Rejection: 3 ways to overcome the fear and pain

rejection

Have you ever feared rejection so much it felt like life or death?

I remember a time during school when my friends gave me the cold shoulder. The way my body processed the rejection felt life threatening.

My heart rate quickened, I became sweaty and panicky, like a prey animal abandoned by its herd.

My reaction felt out of proportion to the situation. But I couldn’t talk myself out of it.

It turns out there are good reasons why rejection feels so painful. In the past, being cast out from the tribe meant losing your life.

So, it makes sense that rejection today can still feel like a small death.

In spite of these very real and painful reactions to rejection, it’s important to overcome your fear. Here are three things you can do to overcome fear of rejection.

1. Acknowledge the pain you’re feeling is real

The pain of actual or anticipated rejection is real. You might experience physical hurt like stomach ache along with the requisite sweaty palms and dry mouth.

Then there is the emotional pain of self-doubt that threatens to pull you under.

It doesn’t help to deny the very real pain you’re feeling. That creates cognitive dissonance which makes you adjust your behavior to a reality you know is not true.

You’re lying to yourself. Don’t do that.

Instead, acknowledge the nerves and work through them. Remember to breathe. You might share your fearful feelings if you’re comfortable doing so.

This way you won’t risk getting through on false bravado. Your vulnerability will shine as you come from an authentic place.

My daughter’s karate teacher asked the kids if they felt nervous before an assessment. He told them he hoped they did because it showed they care.

Much more effective than saying “don’t be nervous.”

2. Surround yourself with supporters

The human need to belong is so strong that a ‘no’ from someone we’ve never met can mean more than a hundred words of encouragement from a loved one.

Make sure the people who surround you are supportive and make you feel good about yourself. It helps to have cheerleaders to encourage you while you’re pushing through scary situations.

Listen to the kind words of people who know you rather than imaginary words of strangers who may or may not reject you.

3. Celebrate your courage to risk rejection

It takes tremendous courage to express your needs or stand in front of a crowd to deliver a speech. You’re doing something many people are afraid to do.

Personal growth only happens outside the comfort zone. Click To Tweet

Remind yourself that personal growth only happens outside the comfort zone. Playing it safe will never help you grow. Change is hard and that’s why most people avoid it.

But you’re not most people! Give yourself a pat on the back for fighting through those real feelings that are designed to keep you safe.

And for having the courage to reach out to others to share you dreams. Because it’s so much easier to hide and go through life without challenging ourselves.

But you’ve decided you want something more and have fought your fears to realize it. This puts you in a class of people who are not willing to settle for the status quo.

It might very well make you the target of people who preferred you stay where you are. Maybe it’s because they envy your desire to honor God’s direction for your life.

Or maybe your staying small served them in some way. Your courage to overcome those obstacles in addition to your own fears is formidable. Remember that.

Rejection as success

I’ve learned to take rejection as confirmation of success. It means I tried and gained knowledge to help me improve or take a different route next time.

What you view as rejection might simply be a poor fit rather than a failure. Click To Tweet

What you view as rejection might simply be a poor fit rather than a failure.

You’ll be happy to know your willingness to risk rejection makes you more evolved. Back in the days when we could not survive alone, you would have adapted your behavior to fit in with the tribe.

Thankfully, today those shackles no longer bind us. All it takes is courage to overcome the fear of rejection.

Decisions become easier when you do these three simple things

decisions

Do you find it difficult to make decisions? Can the fear of making the wrong decision paralyze you so you delay doing anything at all?

Maybe you get bogged down in pro and con lists. And what happens if there’s an equal number of them?

You’ve heard about a gut instinct but struggle to trust yours and wonder if you even have one.

If you’re an introvert, HSP, or Type B personality, you probably take longer to make decisions. You might second guess yourself and spend a lot of time and energy fretting over what to do.

If you’re a person who avoids conflict or a people pleaser, you cringe at the thought of making a decision that rubs people the wrong way.

i'm really bad at making decisions gif | WiffleGif

As a person who struggled her whole life with making decisions, I noticed they became easier when I made certain changes.

Here are the three simple ways to eliminate all the stress around making decisions.

