Rejection sucks. This is an disputed fact.
Even if you understand the why of the rejection, even if you agree with the final outcome, but being on the receiving end of a rejection hurts nevertheless.
The ego always feels a little bruised. But the question is why?
Why is the power of rejection so powerful that the feeling alone sometimes would stop us from ever trying again or putting ourselves out there for the time being?
Let me share why I’m even talking about this in the first place. I have recently ventured into the treacherous world of online dating again after a really long time. Inevitably, I went on a date after chatting for some time and the other party wasn’t feeling it – and that’s normal right; I get that dates are a non-committal form of getting to know someone, to assess the chemistry and the compatibility between two parties.
I know there are tons of videos and articles pacifying us and justifying why it ain’t worth it. To quote famous Youtube Dating Coach Matthew Hussey ‘You are not rejected, you are re-directed’ (lol deep). Deep down we understand yeah we won’t appeal to everyone, not everyone is our target audience. Like heck I’m sure we have also rejected others before too. But just because you rationally understand it, doesn’t mean you get the skip the feeling itself. Like upon reading the text, I’m like ah ok that makes sense but I couldn’t help but feel a little of that rejection pangs.
So I’m here to trying to unpack why is it that rejection stings – mostly cause I believe understanding why we feel what we feel is crucial step in self awareness and improvement but I hope you find something useful.
In my humble opinion, I think there are 3 primary reasons why:
- Our biological craving for a sense of belonging
- Our insecurities
- Our expectations
Our biological craving for a sense of belonging
This instinct has kept us alive back in the hunter-gatherer days; those who belonged to a pack would be kept safe from external threats. We are ironic beings – we love being seen as ‘unique’ or standing out, but not so much that we are rejected from the pack. I think this survival instinct has made us inherently people pleasers. Certainly this affects some more than others. But feedback from the pack/others, has always guided our next choice of actions. So when someone rejects us, it feels like negative feedback, it say you don’t belong with me. We are after all social beings.
Our modern day insecurities
Now, add another layer, we all have our own insecurities – be it something that was reinforced in society or our upbringing. Maybe it’s our appearances, maybe it’s our social status, maybe it’s a specific part of our personality. Insecurity is a feeling that we are not enough; a part of us is not enough. Unlike our craving for our sense of belonging, where the rejection is external; the source is internal. We become our own worst critics.
A rejection is never so much of the other person, it’s about you. When you are insecure, the rejection becomes an affirmation that you are not enough. It’s social proof and the fear that you will never be loved again. That’s why our natural reaction is to rehash events in our head, trying to identify what’s wrong. It’s our brains trying to perform post mortem on whether our biggest insecurities has somehow contributed to this outcome. We often make it out about someone else, when it’s more about the stories we tell ourselves and the ideals we want for our lives.
I have noticed that friends who are more confident often respond to rejection in a ‘Oh well, your loss, I know my worth’. This is where a bruised ego comes in. Our ego is our own sense of importance, it’s what we consciously label as our ‘self’. So a rejection feels like an attack. On our ego, the sense of self that we have constructed.
You know the good ol’ saying – if you never expect anything, you never get disappointed. To not have expectations is to be in the NOW, to acknowledge that nothing is certain and that things could pan out very differently. We often times fall for the idea of a person rather than a person itself. Because it’s an idea, we form certain expectations over an idea we have in our heads. I think because we are wired to prefer certainty, we naturally form expectations (some form bigger ones than others), and we’d have to actively quell expectation to not get carried away. So when we expect, rejection hurts twice as hard.
I think rejection will always sting a little, depending on the circumstance but self awareness helps. It helps to understand we are hardwired this way, it’s more about our own narratives, the ideas we concoct about a person and how that impacts our own sense of worth – but hardly ever about the person itself. Know that as with all feelings – this too shall pass and that how much power it holds over us, depends on how much fuel we give to this feeling.
On to the next ! 🙂