Rejection stings. Who out there doesn’t experience at least some rejection sensitivity? Whether you are expressing romantic feelings to someone, putting a creative project out there, or seeking out a job you really want, it is hard to hear “no.”
But what do Steven Spielberg, Walt Disney, and JK Rowling all have in common?
They each faced immense rejection on the path toward their success.
Spielberg got rejected from film school twice1https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/the-education-of-steven-spielberg-it-didnt-involve-ivy/2019/07/09/9add0470-a262-11e9-b732-41a79c2551bf_story.html before getting accepted and eventually dropping out.
In her quest to publish Harry Potter, Rowling faced rejections from 12 different publishers2https://www.insider.com/revealed-jk-rowlings-original-pitch-for-harry-potter-2017-10#:~:text=The%20novel%20was%20rejected%20by,houses%20before%20Bloomsbury%20accepted%20it.&text=It%20goes%20on%3A%20%22A%20copy,J.K.%20Rowling%20her%20first%20contract.%22 before one agreed.
On his path to turning Disneyland into a magical reality, Disney received a whopping 300 rejections3https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesasquith/2020/12/29/did-you-know-walt-disney-was-rejected-300-times-for-mickey-mouse-and-his-theme-park/?sh=15c249ab4a97 from bankers to finance the project.
If these creators let a “no” stop them, we’d have a world without Harry Potter, Disneyland, and Jurassic Park!
But if you’re especially sensitive to rejection, hearing a “no” can be so painful you avoid it at all costs.
Ultimately, rejection sensitivity can be so stifling that it holds you back from having healthy relationships, a fulfilling career, and an authentic life.
If you’re wondering if you’re rejection sensitive, learn the signs and causes. Then, try some practices to ease you into a life that transcends your rejection sensitivity.
What’s the Difference Between Rejection Sensitivity and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)?
Rejection sensitivity (RS) and rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD) are slightly different from each other.
RSD typically appears in folks with ADHD or autism4https://www.additudemag.com/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria-adhd-emotional-dysregulation/. When people with RSD experience rejection, their emotional dysregulation and nervous system go haywire, and they feel an overwhelming and sometimes unbearable level of emotional pain5https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/24099-rejection-sensitive-dysphoria-rsd. This condition is often discussed with a medical professional.
While RSD doesn’t technically appear in the DSM-56https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria#diagnosis, it is generally recognized as a real condition. If you’d like a diagnosis, you may consider speaking with a mental health professional or psychiatrist to find out more.
For the rest of this post, we’ll just be addressing folks who are impacted by rejection sensitivity, but don’t suffer from RSD.
Signs and Symptoms of Rejection Sensitivity
So how do you know if you experience rejection sensitivity?
Finding Rejection Where It’s Not
Because rejection-sensitive folks are so afraid of rejection, they constantly look for signs of rejection. As a result, they may interpret neutral or even positive social interactions as rejection7https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-35188.8.131.527 and then respond accordingly.
It’s similar to the classic Buddhist adage8https://bulletin.hds.harvard.edu/mistaking-a-stick-for-a-snake/ of going for a walk, seeing a twig in your path, and jumping five feet in the air thinking it’s a snake. Your body and brain are programmed to search for danger and react. For rejection-sensitive people, rejection is like a snake.
Or, in this cat’s case, thinking a banana peel is a killer rat.
More practically, say you’re at a restaurant with a group of friends. Someone gets up to refill their cup of water. You ask them if they could bring you a cup of water as well. Moments later, they return with just their cup and don’t mention your request.
If you are rejection sensitive, you may assume that their friend intentionally did not get you a cup of water. Further, even if your friend insists that they did just forget your water, you might not believe your friend and instead stay committed to your perception of rejection9https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/rejection-sensitivity.
Rejection sensitivity means you have rejection on your awareness10https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-rejection-sensitivity-4682652. You will take note of all the times you experienced rejection rather than the times you experienced acceptance, connection, and belonging.
Reacting Emotionally to Perceived Rejections
There is also a body of research11https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1524838019833005#bibr15-1524838019833005 that suggests that when rejection-sensitive people experience rejection or body language that might signal rejection, they tend to react with more defensiveness, aggression, and hostility than others would.
