I need to talk about something I’ve been dealing with for quite some time. It’s something every single person has dealt with at some point in their lives. It can be insistent - eroding one’s self esteem subtly - until that once solid sense of self is broken down to dust. It can also come in like a strong blow to the shin, crippling the most confident of individuals, leaving them in shock and wondering what they did wrong.
This thing is rejection.
To be completely honest, I am used to the sting of rejection. The career path I chose is going to be littered with rejection in all of it’s horrible forms. But right now, rejection seems to be favoring me, because I just cannot seem to win.
*Caveat* Please do not read this as a rant post about the woes and sorrows of my life. I am writing this to bring exposure to the fact that this is a common theme everyone’s life, and yeah, it sucks.
From being waitlisted and ultimately rejected from my dream school last year, to a woman refusing to accept my business card at a networking event, (really though, why?? it’s a 2x3 piece of pretty cardboard you could throw in the garbage after a week of it attracting dirt and forgotten food at the bottom of your bag) rejection has found me at the worst possible times and managed to rub a little more salt in the figurative wound.
So we’ve all experienced this, but why does it hurt so bad?
Well.. according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a 2010 study shows that when an individual recalls an instance of social rejection, the area of the brain which registers physical pain is affected. In other words, when one feels or recalls rejection, the brain acknowledges that as physical pain.
TED.com explains that this reaction is due to our own species’ evolutionary process. This feeling of rejection was actually a defense mechanism back when hunter-gatherers could not survive without tribes. When our ancestors felt this pang of social rejection from the rest of their tribe, they would adjust their behavior in order to remain part of the group.
Essentially, the more pain (rejection!!!) the individual felt, the better chance of survival.
The initial pain of rejection - explained.
But the real problem with rejection isn’t the initial pain and embarrassment one feels from the incident; it’s the bitterness that slowly sets in after the fact.
With rejection comes bitterness that will root itself in uncertainty and self-doubt. Bitterness disguises itself as self-depreciative humor and cool cynicism.These traits may not seem dangerous at first, because that type of humor is applauded (and easy), and cynicism is praised (and easy), but bitterness is destructive to motivation and confidence.
Like I said earlier, I struggle with rejection everyday. Sometimes I let bitterness take over because it’s easy and self-pity feels good - temporarily. No, I don’t know the answers to overcoming rejection, but I do know that I feel significantly better if I get fresh air, write, call someone I love, and keep pushing forward.
You got this.