Why Does Rejection Hurt So Much? Here's Why It's So Painful, According To Experts
After public speaking, being rejected is universally one of our greatest fears. (It might actually even be the reason why public speaking is so scary.) Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and not knowing how what you are putting out there will be received is nerve-racking. If people don't like those deepest parts of who we are, it can be a huge blow to our ego. And that's just in everyday, platonic relationships. When dealing with romantic partners, it can feel way harsher, and for good reason: A lot of not-so-great stuff happens to your body when you get rejected.
Science backs up the distress. According to Mic, studies show that the brain registers rejection in the same way it does physical pain, and that under major stress (like that caused by rejection), heart muscles can weaken. Apparently, our evolutionary past explains this intense pain: If someone was outcast from a group, it severely lowered their chances of survival. In other words, being a weak link could have lead to a shorter life. Guys, that's seriously horrifying stuff.
Of course, we aren't cavemen anymore (most of us, anyway), and rejection doesn't equate to life-or-death scenarios usually. So why do we still hate it so much? While you know how bad rejection feels, here's what is actually going on, according to experts, that makes you cringe.
Stress Hormones, Like Cortisol And Adrenaline, Can Surge
The stress caused by being rejected can deplete the immune system and send many people into fight-or-flight mode, says renowned psychotherapist and author of Heal Your Drained Brain, Dr. Mike Dow. "Brains are wired for mood congruent recall. Now, all the anxious memories of your life are lighting up... and it feels like your life is just one big mess," he says. According to him, all of this can cause your heartbeat to speed up and lead to trouble sleeping.
If you can take a breath and calm down, you'll be able to take control of these hormonal reactions. "Think of all the situations you freaked out about in the past, but made your way through," says Dr. Dow. "That's the contrary evidence that can help you through this terrible stressor, too."
You Can Be Robbed Of Your Self-Worth
You might start to feel like you are not enough or think that something you lack is what lead to the rejection. Dow calls this "pattern personalization." Not smart enough, not pretty enough, not good enough... enough.
Bestselling author and relationship expert Susan Winter says practicing positive self-talk and having friends and family remind you of your awesome qualities will help to keep the self-blame at bay. "Remember that this is only one person, and though significant, the fact that they no longer love you does not mean that you are unlovable," she says.
You Ruminate On Why They Didn't Want You
I can't count the hours I have spent trying to figure out how someone I love was able to completely turn on me. One minute, you're on a romantic trip abroad, and the next, they're telling you they don't think they'll ever truly love you. Ouch. It's hard to wrap your head around why a person does not want you in the same way you want them. "Love is whimsical and fickle," Winter offers. "Something that was a solid part of our life can be gone in a flash — often times for reasons that not even our ex understands."
It might not feel like it was better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, but take solace in the fact that what you shared was real and that time did exist. As beautifully stated by Winter, "Remember always that the gift is greater than the giver."
Your Personal Narrative Is Broken
"We all have a narrative we’ve created about ourselves that shapes our self-perceptions, self-image, and confidence," says Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and relationship coach. Getting rejected majorly challenges that storyline you had.
Take the time to ask yourself why you've internalized this particular narrative, and how you can find an alternate path to create a new adventure (solo or with a different partner).
Social Comparisons Take Over
Silva also points to social comparisons, or “vanity validation," as something that makes rejection feel so harsh. "Your lauded self on social media is constantly seeking more validation through electronic likes, not life experiences," she explains.
Maybe all your friends suddenly seem happy-in-love, and you're left broken-hearted. But what you see isn't always what is true. People usually only broadcast the positive parts of their lives. "Remind yourself that comparing yourself to other people’s highlight reels can create a false reality," says Silva
You Feel Like You Were Betrayed
When you couple up with someone, you form a team. Sometimes, it can feel like it was the two of you against the world. You confide in them, rely on them, and allow them to see you at your most vulnerable. Lori Salkin, SawYouatSinai.com senior matchmaker and dating coach, says this is totally rational. "You feel betrayed that you shared so much of your heart and soul with someone who did not appreciate it and just took advantage of your mental and emotional investment in the relationship," she says.
Emotions Override Logic
Salkin also notes that rejection always feels worse in the moment. "It is hard to see that that person was not right for you when you still have feelings for them and are in shock that they ended the relationship," she says. As with almost anything else, let time take its natural course. You will feel better with some space and perspective.
It is impossible to completely avoid rejection in life. Every amazing person has experienced some form of it at some point in their life. The fact is, we cannot always get exactly what we want. Just remember that the rejection is not a reflection on who you are as a person, but rather, compatibility. Salkin says, "Ultimately, you need find someone perfect for you, no one is perfect."
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