So in the cup of water example, because the perceived rejection is so painful, you might feel hurt and angry and react accordingly—leaving the restaurant or rebuking your friend in an emotional outburst for leaving their cup empty and your throat dry.
Sensitivity to rejection isn’t just perceptual, either. People high on this trait actually experience rejection differently on a physiological level.
Research indicates12https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17470910701391711 that when rejection-sensitive people see images of disapproving faces, it impacts a part of the brain13https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/dorsal-anterior-cingulate-cortex#:~:text=The%20dorsal%20anterior%20cingulate%20cortex,et%20al.%2C%202017). that has a correlation with self-control, decision-making, and focusing attention more than folks without rejection sensitivity.
Causes of Rejection Sensitivity
Your fear of rejection isn’t random. It’s twofold.
First, the fear of disconnection is an innate human fear. Humans thrive on connection. As children, we need a connection from our parents to survive. And in prehistoric days, as humans were evolving, connection with the tribe also meant survival.
You have a human instinct programmed into your DNA to seek acceptance and connection14https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-are-wired-to-connect/, and to avoid rejection and disconnection.
Second, you may have experienced moments in your childhood or teenage years that left a traumatic imprint in your psyche and left long-lasting beliefs and emotional residue.
Studies show15https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12646-011-0108-8 that rejection sensitivity is linked to the security of the attachment to our parental figures as children. This means that if you had an insecure attachment to an authority figure who was emotionally unavailable or showed neglect or harsh criticism to you, it may have seeded anxious expectations of rejection.
Or possibly you experienced a highly impactful experience of rejection when you were younger — whether bullying, getting picked last in sports, or feeling embarrassed by a teacher.
Whatever your personal history may be — if you experience a sensitivity to rejection, there may have been an event or series of events in your past where you experienced rejection as an acutely painful event.
At a young age, you may have developed strategies to notice rejection cues ahead of time — from parents, teachers, or peers — in an attempt to mitigate them. And you probably went far out of your way to avoid rejection — in fact, you may have developed an entire personality aimed at such.
These strategies may have helped you in childhood to gain approval and acceptance, but as an adult, they are only holding you back from healthy relationships and an empowered and authentic sense of self.
Impact of Having Rejection Sensitivity
Feeling sensitive to rejection means that the pain of rejection hits you hard. And you move through each day bouncing between the intense fear of disconnection and the frustration of feeling stifled from asking for what you want. You may struggle with depression16https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10802-016-0127-y, low self-esteem and constantly feel unwanted, rejected, or disliked.
There’s no doubt this can hurt! And its side effects can manifest in different parts of your life.
You Become a People Pleaser
Many people subconsciously embrace the idea that if they can get other people to like them, they’ll never face rejection and disconnection.
As a result, when they meet someone, they might constantly adjust their behavior and what they share in order to match the other person’s preferences.
This ability can be a gift—for many; it can help them connect quickly and get on someone else’s wavelength.
But if every time you meet someone, you attempt to be like them, you’ll be less yourself. And you might lose track of your own desires and sense of identity. That’s exhausting17https://ccbhc.org/13-ways-to-stop-being-a-people-pleaser/#:~:text=Being%20a%20people%2Dpleaser%20is,difficult%20to%20break%20out%20of..
You Push People Away
When rejection-sensitive people misperceive rejection in a situation, it can create disconnection in their romantic relationships and friendships.
For example, imagine if your partner is on a big work project and is working long hours. If you are looking for signs of rejection, you might assume they are cheating on you.
If you continually bring this up with them and cannot be convinced otherwise, then your fear of rejection may actually erode the trust in your relationship and bring about the disconnection you were so deeply trying to avoid.
You Choose Safety Over Rejection
If you’re afraid of rejection, it might feel safer9https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/rejection-sensitivity to just give up on dating, applying for jobs, or any type of public speaking.
For some, this might mean choosing a life of isolated social withdrawal, sheltering themself from taking any social or personal risks in life.
You Forgo Your Personal Goals
Studies show18https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0092656609001755?via%3Dihub that folks who are sensitive to rejection will readily sacrifice their personal goals in order to try to manage rejections in their life.
