rejection. We view ourselves as passive, as being the victim of an action, as inactive, as nonparticipative.
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