The inevitable truth of life is to come face-to-face with "failure". Rejection is a form of failure that every human is subjected to at least once in their life. It may be in a romantic setting, in the workplace, or in friendships, but the one thing that remains constant about this paradigm is that it causes a certain amount of distress to us.
Human mind is programmed to have a yearning for acceptance, which may be a result of the evolutionary mark of our ancestral legacy as hunter-gatherers and living in groups. It is believed that the psychological impact of being ostracized by the tribe in the primitive time, might be the root cause for the development of fear associated with rejection.
In 2003, Eisenberger and her colleagues conducted a landmark experiment to study the effects of rejection on the human psyche. It was laid out in a social setting, where the subjects were asked to put on virtual-reality headsets and play a game of pass the ball (i.e. CyberBall) with two other cartoon avatars of fellow participants. At one point, the ball was only being passed between the two cartoon avatars, while the subject was completely ignored.
It was discovered in the experiment that rejection stimulates the same neural circuits which are responsible for processing physical injury. It was observed by the scientist in fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans that two of the significant regions of the brain [the anterior insula (AI) and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC)], which are receptive to physical pain, were activated among the people who were excluded while playing CyberBall. And it was also found that the most emotionally distressed among the participants had comparatively more brain activity which is associated with pain.
Rejection can give rise to various emotions such as anger, anxiety, depression, jealousy, and sadness. Furthermore, it can also affect a person's performance on difficult and intellectual tasks. A good example of it is Jane Elliott's famous "blue eyes/brown eyes exercise", where a class of third-graders was divided into two groups based on the color of their eyes. One of the groups was poorly treated and their performance was criticised by Elliott, whilst the other group was praised and were provided with more privileges than the former. The experiment was conducted on a course of two days, where the roles were switched between the two groups. It was found that the groups who were made to feel inferior and were subjected to social rejection, performed very poorly on school works and tests in comparison to the group that was made to feel superior and were not subjected to social rejection.
Moreover, rejection can also lead to aggressive and impulsive behaviors. The Surgeon General of the U.S. had issued a report in 2001 which stated that drugs, poverty, or gang membership are not as great of a risk for violence among adolescents as much as rejection is. The correlation between aggression and rejection is notable in many crimes including school shooting and violence targeted at women and girls. Thus, it is necessary to learn how to properly deal with rejections. Upon coming face to face with a rejection, you can do the following:
Talking to someone
Speaking to someone regarding how you feel can be beneficial in many ways. May it be a friend, family, or even a therapist. It will help you organise your thoughts and feelings into words. Also, if someone has gone through the same experience as you, it can be very reassuring to talk to them. They might be able to give you very useful advice to help you process your emotions.
Do not dwell on the painful emotion that is brought along with rejection. It can feel like an endless loop, where you are stuck. Getting over the rejection might feel impossible. As Eckhart Tolle once said, "whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists". It is important you remind yourself that rejection is a part of life, and so you should not be afraid of it.
Acknowledging your self-worth
Rejection can sometimes cause a person to question their self-worth and put-down themselves by being pessimistic. You should not start blaming yourself and killing your self-esteem. Instead, focus on building up your confidence and reminding yourself that you will succeed in life and you have so much to offer this world. Also, try to distance yourself from individuals who are toxic in nature, and surround yourself with people who will make you feel loved or motivated. Practice self-care and get yourself involved in activities that help you calm down and feel good, such as listening to music, meditating, exercising, or painting.
It is important to learn one thing from rejection: you should never let it stop you from trying to achieve your goals in the future. Rather than feeling upset, you should try to find ways to go forward and see this as an opportunity to learn from the mistakes you made.
It is crucial to treat rejection as an opportunity for making progress as an individual, and in order to do so, acknowledge your faults. However, do not misinterpret self-examination with self-criticism. People are bound to make mistakes but it does not make them inferior to others, it is human nature and we should accept it for what it is.
Sir Winston Churchill once said, and rightly so, that "success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts". Although in its entirety "rejection" is an inevitable course of life and you may feel torn apart by it, you should remind yourself that life goes on and you are not defined by your failures. It is worth remembering that pioneers including Thomas Edison and Walt Disney, who have illuminated the world with their visions, have succeeded in facing and overcoming numerous rejections, including from people who are barely known today.
Fahreen Sultan Labonno is a student at the University of London and a freelance writer. Arafat Reza is an LLB graduate from BPP University, UK.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.