Imagine you want to submit your screenplay to a film festival, but you choose not to because you’d rather not face the potential rejection of not getting picked.
Or it might be something even smaller—maybe you’re at the park, and you see a pickup soccer game that you’d love to join, but you choose not to ask to play to avoid them saying no.
If your primary goal in life is to avoid rejection, it means that everything else you care about is secondary. It means your dream career, your ideal partner, and your creative passion are all second to your fear of rejection.
I want you to relate with your fears in a way where you can acknowledge them, even respect them, without feeling ruled by them.
Tips to Overcome Your Own Rejection Sensitivity
Feeling sensitive to rejection is undoubtedly challenging. But there is a way forward! Below are a handful of tips and tactics you can use to overcome your rejection fears.
1. Don’t Assume Rejection, Look for Alternative Explanations
If you are sensitive to rejection, you will look for rejection everywhere, even in places where it doesn’t exist! It is thus useful to question yourself when you think someone is rejecting you.
One easy way to do this is to brainstorm other explanations besides rejection.
For example, let’s say you call your friend, and they don’t pick up the phone. You might immediately assume that your friend screened your call and rejected you. But as soon as you notice that thought, try brainstorming other possibilities.
- My friend is in the middle of a task and can’t take my call
- My friend is actually on another call right now
- My friend’s phone is dead
- My friend is socially spent and needs to recharge their introvert battery
- My friend just bumped into Harry Styles and is amidst a major fanboy moment
When you don’t know what the truth of the situation is, your mind may be magnetized toward the rejection-oriented explanation. But when you notice that happening, take it as a cue to challenge the thought.
2. Instead of Basing Your Self Esteem on How Others View You, Try Attaching Your Self Esteem to Something Intrinsic
When you are too tied up in rejection, your self-esteem18https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0092656609001755?via%3Dihub becomes completely dependent on how others perceive you and fluctuates accordingly. And actually it’d be even more accurate to say that your self-esteem becomes dependent on how you think others perceive you.
If your self-esteem is attached to external factors19https://positivepsychology.com/self-worth/, then you are doomed to feel bad about yourself. A lot. Because external factors aren’t entirely in our control.
But if you can attach your self-esteem and self-worth to internal factors that you have agency around, then you’re in better shape. For example, you could attach your self-esteem to questions like:
- Am I trying to do good in the world?
- Do I have positive intent?
- Am I taking steps to approach the best version of myself?
- Am I trying to create a happy life for myself as best as I know how to?
You are in charge of these questions, so they are a safer bet to place your self-esteem on.
The only thing about all these self-esteem anchors is that they are conditional. Which means “I will only feel good about myself if I _____.” The problem arises if you feel like you’re failing at any of the criteria, then down goes the self-esteem.
Possibly the healthiest version of self-esteem, as posited by Stanford psychiatrist Dr. David Burns, is to make your self-esteem unconditional20https://www.feelinggoodinstitute.com/blog/dr-david-burns-on-treatment-for-low-self-esteem-the-self-esteem-ladder. Which is to “decide you are worthwhile and lovable just because you are human. It is simply a decision you have made to love and accept yourself, just as you might decide to love your child–as a gift, or because your child is hurting and needs your love and comfort, and not because your child has ‘earned’ your love through some accomplishment, like getting A’s in school.”
3. Journal on Rejection
Prompts on Who You Are Beyond Rejection
Sit down with a pen and paper, and journal on the following prompts for a few minutes each:
- If you knew you’d never get rejected again, if people said “yes” to anything you asked for, what would you ask/apply/audition for in your life?
- If you knew the world was going to end in a week, what would you make sure you did, said, or tried before then?
You might use these prompts as a compass to help you tap into what it is you authentically want, beyond your fears.
Prompts on the Fear of Giving Rejections
Next, try writing for a few minutes on this prompt:
- Where in my life do I want to set a boundary with someone but haven’t out of fear?
- Are there social dynamics or interactions that I’m tolerating out of fear of disconnection?
Often when someone is afraid of hearing the word “no,” they are afraid of the underlying social disconnection. For such people, it might be equally scary to say “no” to other people, but as a result, they end up overextending themself and entering into social situations they don’t want to be in.
