The fear of rejection is in our blood. Since the cave-dwelling days, our brains have developed a strong reaction to being rejected because that meant banishment from the tribe, which lead to certain death. Fast forward to now, and rejection is as critical of a force even though the danger we face has changed from banishment to a negative self-worth.
Nowadays we are rejected on a daily basis. Whether it is applying for a job, asking someone out on a date, or pitching a new venture, one thing is for certain; we will face rejection. We understand this fact yet we are dreadful of rejection and act surprised it ever happened in the first place.
Rejection hurts, literally.
The pain we feel when we are rejected activates the same region in our brains as when we are physically hurt. Naomi Eisenberger, Ph.D., at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kipling Williams, Ph.D., at Purdue University, and colleagues through their research discovered that social rejection energizes many of the same brain regions which are also involved in physical pain.
The researchers studied rejection using an fMRI scanner. Using a technique called Cyberball, in which the subject plays a game of catch with two other players online. As the game progresses, the two other players start throwing the ball to each other and exclude the subject. When excluded the subjects displayed increased activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate and the anterior insula, the parts of the brain which show increased activity when we experience pain. The brain seems to handle rejection the same way as when we experience physical pain.
Ways to handle rejection
Accept it and get over it quickly
As soon as you find out about the rejection, accept that it happened and let it go. Get over it quickly and move on. Make it your goal to practice letting go each time you are rejected; it will progressively become easier to handle rejection.
Talk to a friend
Once rejected it is time to find out why. A good friend will give you objective advice and provide you with a different point of view since you’re too close to the action. Share your thoughts with your friend. Letting out some steam also helps to recover and get energized to push forward.
Take pain medicine
Research suggests that rejection and physical pain activate the same regions of the brain. The same researchers also learned that subject who had taken acetaminophen (Tylenol) every day for three consecutive weeks had less activity in the pain-related brain regions when they were rejected as they played Cyberball, in contrast to those taking a placebo. Cyberball is an open-source virtual ball toss game used by researchers when studying rejection and other social exclusionary behavior. 
It’s not always about you.
Let’s say you were rejected for a job. The rejection doesn’t mean it was because of who you are. They don’t know who you are, so don’t take things personally. They could have other plans for which you just aren’t a good fit. There is no reason to get hurt and bemoan when it happens (been there done that). It’s better to find this out early then after having invested too much time and effort.
Get desensitized to rejection
Facing our fears or Exposure therapy as it is known in the Psychotherapy world. In this therapy, you force yourself to be exposed to the very thing you are fearful of.
One great example of this is the 100 Day project by Jason Comely, a freelance IT professional. Jason was down on his luck. His wife had left him which sent him on a downward spiral. Jason realized he was afraid of rejection this whole time, so he came up with a plan to face his fear of rejection by being rejected once every day. He actively sought out opportunities to be rejected. Jason would go up to complete strangers and ask for favors. Usually, they would say no which helped Jason get desensitized to hearing the word no.
By going through this challenge, Jason was able to go from being fearful of rejection to not even caring if the answer was no.
Understand your top qualities
Job searching? Welcome to the world of rejections. Before starting your job search journey, follow the steps below to anchor yourself to understand your strengths so you can ride any wave of rejections that comes your way.
Try this exercise:
Write down the top 5 qualities about you that make you valuable to a company. Think about the qualities you bring to the table. Are you a natural born leader? Are you good at identifying opportunities? Can you build consensus? Brainstorm qualities for 5 minutes and then pick the top five.
Pick one of the qualities and write a few sentences about why this quality is important to you and why it would be perfect for a company. Repeat this for the remaining four qualities.
Job searches take time and can be extremely exhausting because of all the rejection you will face. Going through this exercise will help you see that you are valuable and have a lot that you bring to the table. Keep coming back to this exercise to help you refocus and recharge so you can find the job that is a great fit for you.
Rejection leads to success
I want to share some examples of famous people who have endured rejection. Getting the door shut on them time and time again was not the end of their ideas or careers. They persisted in believing in themselves and succeeded in the end.
JK Rowling’s story is amazing. She was a single mother living on welfare. A dozen publishers rejected her manuscripts but she stayed strong and believed in herself. She finally was able to publish the Harry Potter books and never looked back again. But this was not the end of rejections for her. She tried her hand at writing a crime mystery novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith but was rejected over and over again.
This example should help you realize that rejection never ends. It’s something we have to contend with throughout our lives. Even if we “make” it, there will be plenty of times we will be rejected.
From 2001 to 2006, Katy Perry was dropped from three labels. She persisted by working odd jobs and singing as a backup singer to get to where she wanted to be.
The rejections these people endured helped them keep improving themselves. They didn’t give up in the face of rejection after rejection. They used the rejections as fuel to keep at it and push through. They turned their negative energy into positive outcomes. Would they have been great if they hadn’t gone through all the rejection?
Rejection is a part of our lives. To reach the success we deserve, we need to stop letting it define who we are, the more we live our lives to the fullest by pushing forward till we reach our goals. So stay strong, keep practicing techniques to handle rejection until you find something that works for you.
Now you are well prepared to win the battle against rejection. Rejection will continue to follow you where ever you go but knowing yourself and practicing techniques to handle rejection you can stay focused in the quest to achieve your goals.
Until next time, stay strong.
1. Weir, Kirsten. "The Pain of Social Rejection." Monitor on Psychology. American Psychological Association, 1 Apr. 2012. Web. 29 May 2017.