did I get so emotional and angry over certain situations and react with
an internal reaction that became my own Hiroshima time and again?
Things that some people would just shrug off became situations that
would crush and devastate me.
One day a label for the issue came to me. Summed up in one neat
little word, it was a messy package to unpack: Rejection. I had major
rejection buttons, easily pushed and resulting in long-term effects
whenever someone got to them. Rejection was playing a huge role in my
As I became aware of this issue in my life, and my responses to it, I
started to become acutely aware of it in other people’s lives as well.
I noticed that many of the situations that resulted in anger and
annoyance, withdrawal and hurt, could actually be traced back to that
one word: Rejection.
What does rejection look like?
Sometimes it’s blatant and there is no question that it has just taken place. Other times, it appears in more subtle forms…
It’s the cashier in the store who treats you like you’re stupid and a complete inconvenience.
It’s your husband not listening to what you’re really saying and then critiquing anything he does happen to catch.
It’s a person leaving a nasty comment on your blog because they don’t like something you’ve written.
It’s a Facebook status that passively-aggressively attacks you.
It’s the family member who you hear is talking badly about you, your husband, and your children behind your back.
It’s the woman who looks you up and down with a snotty look on her
face, as if to say, “I wouldn’t dare look like that in public!”
It’s the teenager who screams at you, “I hate you! I wish you were dead!”
It’s being single at the age of thirty, wondering why no guy seems to
want to make you his wife, and the person who talks to you
oh-so-politely, but then lights up as soon as another person walks into
the room and walks away, leaving your conversation hanging.
It comes in the form of a parent who left you for a new life when you
were a teen, the spouse who had an affair with a co-worker, and the
friend who stopped returning phone calls. It shows up in the snub at
church, the backstab, and the missing invite to a wedding.
Whatever from rejection takes, it ussally hits our hearts with deep
impact and can result in heart wounds that may take a long time to heal.
Sadly, our reactions to rejection can be just as damaging as the
initial rejection itself.
These initial reactions usually involve anger: “Gosh, what a witch
she is!” we’ll say, “I’m better off without her in my life. Who needs a
friend like that anyways!”
Some people with rejection issues belittle people constantly, finding
fault with them and their lives. They always point out what is “wrong”
with people, even, at times, confronting them on issues that don’t even
There are the people who respond to rejection by just being plain
nasty. As soon as a rejection button gets pushed, their emotions are out
of control. They are writing nasty things on their blogs about the
people that hurt them, engaging in email wars, and blazing a trail with
phone calls and letters about the person and situation at hand.
Rejection raises the battle flag and woe to any bystanders that happen
to get caught in the crossfire!
Still others attempt to control. They try to control people and
circumstances in an effort to keep rejection from happening to them
again. They control by being aggressive so that others are too afraid to
be honest with them. They control by having to be involved in every
possible situation, so they can ensure that no one is talking about them
behind their backs. They try to control by emotionally punishing those
And then, there are those of us that run away. We withdraw. We shut
off our hearts. We convince ourselves that our personalities just prefer
to be alone and that people annoy us. ”I’m an introvert. I need my
space,” we tell ourselves and others. While some of that may be entirely
true, we also use that introvert personality to avoid all social
situations that could possibly bring about rejection. We hide in our
safe cave at home and interact with others very rarely. No socializing
means very little potential for rejection, and that is the safest way to
live –- or so we think.
We usually respond to rejection with hate and anger. After all, isn’t
anger much easier to deal with than actual hurt? Hurt makes your
physical heart skip a beat and even produces a physical pain in your
chest. Anger — that’s just safer to feel. We write the other person off
as a jerk and the more people we can get to agree with us, the better we
will feel about what that person did to us. The crazy thing is, often
it’s major rejection issues in the other person that made them act the
way they did in the first place. Their rejection caused them to do
something to us, that resulted in our rejection. It’s a vicious cycle.