4. Reframe How You Perceive Rejection
A reframe is when you interpret your circumstances with a different lens or narrative in order to evoke more empowering and constructive thoughts and feelings.
For example, imagine you are a freelancer, and your hours just got cut in half. Your default response may be, “Oh crap! Half my income is gone! This is terrible luck!”
But a reframe could be, “Here is an opportunity for me to practice resourcefulness! And for me to find a client who even better fits my values!”
Same event, different interpretations. Can you see how each interpretation would lead to different emotions, thoughts, and actions taken?
Instead of Assuming People Are Saying “No” to You, Try Assuming They Are Saying “No” to Your Offering
Part of why rejection stings so much is because people assume that their entire personhood is being rejected.
If you audition for a play and don’t make it, you might assume that you, as a human, are unworthy.
However, it’s both more accurate and more empowering to separate the rejection from you and attach it to your offering.
If you don’t get a part in a play, the accurate conclusion is that your 5-minute audition wasn’t a match for what they were looking for.
That’s empowering because it also gives you something to work on. Maybe it means your acting skills could use improvement, or maybe you showed up late and it’s your punctuality you could work on, or maybe you forgot your lines and you need to practice your memory.
When you separate the “no” from yourself, it depersonalizes the “no,” and it gives you an opportunity to improve your offer for next time.
Instead of Thinking Rejection is Distancing You From What You Want, Try Seeing a Rejection as Taking You One Step Closer to What You Want
If you get rejected from something you want, you are actually receiving incredibly valuable information that will bring you closer to your desire.
Let’s say you go on a first date, and afterward they don’t want to go on a second date. You could interpret this as a rejection to your character. Or you could recognize that the thing that you want is a meaningful intimate relationship and that this date was a step in that direction.
Especially if, after the experience, you ask yourself: “What is there for me to learn here?” That question changes any seeming rejection or failure into an opportunity for growth.
Instead of Feeling Beaten Down By Rejection, Try Viewing Rejection as an Opportunity to Practice Cultivating Resilience
As we learned above, JK Rowling faced rejections from twelve different publishers before she could publish Harry Potter.
Sometimes it takes resilience, persistence, and perseverance to get what you want! If you give up at the slightest whiff of rejection, you are cutting yourself off from so much possibility and potential.
Recognize that resilience is a powerful trait that can be trained like a muscle. And each time you receive a rejection, it is actually an opportunity to build that muscle.
Instead of Viewing a Rejection as Causing a Missed Opportunity, Try Viewing Life as a Numbers Game
Sometimes getting a job or finding a good friend is a matter of numbers. How many jobs did you apply to? How many people did you introduce yourself to?
If you recognize that nobody gets every opportunity they go for, then you can actually make it a comparative strength of yours to go for more opportunities than others.
Instead of Calling it “Rejection,” Try Using a Different Word or Phrase Entirely
“Rejection” is a charged word in itself. It is so tied up with feelings of worthiness. Any time you receive a “rejection” try actually using more accurate language.
For example, maybe you didn’t get rejected from the job interview — maybe the interviewer expressed that the experience they were looking for and the experiences you’ve had simply weren’t a match.
5. Shift Your Awareness with an Acceptance Journal
If you are sensitive to rejection, you are filtering your reality through a pair of glasses that over-perceives rejection. You are creating a distorted world where rejection seems far more present than it actually is.
So try this tool to balance your perception.
Make a journal specifically to reflect on all the times you did not experience rejection.
It could be moments where you asked for something and someone said yes. Or moments where someone extended acceptance to you. Or told you they want you around. And definitely record sincere compliments you receive — because people don’t share compliments with people they want to reject from their life.
Start by reflecting on times in recent memory this happened. And every time in the future that such an event happens, jot it down in this journal and write the date.
Then every so often, scan through this journal, and come in touch with the overwhelming and undeniable evidence of all of the acceptance that exists in your world.
The more you do this activity, your perception will change, and you will naturally start to tune into all the places in your life where you are not being rejected and, in fact, where others desire your company.
6. Expose Yourself to Rejection
Exposure therapy21https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/exposure-therapy is a psychological technique used to overcome fears and phobias. It is fairly simple — you expose yourself to the object you are afraid of repetitively until the fear response subsides and you form more realistic beliefs about the object.
