Rejection. Everyone has experienced it in different measures and in different ways. Rejection. That “slap on the cheek” feeling. The gut wrenching, heart breaking feeling. Maybe you remember your first taste of rejection; being picked last in gym class, not getting into the school you wanted, being turned down for a job. Maybe your first taste of rejection came at home or on the playground. Maybe you felt the sting of rejection from a romantic relationship, or the dream of one.
Wherever our journey with rejection started, the fact is that it hurts. Rejection has, literally, a physical effect on us. Research at the University of Amsterdam1 found that unexpected social rejection is associated with a significant response of the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is responsible for, basically, the opposite of the “fight or flight” mode of our systems. Research shows that rejection, and especially unexpected rejection, trigger a dramatic drop in heart rate. This brings a little more validity to the description of the feeling of “heartbreak”.
Rejection is also painful because we feel that it is criticism of some aspect of who we are. It doesn’t take very many experiences with rejection for us to build up a fear of it. It is at this point that we can either let our fear of rejection, and the feelings that come with it, take control of us or we can take control of our fear.
Rejection, at its core, is criticism of what we do or who we are. The reality is that you and I will not always measure up to the standards that others, or even ourselves, set for us. We won’t always be “good enough”. We will experience criticism and rejection.
So how do we confront rejection? How do we use it constructively, rather than let it control our lives? We need to take the focus off of ourselves and we need to remember what is true. Often we are looking for praise and acceptance from others who often need it just as badly as we do. We need to realize the truth, that we are not perfect. That God does not expect us to be perfect, but He does love us unconditionally and offers us unending acceptance.
If your life is currently controlled by the fear of rejection, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted friend, a counselor or a pastor for help. You do not need to live that way!
1 Bregtje Gunther Moor, Eveline A. Crone, Maurits W. van der Molen. The Heartbrake of Social Rejection: Heart Rate Deceleration in Response to Unexpected Peer Rejection. Psychological Science, 2010; DOI:10.1177/0956797610379236