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1. Embrace minimalism

When you get rid of the stuff you don’t need or use, decisions become easier because you have fewer options to choose from. Sounds obvious, right?

Start by decluttering your house and car. This might sound overwhelming and won’t happen overnight.

Organize a drawer and reward yourself. Then, move on to your closet.

When you declutter your wardrobe, you have fewer items to choose from. You’re left with only the items you love and that fit, so the decision becomes more pleasant.

You’ve created a stress-free morning by simplifying your decisions about what to wear that day.

After the house and car, work on decluttering other aspects of your life. Say no to things that stress you out and set boundaries to protect your time.

This will help clear your head from internal chaos. Instead of reacting and feeling overwhelmed, you’ll be calm and empowered.

Making decisions from a clear and cool head is so much easier than the alternative. And the decisions you make will be more authentic because they’re coming from a place of peace.

Rather than people pleasing, you’re making decisions that are best for you and your family.

2. Practice patience

A little known fact about decisions is that they sometimes make themselves. Waiting before jumping in with both feet can have positive results.

Now, this is not an excuse for procrastination or paralysis.

But if you avoid making a rash decision and wait a beat, you might be surprised at the outcome. If you feel unsure and wait before taking action, the issue might resolve itself.

One year, my daughter struggled with a difficult classmate who smothered and manipulated her.

During the summer, we prayed for God to work on this girl’s heart and help my daughter set appropriate boundaries. On the first day of school, I waited to hear how things went.

“She moved!” my daughter exclaimed.

God can work in ways we never even imagine with our limited scope of reference. He sees the whole picture while we just see our tiny corner.

Again, there’s a difference between passivity and patience. Or avoidance and caution.

Putting off decision-making because you’re paralyzed with fear is not what we’re talking about here.

3. Set a deadline for making decisions

This might sound contradictory to the previous point, but hear me out. If your problem is procrastination rather than patience, you need some accountability.

Giving yourself a deadline to make a decision is different than taking impulsive action. Make your decision by a certain hour or day, depending on the urgency of the situation.

Giving yourself a deadline to make a decision is different than impulsive action. Click To Tweet

Sometimes, as in #2 above, the issue will have been resolved before the deadline. Or you will have given yourself enough time to experience peace about your decision.

You might fear making the wrong decision if you don’t brood over it endlessly. But this is rarely the case.

Perhaps it’s your fear of changing your mind that’s putting so much pressure on your decision-making process. But very few decisions are irrevocable.

Maybe you’re too hard on yourself and feel that once a decision is made there’s no going back.

How about giving yourself a little grace? Even big decisions like a move can be reversed if necessary. You’re rarely stuck with a decision you made just because you made it.

Have the self-compassion to say we’ll try it this way for now. And if it doesn’t work out we can redirect or even go back to the old way.

If you refuse to make a decision, chances are you won’t have to change. But ask yourself if that’s what’s best for you.

Emotional neglect: how to know if you’ve experienced it and 3 ways to heal

emotional neglect

Have you heard of emotional neglect? You’re probably more familiar with the term emotional abuse, which acknowledges you don’t need to be hit to experience harm.

Sometimes, emotional abuse is so bad people have to estrange from their families. We accept that even without physical scars, emotional wounds run deep and deserve to be acknowledged.

Perhaps you have wondered if you were emotionally abused because of the deep hurt you experienced growing up. But your parents didn’t call you names or scream at you.

You find it difficult to put your finger on what happened to you. But you know your childhood experience has left lasting scars.

You see the praise and affection your friends receive from their parents and wonder what that’s like.

You witness them calling their mom for help when they go through something hard. And their mom offering comfort and advice, while you have to handle things on your own.

It’s possible you have trouble understanding what happened to you because you’ve experienced emotional neglect rather than abuse.

The problem is less what your parents did than what they didn’t do. And that’s why it can be hard to describe and recognize.

With emotional neglect, the problem is less what your parents did than what they didn't do. Click To Tweet

What are the signs of emotional neglect?

Emotional neglect can show up in a number of different ways. But here are seven signs that may sound familiar to you:

1. Your parents were either focused on rules or overly permissive. Either way, they seemed to care little about your feelings.