The idea is that usually if you’re afraid of something, you avoid that stimulus—or if you happen to encounter it you get away as soon as possible. But with exposure therapy, you actually stick around with the stimulus and allow your anxious body reaction to settle on its own in the face of the stimulus, and over time the emotional reactions subside.
Here’s a video where this bee-phobic doctor demonstrates exposure therapy using bees as his stimuli.
Below are two ways to practice exposing yourself to rejection.
Rejection Role Play
In this activity, you’ll practice hearing rejecting phrases from a friend in a safe container while focusing on your body sensations. Just follow the steps below.
- Write out 5 rejection phrases or scenarios of differing intensity, and score them from 0 to 100 (where 0 is very mild feelings and 100 is the most intense rejection experience that could happen).
- A 10 might be “I am at Starbucks and I ask the barista for soy milk, but they say they only have dairy milk.”
- A 90 might be you ask your boss for a raise and they say no. Or simply hearing the words “I reject you.”
- Pick a friend who feels safe and trustworthy, and give them your rejection phrases.
- Sit with your friend, and see if you can place your awareness on your body. Notice what you’re feeling.
- Go through each phrase with your partner very slowly. Have them say the rejection phrase while you are noticing your body. After you hear it, state aloud how intense it was to hear the phrase (from 0-100) and share what sensations you notice in your body. Then just sit with your body sensations for a few moments.
- Then pause and imagine a situation where you felt very safe and notice the body sensations of safety. And then toggle back and forth between the safety state and the rejection phrase.
- Once the emotional intensity lowers, have them repeat the phrase again. Keep going until the phrase doesn’t impact you much at all.
Start with the mildest phrases/scenarios. And once you get comfortable hearing the phrase, try the spicer ones. If anything ever feels too intense, take a step back from the activity, take some deep breaths, and just imagine a situation where you felt safe.
This exercise also uses principles from the therapeutic modality of Somatic Experiencing, wherein allowing yourself to experience the sensation of trauma in small doses, and in tandem with more “resourced” states, can actually allow you to slowly release and integrate the “stuck energy” of the trauma in your body.
30 Days of Rejection Challenge
Jia Jang gave a viral Ted Talk about something he dubs “Rejection Therapy.” An idea he originally got from Jason Comely.
For 100 days straight, Jia actually sought out a rejection once per day. His challenges ranged from asking a stranger for $100, to asking to play soccer in someone’s backyard, to asking a university professor if he could guest-teach a class.
In his own journey, he learned and grew from each ask he made. One thing he was shocked to discover was that he heard “yes” a lot more than he expected!
If you do choose to take on this as a 30-day challenge, it may be helpful to write your 30 ideas out ahead of time and to start with easier rejections, and make them gradually bigger.
By the end, the sting will be taken out of your relationship with rejection. You’ll experience rejection 30 times, and none of them will kill you. I’ve actually tried this myself and can attest that it was empowering, liberating, and quite fun.
7. Work with Your Limiting Beliefs on Rejection
To understand the idea of a limiting belief, let’s start with an old allegory about a baby elephant. When the elephant is just a calf, a human ties a 10-foot rope around its neck, and fastens it to a post. No matter how hard the elephant tries, it is not strong enough to break the rope, so it remains living within a 10-foot radius. Eventually, it just stops trying, because it knows the effort is futile.
Fast forward 30 years, and that baby elephant has now become a massive 10,000-pound adult elephant with fearsome tusks and legs like tree trunks. However, the elephant learned long ago that it couldn’t move 10 feet from the post. It still carries that belief, remaining forever stuck, despite its physical ability to uproot that puny post.
Limiting beliefs is just like this. They are outdated beliefs about yourself or the world that once served you but now hold you back. Or, as a psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor John Sharp22https://ideas.ted.com/what-old-story-about-yourself-are-you-still-believing-heres-how-to-find-it-and-change-it/ put it: “the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are and how everything always plays out.”
A few examples of limiting beliefs23https://markmanson.net/limiting-beliefs could be:
- “I can’t talk to them because they would feel annoyed that I interrupted them”
- “I can’t apply for that job because I’m not smart enough”
- “I’m short, and taller people make more money, so there’s no point in trying for the promotion.”