However, rejection carries many emotions with it besides anger:
“Invalidation”, “unworthiness”, “unloveable”, “inadequate”, “unwanted”,
“stupid”, “loser”, “can’t do anything right”, “always the one wrong” –-
we can all insert our own things in there. Although we initially react
with anger, the truth is that underneath the anger is a deep hurt.
Rejection can cast a dark shadow on our day and make all of life feel
very wrong. It’s a horrible feeling.
One of the things I’ve learned about this issue in my own life is to
first recognize it for what it is. Too often in the past I would react
in some of the ways I mentioned above out of anger instead of stopping
to look at just exactly what was taking place.
For example, I would feel immediate anger about a comment left on my
blog and then proceed to write about what was said, both defending
myself and belittling the commenter, for days on end.
For real life rejections I would immediately go inside of myself and
say, “People are jerks and I’m done with them! That’s it! I’m just
keeping to my own little world!” And then I would stew over the
situations for days on end. My emotions would be in an uproar, but I
wouldn’t understand why.
Now, I’m able to define it. I’m able to say, “OK, that person’s
comment pushed my rejection button and I feel hurt right now. I’m also
experiencing those old failure, I’m-nothing-but-a-loser feelings as
well.” Just defining exactly what I’m feeling instead of reacting with
pure anger helps in some unexplained way.
I’m also learning to stop and ask myself, was that person treating me
that way because they felt rejected themselves? Going back to the blog
–- did they leave a nasty comment on mine because somehow, something I
said made them feel as if I rejected a viewpoint they hold to?
Now, not everyone is nasty to us because we have unintentionally made
them feel rejected. However, many times, in friendships, especially
between women, the nastier a fight gets, the more rejection is probably
being felt on both sides. The trouble is, again, that neither person can
label their feelings as rejection. Instead, they just react with anger,
which leads to actions that, in turn, lead to more feelings of
Defining the feeling of rejection and understanding the other
person’s possible feelings of rejection can go far in diffusing the
situations that result.
I have also learned, and continue to learn, to examine my unhealthy
responses to being rejected. Going off on my blog about the person who
hurt me usually just leads to more rejection in the end, as people “stop
by” and defend the person that hurt me in the first place -– usually
attacking me in the process. I am learning that silence and a refusal to
take a person’s bait, no matter how badly I want to respond, is one of
the best things I can do in an effort to protect myself from further
When we are rejected, as tempting as it is to lash out, attempt to
control, withdraw, or hurt back, the healthiest thing we can do is
acknowledge our rejection and then respond with the opposite reaction.
Keep silent, relinquish all attempts at control, continue to engage
people, and even pray for those that have hurt us.
Lastly, I have learned to embrace truth. Sometimes, no matter how
cruel a person is, there will be a grain of truth in what they say to us
and about us. As painful as it is, it is beneficial to examine what is
true and what is not. If any truth exists, then it is up to us to
acknowledge that truth to ourselves and to set about making it right in
our lives. A feeling of confidence and well-being comes with the
maturity of being able to admit when and where we are wrong, and doing
something about it. The individual may have meant to hurt us, but what
they did instead was help us become an even better person in the end.
For the other 90% of what a person has said that isn’t true, that is
what we have to let go of and not rehash in our minds. Instead of
focusing on the lies that their actions tend to raise in our hearts
(those feelings of being unloveable, undersireable, etc.), we need to
focus on truth, such as that we are worthy of being loved, we aren’t
failures, and we are worth more than what that person has done to us.
It’s easy to let the lies take over, but it’s those lies that make
the rejection button even more easily pushed. Building up our own
self-worth is what will help us overcome rejection when it happens
instead of responding in a way that sets us up for even more rejection.
The way we build up our self-worth is to rehearse truth about ourselves,
I have come far in my journey of rejection issues, but I still have a
ways to go. I don’t withdraw and hide for months on end anymore when
I’m rejected, though I do still get hurt and want to run away. Other
times I want to run at the mouth and try to defend myself, getting
everyone to see my side of a situation. But I’m learning not to do any
of these things. Instead, I’m learning to call it what it is, respond in
a healthy way, and move on with my life.
Rejection is inevitable. How we respond to it doesn’t have to be.