Helpful strategies for avoiding despair.
By Trish Russell
No matter what form it comes in, rejection carries side effects that can throw off our daily routine and derail any progress we have made in our healing journey. Rejection can take away precious moments with loved ones, distract us from performing to the best of our abilities at work, and slowly (or quickly) take over our thought life.
Whether it’s a friendship fizzling out, an opportunity I keep going after, or a job application is rejected, I’ve discovered the symptoms of rejection are the same. The sickness in the pit of my stomach, the aching in my heart, and seeds of doubt echoing in my mind begin to take over my attitude and perspective.
“Why did things go that way?”
“Was there something I could have done differently?”
“What’s wrong with me?”
Only the last two questions are constructive and even then only when we answer with a kind and gracious heart. We can be really tough on ourselves when given the opportunity. Those of us with rewired brains due to trauma can find ourselves in a delicate situation as we process the effects of rejection. For example, at different times rejection has triggered my fight or flight, depression, or anxiety and if I am not proactive I can allow myself to end up in an unhealthy place.
Before we go further, I want to acknowledge the feelings of rejection that can happen over the slightest thing. As examples there are few situations I have found myself in: all the friends in a social group were invited to a baby shower but me and in a group that meets regularly a few people are noticeably closer. Both situations led me to feeling isolated and unwanted.
We have the opportunity to experience rejection often. I’ve come to conclude it’s simply part of the human experience. So how do we proactively navigate life after feeling rejection so that we continue dreaming and living in the world around us?
Here are some strategic ways I fight the side effects of rejection:
- DIG in right where you are today, tomorrow, and the next week. Look around your life and pick three ways to contribute to those already present. Send an encouraging note to a friend, sign up to volunteer for a one-time event, mow the neighbor’s lawn, or surprise someone with seasonal goodies. It’s important to spread this out over a week or two because those whispers of doubt may return after a couple of days. Give back to those you already know and have relationships with. For me these choices are like a soothing balm to the sting.
- DO something you enjoy. After a job application rejection, I went to the gym, read a good book, and connected with dear friends. I needed to remind myself of my value and what I enjoyed doing, and then I had to go do it! I have discovered it is essential to stay active after feeling rejected. Moving my body helps me feel alive.
- DISCOVER an interest, whether it’s from the past or happens to be new. Is there a hobby you are curious about? Maybe a topic you want to explore? Stretch your mind! I learned how to use a new power tool and loved it! Then again, I love tools.
Rejection is never easy to “bounce back” from unless you are conditioned to repeatedly put yourself out there. So my hope today is to provide practical ways to not become “swallowed up” by the side effects of rejection. These are strategies that help me work to feel “neutral” instead of battling a pit of despair in my stomach or letting the whispers of doubt become loud voices. Eventually I move from neutral feelings to joy and connection again.