This article is about social rejection, its consequences, and how to deal with it.
Imagine yourself participating in a psychology experiment in a university laboratory. Having taken a personality test, the results are in:
You have the psychological profile of people who end their lives in loneliness, unable to stay in fulfilling relationships.
* GULP *
You will then be directed to another room for a second test. This room has two chairs: one facing a mirror and the other facing a bare wall. Following your results, you will inevitably choose the chair that turns your back to the mirror.
On the other hand, if you were lucky enough to be in another group drawn randomly and predicted to have a happy relationship full of affection and lasting bonds, you would have chosen either chair.
Therefore, having a fulfilling future does not lead to self-flattery. However, feeling gloomy and lonely will make you not want to see your image anymore.
Table of Contents
- 1 Social rejection: Introduction
- 2 The pain that social rejection can cause us
- 3 Some people can no longer look at themselves in the mirror
- 4 Feeling rejected on a daily basis
- 5 Consequences of social rejection
- 6 How to react and deal with rejection
- 7 Social rejection: Conclusion
However, not everyone is so lucky to have good self-esteem. Those who don’t may experience unbearable pain when faced with social rejection.
This article will delve into the feelings of social rejection and uncover ways to feel better in your body and mind.
As everyone knows, the experience of social rejection is painful.
In fact, most (plus-size) people have already experienced so-called “minor” forms of it, such as:
- a breakup in love
- exclusion from a group
- being sidelined by colleagues in the workplace
Some plus-size people have already experienced traumatic rejections, such as public humiliation when being singled out at the pool because they are overweight.
Others have experienced discrete but repeated social rejections, like all manifestations of racism.
Racism is not just about being told you are a “dirty black,” “dirty yellow,” “dirty white,” “dirty Arab,” or “dirty Jew.”
It is also a whole context of subtle events, insignificant or unnoticed by others, eventually leading to a hypersensitivity to rejection with harmful effects.
In fact, as soon as we enter a context where such micro-releases could appear, we start to become “paranoid.” So we are on our guard. So we monitor, we detect, and we amplify.
Racism exists in many forms and with many intensities and levels of consciousness.
The example of racism is particularly challenging because it is infinitely more painful but also revolting to be rejected for what you are and not for what you have done.
We can accept that people don’t want to talk to us because we have hurt someone, or because we have judged them on their appearance, or because we haven’t given back their money, etc.
However, to feel that you are being pushed aside because you are of a different race, nationality, religion, social class, or even body type is a much more destructive pain.
Some people can no longer look at themselves in the mirror
Some people have removed all the mirrors from their homes because they can no longer stand their mirror image.
Feeling rejected pushes us to flee our image, returning us to something uncomfortable and painful. And that something is us.
One might think: Since others do not accept me, how can I accept myself?
We feel guilty for this social rejection. We feel like a loser and feel disgust for ourselves while we are the victims of this rejection and should be comforted.
Instead, we move away from ourselves, even if it means abandoning ourselves.
Feeling rejected on a daily basis
Experiments of social rejection organized in the laboratory have shown how sharply these rejections provoke painful results.
This is striking, considering that the participants knew they were only living in artificial and transitory situations with people they would never see again.
This showed the existence of a deeper instinct that signaled to us that there is nothing more dangerous for us than to be rejected by our fellow men.
Being rejected by unknown and invisible people or in situations without concrete stakes, such as being ignored in Internet exchanges, can lead to significant disruptions in self-esteem.
In everyday life, there are situations of social rejection, such as:
- Not having an answer to a letter, an e-mail, or a phone call. People with self-esteem issues would rather not leave a voice mail message than risk not receiving a response.
- Not daring to call for fear of disturbing or coming across badly. However, people are often happy to be called because at least they know that the person calling really wants to talk to them.
There are also other examples of situations that put self-esteem at risk and activate rejection fantasies:
- Experiencing a refusal and feeling that others have received a positive response to the same request
- Not being invited to a party where you would have expected to be
- Not being listed among other people in a more or less rewarding list (as in a group project)
- Being disapproved of or criticized
Of course, all this is aggravated if there is an audience. One then feels rejected by all, which is undoubtedly the height of social pain.
This is why social rejection in the form of mockery by a group of an isolated and vulnerable individual is dangerous. Bullying is an example of this.
Rejection by an entire group will always lead to a feeling of isolation at the time of the mockery, but also when the person is alone.
The pain and humiliation, seeing no end to this pain, and the seriousness of the social rejection can increase the risk of suicide.
Another very aggravating factor is if the social rejection comes from people close to us and supposedly solid supporters.
This leads to a double feeling of betrayal and abandonment, which upsets the person and destroys their desire to live.
In the ideal scenario where everything is going well, we should be inclined to try to understand the “why” and fix what we can when we experience social rejection.
Unfortunately, rejection often leads to behaviors that are counterproductive to the person’s interests, increasing the person’s risk of being rejected again.
Below are the different consequences and what we may be heading toward when we have been rejected:
When one feels rejected, the temptation to withdraw aggravates the problem because it leaves the person alone with their emotions and thoughts.
Reaching out to others and working on our social relationships should be our first strategy in case of social rejection.
Even if they understand us only imperfectly, offer inadequate support, or do not comfort us completely. The worst is to want to remain alone.
It is sometimes challenging to explain to people who are hypersensitive to rejection.
Nevertheless, it is indispensable to reach out to others, not to feel better or to feel consoled and achieve immediate well-being again, but as an act of survival.
This can be compared to disinfecting a wound quickly: it doesn’t relieve the pain but reduces the risk of an infection spreading.
