In my last blog I talked about how our need, as social animals living in groups, motivates us to avoid rejection and to seek acceptance. And, when rejection does occur, how we are differentially affected. Some of us experience strong responses to being rejected becoming emotional, even hostile, or emotionally withdrawn and depressed. Others amongst us take it more calmly and rationalise it as part of life’s ups and downs.
In this, my final discussion on rejection, I give some ideas about how we can deal with rejection and move forward in a more positive and healthy frame of mind. I will be specifically focusing on improvement strategies related to our levels of self-esteem and our emotional sensitivity to rejection; both of which I identified in my last blog, as factors that differentiate our individual reaction to rejection.
Increasing our self-esteem:
Recent neuro-scientific evidence[i] has found that individuals with higher levels of self-esteem seemed to be more resilient to the psychological distress caused by rejection and that positive self-esteem acted as an emotional buffer to the rejection experience. So how do we increase our self-esteem?
Top tips for increasing Self-Esteem;
v Having good self-esteem is synonymous with self-acceptance; accepting yourself the way you are, without judgement. It does not mean that you can’t be better, more successful in the future; each of us are a ‘work in progress’. But recognising and accepting weaknesses as well as strengths helps to give us the confidence to be or do better in the future. Start by writing down the positive and negative aspects of yourself, at least ten of each – make it equal. This process by itself will act as a positive affirmation of self-acceptance.
v Avoid any unfair and unnecessary criticism of yourself. When criticism happens challenge yourself on the fairness of the criticism. If it is justified, accept it and use it to help you set goals for yourself - working towards positive and active change rather than ruminating in paralysing negativity.
v Pay attention properly to any nice things that happen to you, celebrate your successes and believe it when individuals compliment you.
v When criticised and rejected use the experience to practice self-acceptance which will in turn weaken the thinking associated with low self-esteem and strengthen positive self-regard.
Reducing the effects of high rejection sensitivity:
Interestingly the research shows that developing an ability to exercise self-control helps to create an emotional buffer to rejection, even for those with high rejection sensitivity[ii] Further research has also shown that when individuals, whose personality predisposes them to experiencing a strong emotional response to rejection, learn a coping strategy which involves a rational thinking style, such as deciding to view the situation from another more positive perspective, their ability to control their emotional response to rejection increases.[iii]
Top Tips in learning how to control our emotions
v Practice Mindfulness and learn, through meditation, how to control your emotions by focusing on ‘the moment’. So rather than engaging with your thoughts immediately as they arise in your mind, choose instead not to engage with or let those thoughts run rampant but instead just observe them, let them pass and then decide when you are going to pay attention to those specific thoughts, including those that might worry you.
v Learn about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and then practice a number of different strategies including: reinterpreting the event, (describe the experience (i.e. rejection) in a way that is detached and uses non-emotive language), reappraise the event by seeing any positives in the event, for example viewing it as a learning experience rather than focusing on the negative and catastrophising.
v Put your feelings into words as recent neuro-scientific research[iv] has shown that putting our feelings into words reduce the emotional impact of negative emotional events such as rejection.
We have focused on rejection recently because it is a huge factor that inhibit us from fulfilling our relationship goals. Hopefully, this series of blogs will help you to look at rejection a little differently, fear it less and take steps to build self-esteem and find the relationship you deserve.
[i] Onoda, K., Okamoto, Y., Nakashima. K., Nittono, H., Yoshimura, S., Yamawaki, S., Yamaguchi, s., & Ur, M (2010). Does low self-esteem enhance social pain? The relationship between trait self-esteem and anterior cingulate cortex activation induced by ostracism. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. Dec; 5(4): 385-91.
[ii] Carducci, B. J. (2009). "Basic Processes of Mischel's Cognitive-Affective Perspective: Delay of Gratification and Conditions of Behavioral Consistency". The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 443–4. ISBN 978-1-4051-3635-8.
[iii] Kross, E., & Clasen, P. (2008). Neural Processes in Rejection Sensitivity: Differences in Emotional Appraisal or Control? In F. Erkman (Ed.), Acceptance: The Essence of Peace. Selected Papers from the First International Congress on Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection, (pp. 51-66). Istanbul: Turkish Psychology Association.
[iv] Lieberman, M.D, Eisenberger, N. I., Crockett, M.J., Tom, S. M., Pfeifer, J. H., & Way, B. M.( 2007). Putting Feelings into Words. Psychological Science, 18,(5), 421-428.