2. You never learned to set boundaries or establish healthy coping mechanisms as a result.

3. You rarely received positive feedback from your parents or even constructive criticism. They never helped you see your strengths and weaknesses or develop your talents.

4, Your parents’ needs took precedence over yours. If you were struggling, they did little to help you understand what you were feeling.

5. You can’t talk to your parents about emotional topics and if you do they make you feel worse. You’ve learned to keep your feelings to yourself so as not to overburden others.

6. You are over responsible. Good at caring for others but not so good at caring for yourself. You may feel resentful about how much you give and how little you receive.

7. You are unduly hard on yourself and even feel like you have a fatal flaw that makes you defective. You feel that if people really knew you they wouldn’t like you.

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If you see yourself in the above descriptions and believe you’ve been the victim of emotional neglect, take heart. It is within your power to heal.

Here are 3 things you can do.

1. Understand that emotions are not bad, they give you information

If you were never taught to deal with your emotions, it makes sense you’d have trouble regulating them.

I used to avoid emotions and misunderstand them. Anger to me was so all-encompassing it could take me out for a whole day.

For that reason, I’d avoid feeling angry until I blew up. Then experience tremendous shame and guilt.

I’d avoid sadness because I feared that would throw me into a deep depression. I’d try to talk myself out of a low mood instead of allowing myself to feel and process it.

Now, I understand anger is often justified. It might be a sign that something needs to be changed or addressed.

And rather than deny sad feelings, I surrender them to God and ask for His comfort. It lasts less than a day and I come out on the other side feeling refreshed and renewed.

emotional neglect, boundaries

2. Learn to set boundaries and develop routines

If you suffered emotional neglect as a child, you probably didn’t feel like you could say no or ask for what you wanted.

As you learn to protect yourself through boundaries, you’ll feel safer and experience more authentic relationships.

You may have never learned the value of routines like getting up early or making a healthy lunch for work. Or find it hard to motivate yourself to do them.

They may seem pointless or tedious to you, but they are important elements of self-care.

When you take care of yourself through routines like exercise, healthy eating, and getting to bed at a certain time, you will experience increased health and self-worth.

You have to become the parent to yourself that you never had.

3. Spend time discovering yourself

Take time to journal and understand yourself. Treat yourself as you would a cherished loved one. Take yourself out on dates and pay attention to your likes and dislikes.

Figure out what gives you comfort and fulfills you and do more of that. Maybe you want to read for a whole day. Or go for a meandering walk.

Engage in activities that bring you pleasure and consider connecting with others who share those interests.

Mindfulness: how to benefit from focus on the present moment

mindfulness

Mindfulness is a big catch phrase these days. Its literal definition means bringing one’s attention to the present moment.

And in a world filled with distractions that can be a precious gift indeed.

Mindfulness came into my life when I took part in a pilot program that helps people who tend to escape through daydreaming.

Possibly due to past trauma, I had difficulty staying present. As a result, my thoughts wandered in directions beyond my control.

In the program I learned practices that helped me slow down and pay attention to the present moment. It taught me mindfulness in three helpful ways.

1. Mindful eating

Some people use mindful eating as a weight loss method. But it helps you feel better in other ways, too.

When you slow down and pay attention to what you’re eating, you feel more in control. You enjoy your food more which makes you less likely to binge.

When you slow down and pay attention to what you're eating, you feel more in control. Click To Tweet

When you chew each bite 25-30 times, it takes you longer to eat. This leaves you feeling more satisfied and less likely to eat more than you need.

It helps you stop eating when you’re full which improves your health and comfort levels.

2. Body scan

A body scan is a mindfulness exercise in which you relax and bring focus to your physical body. You can listen to a guided scan in which a narrator tells you which parts of your body to focus on.

For instance, you’ll start by bringing your focus to your head. Slowly, you’ll make your way down your body and finish by paying attention to your feet.

The exercise does not ask you to relax or feel any different about your body, but simply to focus on it.

Some people say the practice helps them connect with their bodies in a beneficial way. It helps them know where they hold stress and anxiety and release it.