- “There’s no point in dating because all the good people are already taken”
Does any of these sound vaguely familiar? And can you see how believing any of these to be true would spur further negative self-talk and create a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Let’s see if you have any limiting beliefs around rejection, and we can help you take the steps to view yourself and the world differently.
Step 1: Explore Your Rejection Sensitivity Triggers in the Moment
The best way to do this is to track your rejection triggers.
Over the next week, any time you feel that internal ping around rejection — from an actual rejection, a perceived rejection, or a fear of rejection — jot it down in this table. Below is also an example of something you might write down in each column:
|Trigger Event||Thoughts that Came Up at the Trigger||Feelings||Potency of feeling (1-10)|
|Eric didn’t wish me a happy birthday||Why did he forget about me? He probably doesn’t actually care about me or our friendship. He probably wants to end our friendship because he doesn’t actually like me. Nobody does||Anxiety hurt||8|
Step 2: Discover Your Underlying Beliefs Around Rejection
Next, let’s uncover what limiting beliefs are underpinning your thoughts and emotional responses.
After your week of notes, reflect on what you noticed, and fish out any thoughts that made multiple appearances, especially with high emotional poignancy.
Then see if you can home in on the belief about yourself or life that underpins all the thoughts.
If you’re not sure what the underlying belief is, see if any of the following sentences fit. And if none of them do, no need to force it 🙂
I’m not good at _______________________________________.
I always _______________________________________.
I’m just not the type of person who ________________________________.
I’m not very _______________________________________.
Here are some common beliefs that people with rejection and social anxiety tend to hold:
- I am not lovable
- I am inadequate
- I am powerless
- I am not deserving
- I am a failure
- I am not good enough
- I am a burden
- I am not important
- I am a victim
- I am alone
Once you’ve found a belief that feels core to your rejection, bring it to step 3.
Step 3: Question Your Belief
Questioning the belief starts to loosen the grip it holds over you.
Let’s take the belief: “I am unlovable.”
Try reflecting on these four questions, borrowed from Byron Katie’s process24https://thework.com/2017/10/four-liberating-questions/.
- Is the belief true?
- Can I absolutely know that the belief is true without a shadow of a doubt?
- How do I feel and react when I believe the thought, “I am unlovable?”
- Who am I without the belief that “I am unlovable?” What does it feel like?
Notice how just going through these questions starts to jostle lose the beliefs that you’ve held for so long.
Step 4: Inquire How that Belief Has Served You
Our beliefs come about at some point because they helped us at a particular time — but they might stick around past their due date.
In the example of our elephant friend — believing that it couldn’t break the rope as a calf helped spare the itself from endless strain and struggle.
Similarly, maybe you developed the belief that you were unlovable to help make sense of a tumultuous childhood where your parents were never present. This belief may have helped you avoid situations that would have summoned the pain of abandonment and rejection as a child.
Going through this process can actually extend compassion to yourself for developing your limiting beliefs to help you survive. And seeing the belief was written in a child’s handwriting can also help you step back to update it.
Step 5: Replace that Belief with an Empowering Alternative
Now that you’ve found the belief you want to tinker with, brainstorm some alternatives.
What are some beliefs that are the opposite of the belief in question? Where the existence of this new belief would negate the old one. Feel free to get creative with these.
For example, we could replace the belief “I am unlovable” with:
- I am loveable, just as I am
- I love myself
- All humans are innately loveable, and that includes me!
- I am worthy of love
- There is so much to love about me
- I deserve love and connection
- I am loveable, and people want to be friends with me
- I’m a catch!
- I am capable of building meaningful connections with others
- I am worthy of connection
- I am desirable
Once you’ve brainstormed a handful of replacement beliefs, take a moment and reflect if any feelings of possibility have opened up. There are so many ways to perceive oneself, and you’ve just listed off a bunch!
Now pick the belief that feels the best to you. That makes you feel the most whole.
Then write out evidence as to why this belief is true.
“I know I am loveable because all humans are innately loveable. Just think about kids. Who couldn’t love a kid? And I’m like that too. I also know I’m loveable because Jane really cares about me. She loves me, so I must be loveable.”
