The Emotional Reality of Constant Rejection

I recently experienced being ghosted and rejected by several publications. At first, as one would be, I was mortified — defeated, even. I was hurt. I asked all the questions one may ask in the same situation:

What did I do wrong? Is it me? Am I a terrible writer?

Then, I deflected. It couldn’t have been me, could it? I’m not a perfect writer, but I’ve been a writer in various capacities for so many years; how could it be me? I’ve been in {this publication} and {that publication}. Plus, I’ve worked at {big-name publication} where some people could only dream of working for — it must be them!

But then I took a beat; I stepped back and decided to utilize my background in Psychology. Why were these rejections affecting me so much?

I started to reflect within myself and noticed that these rejections — especially those with stock messages — are just like any other. They’re the same as when someone doesn’t invite you to join a group of friends for dinner. They’re the same as when someone doesn’t like your work — creative or otherwise.

The terrible effects of rejection

When someone experiences rejection, their brains will process it in the same way as physical pain. So, no matter how large or how small the act of rejection, it will cause us to “feel” pain.

It is a similar “pain” to that of betrayal or heartbreak. While there are no physical wounds, our brains act as if these emotional wounds are physical — but worse. Where a physical injury you can treat, emotional harm is much more challenging to care for. Sometimes, these emotional wounds can cause various physiological effects.

But, pain isn’t the only reaction that we innately feel when faced with rejection, as noted by this piece on Psychology Today called The Neuroscience of Rejection:

“Our brains, then, react with anger or sadness when we’re being threatened with exclusion, even if the exclusion is from strangers, and even if it is in a virtual world.”

It makes sense. When you hurt someone, they will retaliate in one of two ways: they will “bite back” (anger), or they will “shy away” (sadness). Since our brains input rejection as pain, meaning someone or something has hurt you, the following reaction will be either in anger or in sadness.

Another way that we might retaliate is inwards. Whether we first react in anger or sadness, sometimes we tend to blame ourselves for the hurt. We did something wrong (even if it really didn’t). It’s our fault that we were rejected (even if it really wasn’t). 

Sadly, this is another natural response to rejection.

And hence, why we tend to feel the ways that I mentioned at the beginning of this piece — no matter the circumstance. Why felt that way every time someone rejected my articles.

Is there anything we can do to ease the pain of rejection?

Thankfully, the answer is “yes”. 

Because it’s an innate, mental reaction, there’s nothing we can do to prevent those feelings, but we can do something to lessen the blow and its aftermath. We can start by practicing “Emotional First Aid”.

While the root of the term is unknown, Emotional or Psychological First Aid is an act of self-care applied to oneself or others during a moment of emotional distress. However, successful usage of EMA highly depends on your mental resilience. Fortunately for us, the mere use of EMA will help build up that resilience! 

Here are four simple ways to practice Emotional First Aid:

Stop ignoring your pain 

How many times have you felt a particular negative feeling, only to ignore them? Ask yourself: has it ever actually made you feel better? Or did it only prolong and worsen the pain down the line?

Certain ancient cultures believed in the power of names, and the knowledge of one’s “True Name” gives you complete control over them. You could apply the same feelings. So, rather than ignore the painful emotions, name them. Once you recognize and accept what you’re feeling, then you can work on getting better.

Fight feelings of helplessness

Don’t get me wrong; this definitely is easier said than done. However, the process of overcoming helplessness is relatively straightforward.

Helplessness occurs when we lose control over a situation. The main way to overcome it is to regain that control.

Prevent rumination

Rumination is the process of repeatedly thinking about a thing that causes distress. I can admit that I am guilty of doing this—I mentioned as much at the start of this article. But, what can you do about it?

Studies have shown that distracting yourself for just two minutes is enough to stop the urge to ruminate. The method of distraction doesn’t matter, but try using healthier tools. Rather than default to your TikTok feed, try reading a book, watching a short film, or maybe try your hand at Sudoku.

Practice compassion

There is a quote by the Dalai Lama from the book The Art of Happiness that will forever stick to me:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

We are indeed our own worst enemies, but we don’t have to be. So, be kind to yourself the next time you fail. There will always be a next time, so pick yourself back up and become better prepared for it.

Emotional first aid

Four actions, incredible impact on your mental health. We need to start taking better care of our mental health in the same way we take care of our physical health, if not better.

If you’d like to learn more, here’s a fun TEDx Talk by psychologist Dr. Guy Winch. Here, he speaks about the importance of emotional hygiene and expands the points I provided in the article above:


More From LWOS Life

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