In the case of rejection, the infection can be paranoia, self-punishment, bitterness, and misanthropy, all of which increase our suffering and decrease our ability to connect with others later.
The dark urge to self-harm or self-destruct can rear its ugly head in the most fragile people or those most worn down by rejection.
Some subjects will even have a brutal consumption of toxic substances such as alcohol, forming part of this dynamic of self-destruction.
Some even consume strong liquor until drunkenness, and even coma, after experiencing rejection.
Binge-eating episodes at night are also often triggered by experiences of social rejection, even if minimal (like not receiving any mail in the mailbox, or its digital equivalent of no notifications on social media).
A wave of involuntary distress overwhelms the person and pushes them to self-destruction through food.
Behaving aggressively toward others
Many aggressive behaviors are facilitated by rejection or feelings of rejection.
When the person feels insecure or afraid of not measuring up, they will often be unpleasant to be around in anticipation.
Therefore, they prefer not being approached in the first place rather than being rejected.
Breaking existing ties with people close to you
Hypersensitivity to rejection often seeps into (marital) relationships and increases the risk of dissatisfaction with one’s partner or spouse.
Even if it is precisely our loved ones who can provide us with comfort and support.
When we feel rejected, our discontent and resentment can also be projected onto our family and friends.
Impact on our intelligence
Amazingly, putting someone through an experience of rejection, even imaginary, will impact their intelligence.
As a result, they will be less successful at solving problems and taking IQ tests.
However, our intellectual performance won’t necessarily decline because we are sad or worried about possible rejection or because we brood over our misfortune.
Nevertheless, there is an unconscious “shock wave” caused by rejection, which mobilizes and freezes our psychic energy.
Therefore, rejection diminishes us emotionally and also intellectually, at least in the period immediately following it.
In other words, social rejection can lead to low self-esteem, which could ruin our private and professional lives.
Less noticeable effects
Not all emotional wounds related to social rejection are always dramatic. Some can be quiet and evolve without making a fuss.
Studies on the intensity of distress following rejection show it is not systematically intense, at least not consciously.
It is as if we are all equipped with a “shock-absorbing mechanism” for pain. This can be useful in the short term.
In the long term, however, this anesthesia can have perverse effects.
While intended to avoid despair during everyday experiences of rejection, it can also numb us or give us an air of indifference to our loved ones or observers during repeated habitual rejections.
This is the case, for example, of the socially excluded, the tramps, and the marginalized, who have been victims since childhood of repeated rejections, usually violent and tremendous.
There is also a lot of research on the pre-suicidal states, studying the psychological state shortly before this act of great despair.
In these people, we find the same type of disengagement from reality, a depression linked to dark thoughts and negative emotions (such as a negative body image).
These emotions are related to the intensity of despair.
Many suicides result from unbearable ruptures of social, sentimental, family, or professional relationships.
Suicide cases are numerous among people with borderline personality disorder, who are unable to both establish satisfying bonds and live without these bonds.
How to react and deal with rejection
Some research shows that small details can play a facilitating role in dealing with rejection.
For example, after rejection, it is necessary to be motivated by simple tasks or simply to be placed in front of one’s image in a mirror.
Those subjected to these simple things experience more self-control than those left to their own devices after rejection.
Studies have shown that rejected people will naturally tend to avoid their image while being happy with your body is important to feel better!
Instead, they are better off by regaining awareness of themselves, their identity, and their value by drawing on their self-esteem.
Tips to follow after a rejection
After a rejection, here are the different tips to follow:
- Systematically seek social contact again and take care of your self presentation
- Don’t run away from yourself in alcohol, sleep (oversleeping is bad), or work
- Be willing to do everyday tasks, even if they seem insignificant compared to your sadness
When you work on these little things, the fact that you are making all these self-control efforts will be a small but vital help.
A 20-year study of adult schoolchildren showed that self-control skills predict later ability to regulate one’s hypersensitivity to rejection, which is associated with many problems, such as:
- Low and fragile self-esteem
- Frequent conflicts
- Use of toxic substances (alcohol, drugs)
Another way to cope with social rejection is through multiple affiliations.
Indeed, it is advisable to cultivate a social network that is as varied as possible and offers all degrees of intimacy (including strong social ties).
Generally, the more sensitive we are to rejection, the more we select reliable and trustworthy people who we hope will not “disappoint” us.
As such, we risk suffering greatly when they do disappoint us. The rarity of these relationships will make their loss or alteration more painful.
This is the downside of relying more on quality than on quantity. However, who says that quality cannot coexist with quantity?
Why shouldn’t having a few very good, close friends be compatible with having many more superficial friends and acquaintances?
Of course, these friends may not always be reliable in times of trouble, but they may have many other qualities.
In fact, reliability should not be the only criterion for selecting your social contacts.
This can be an excellent exercise in the acceptance of others. Here are some examples:
- even if they are superficial, they may be super funny;
- even if they’re boring, they always have good advice;
- even if they’ve wronged me in the past, we are successful when we work together.
Why should you cut them out of your life because they are not exactly what you want them to be?
Indeed, you can also appreciate them for their qualities without expecting anything else from them.
Social rejection can lead to many consequences in some people’s lives, such as wanting to harm themselves or isolate themselves from others.
Even though it is not easy, when faced with rejection, one must continue to reach out to others to maintain and develop self-esteem and confidence.
Know that everyone has experienced rejection in their lives, whether small (such as not receiving a response to a message) or large (such as experiencing fat phobia during the summer months or being confronted with weight stigma, which is being publicly ridiculed because you’re overweight).
Hence, te most essential thing in these situations of rejection is to always have confidence in yourself and try to accept yourself as you are, even if others don’t like it.