Writing out this proof will start to rewire your brain accordingly.
Step 6: Use this New Belief as Your Secret Weapon
Now that you have your belief, try writing it down. Maybe even draw it on a piece of paper. Read it a few times, and notice what it feels like. Soak it in. Put it on your wall or desk as a reminder. Toss it in your mental crockpot to stew.
And the next time you feel a ping of rejection, you can create a habit trigger25https://jamesclear.com/habit-triggers to bring up this new belief.
In no time, you’ll be like the adult elephant who sees their power, snaps the rope, and marches away from that measly post.
8. Heal Old Wounds
There are several therapy modalities26https://ifs-institute.com/store/152 that use some form of inner child healing27https://positivepsychology.com/inner-child-healing/ to help resolve painful experiences from our past. While there is no replacement for working with trained counselors, we can use principles of inner-child healing to help soften some of our wounds around rejection.
This process is fairly advanced and requires that you are able to reliably find a voice of compassion within yourself. But if you feel up for it, give it a go!
Step 1: Find the Memory
Take a moment to reflect on some of your early and painful experiences of rejection.
Just let your mind become like a photo album of memories and flit through the pages. If any memory is too intense and painful, it may be best to work with a professional.
But if you do find a rejection-related memory that is manageable, then move to step 2.
Step 2: Detail the Memory
Go back into the memory. Where were you? What was the room like? Who else was there? What did you see, smell, and hear?
Then just let the memory play out in as much detail as you can summon. And notice in the memory what the moment of rejection was and how the child-you felt hurt and rejected. Let yourself feel those feelings.
Step 3: Send Compassion to the Child
This hurt child lives somewhere in your memory and carries both emotional pain and beliefs about how the world works. If you can help give feelings of safety and love to that inner child, you may begin to let go of old feelings and viewpoints you’ve been carrying around.
If you are able to find a part of yourself that feels loving, kind, and compassionate, bring that loving part into connection with the hurt child.
Then just envision this compassionate part entering into the memory, and allow this part to connect lovingly with the child. Ask the child what they want to say. How do they feel? Is there anything they want or need?
Simply imagine connecting with the child with as much love and compassion as you can.
If they want a hug, give it to them. If they want space because they’re scared, honor that. It could be powerful to share phrases like “I love you,” or “You are loved” or “I accept you fully.” Things you wish you heard when you were younger but did not.
As you’re going through it can be helpful to notice your feelings and express them.
If this visualization process feels difficult or too abstract, you can also try writing a letter from your compassionate adult self to the hurt child self from memory and then back again.
This process isn’t a one-and-done. It’s compounding, and you can return to it as much as you like.
Highlights on How to Deal with Rejection Sensitivity
We all experience rejection, and it’s normal for it to hurt. But if you do feel like your sensitivity to rejection is holding you back, there is a path forward for you.
Start by trying these tips:
- When you notice yourself assuming that someone is rejecting you, brainstorm alternative possibilities of what’s going on in their head.
- Don’t base your self-esteem on what others think of you; base it on something internal or unconditional.
- Journal on the following inquiries:
- What would I go for in life if I couldn’t get rejected?
- Am I also afraid of rejecting others? Why?
- Reframe your rejections. Choose to reinterpret your rejections with any of the following reframes:
- Separate yourself from your offering
- Recognize that rejection is moving you closer to your goals and desires
- When rejection arises, use it to practice resilience
- Don’t describe your experiences as “getting rejected,” use a different descriptor like: “it wasn’t a good fit”
- Look at life as a numbers game, and see if you can make it a strength of yours to go for it more than others
- Shift your awareness from looking for rejection to looking for connection/acceptance.
- Start a journal where you track these moments
- Practice getting rejected.
- Creating a rejection role-play container with a friend
- Do a 30-day rejection challenge
- Explore your beliefs related to rejection. To do this:
- Track your rejection triggers for a week
- Look for patterns in your thoughts in the moments of rejection. Look for underlying beliefs you hold about yourself or the world
- Question these beliefs
- Explore how this belief served you when you were younger
- Replace the belief with an empowering alternative
- Return to this new belief whenever you feel the old pains of rejection
- Go back into old memories of being rejected, and see if you can offer compassion to your child-self.
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