It also helps discipline a scattered mind by bringing thoughts into focus on a specific object (your body) in the present moment.

3. Meditation

Mindfulness training introduced me to meditation practices that are now part of my daily life. It’s as simple as setting a timer and paying attention to your thoughts.

Lasting from three to twenty minutes their impact on my brain has been palpable. The hamster wheel of my thoughts slows down to a crawl. I feel more calm and in control.

Like many of life’s lessons, this one took years to learn. I had believed meditation only served you during the specific time you practiced it.

After a few weeks I discovered the far-reaching effects of meditation. It re-wires your brain, making it less scattered and more functional.

Meditation is usually framed as an Eastern philosophic tradition. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Anything that keeps you centered in the present moment can work as a meditation. Meditating on a Scripture verse or praying helps you overcome a runaway brain, too.

Sadness, anger are important and nothing to be ashamed of

feeling down

Have you ever felt ashamed of your sadness? Like, when you feel low but force yourself to look on the bright side?

You shouldn’t feel ashamed to admit when you’re unhappy. It’s natural for feelings to ebb and flow.

I loved the movie Inside Out, a Disney film my kids and I went to see years ago. It acknowledged the importance of expressing all our emotions.

And rather than labeling them good or bad, they all had a job to do.

It turned out Sadness had the most important job of all. She showed up when the protagonist needed help and made sure she got it.

In my post on emotional neglect, I touched on the tendency to fear so-called negative emotions. To label them good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable.

I will expand on that concept here and describe the purpose of these emotions. 4 reasons to embrace rather than fear anger and sadness.

4 reasons to embrace anger

sadness mental health

1. Anger that manages to stay under wraps will eventually cause physical illness.

I read about monks who refused to acknowledge their anger and showed higher rates of diabetes. This, despite the fact their diets were healthier than average.

So, stuffed anger can be a good deal more dangerous than expressed rage.

2. Anger helps you know when something is not working.

It might be that you are being mistreated and disrespected. You might need to remove yourself from the situation.

Or take a serious look at what needs to change in your life so you are treated the way you deserve.

3. Anger can help you see where you have internal work to do.

For instance, if you feel angry at being asked to do something. It could be that you are uncomfortable setting boundaries.

Anger at the person asking is masking your guilt around setting boundaries. So, now you know what you need to work on.

4. Anger can also act as a signal for others to stay away from you.

That way you have space and time to work out your feelings without hurting anyone.

4 reasons to embrace sadness

1. Suppressing sadness can have the counter-intuitive effect of making you more depressed.

Refusing to acknowledge sadness takes away the opportunity to deal with things that might be causing the pain. This keeps you feeling stuck and hopeless.

2. Sadness helps you slow down and look at a problem.

When felt and processed it can lead to personal growth and healthy change. When it’s denied, however, things stay the same and that may not be a good thing.

sadness personal growth

3. When acknowledged, sadness gives us an opportunity to turn inward.

Not in a selfish way but in an honest way. It says, things are not okay and we need to find out why. It helps us connect with ourselves.

4. It’s also a time to draw near to God.

I’ve never felt closer to my savior then during periods of intense sadness.

You might feel scared to surrender to your sadness because you fear where it will take you. In my experience, it’s never as bad as you think it will be.

(Unless you’re dealing with depression which is a different issue and not covered here.)

When I first started to allow myself time to sink into sadness I assumed it would put me out for days. Truth is, even the most intense feeling of sadness would see me recover in less than a day.

I’m sure my dependence on God has a lot to do with that manageable time frame. It’s in my weakness His strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Cultural importance of sadness and anger

These so-called negative emotions of anger and sadness have benefits beyond our personal lives. Famous paintings like The Scream have depended on their artist’s lower moods for their inspiration.

When Munch painted his masterpiece, his sister had been committed to an insane asylum. He said the inspiration for the work came from a scream he heard in nature while taking a walk during this hard time.

Handel wrote his most famous composition Messiah only after grappling with dark feelings. Beethoven’s most inspiring symphonies (including the Fifth) came out of his sadness.

Virginia Woolf, John Keats, and Vincent Van Gogh also produced their finest creations while struggling emotionally.