We all have a fear of rejection. Who really wants someone to say “no” to them? It hurts and can leave us feeling devalued and worthless. Regardless of the “no,” we all inherently have value.
In today’s society, we can be rejected or experience “perceived rejection” in a myriad of ways. With technology, if we don’t get the likes, views, comments or immediate text responses, we can feel slighted and ignored.
We can also feel rejected in more serious ways — with a breakup, dissed by our friends, getting fired from a job or ostracized by family members. And whether the rejection is big or small, it all hurts. Like, really hurts. This is because our brains process rejection like it does physical pain so the rejection we feel is actually more painful than we expect it to be.
The emotional pain caused by rejection can negatively affect our mental health and well-being. It influences our confidence and self-esteem, lowers our mood, provokes anger and threatens our natural desire to belong. Rejection leaves many black men reluctant to try reaching out a second time. The hesitation to pursue something or to use your voice can adversely affect you personally and professionally.
What do you do when the society you live in has a history of rejecting men who look like you? It can cause you to feel the pain of your ancestors within your DNA; triggered by present-day racism. This can manifest into a combination of both post-traumatic slave disorder/syndrome and chronic acute stress disorder — which is caused by overt racism, microaggressions and vicarious trauma due to being aware of current events.
Now, we can’t magically do away with the cause and effects of historical racism and its effects on the black male psyche; remove the sting of a divorce or the neglect of a parent. But you don’t have to keep residence in a place of pain.
Here are some practical ways you can address rejection:
1. Say No to Negative Self-Talk
When we feel rejected, we tend to believe it’s a personal attack against us. We are left wondering if we are good enough, worthy enough and deserving to be liked or loved. We question our very essence, character, and capabilities, and run around in our heads trying to figure out how to “fix” us. None of this is helpful. Give yourself grace and recognize that being kind to yourself is what’s needed instead of further injuring yourself with negative words.
2. Feel the Feelings
Give yourself permission to feel your feelings. They are yours to have. They are completely valid. This is another act of being kind to yourself by giving space to acknowledge your feelings and not dismissing them or minimizing them. However, remind yourself that you are worthy even if you don’t feel like it. Your worthiness is fact, not fiction or feeling.
3. Express Your Feelings with Someone Safe
Sometimes verbalizing how you feel with someone who is safe can help you better process your emotions and provide clarity and perspective around your experience of feeling rejected.
4. Grieve the Loss/Expectation
With rejection, we may feel as if we have lost something. Grieve the expectation that you didn’t get chosen and know that you may go through all or just some of the stages of grief, but know that it is a feeling of loss.
5. Remember It’s Not All About You
Sometimes the rejection has more to do with the other person than it has to do with you. Make sure to check your emotional boundaries and are not internalizing an external message. Particularly, in cases where race is involved. If you are rejected due to some prejudice or racist presupposition, that has EVERYTHING to do with the offender and their way of thinking, and nothing to do with you.
6. Don’t Project or Lash Out
Rejection can trigger our issues of abandonment and neglect. If we struggle in these areas due to our own personal narrative, every rejection will feel like someone picking at an open wound. We can, therefore, become so overwhelmed by the feeling of rejection that we lash out and project our anger and sadness on others in an unhealthy way. Take time to practice the “pause” and, instead of projecting, choose to process.
7. Seek the Takeaways
With everything there is learning. Even the not so good stuff. Did the incident highlight an area you may need to work on — like being more kind to yourself?
Look at it this way, whenever you choose one thing over another — tea over coffee, a sweater over a jacket — you are, in essence, rejecting something. That rejection is simply a decision to not choose a thing. More than likely, you “rejected” something or someone today. However, like ice cream, you may not be everyone’s favorite flavor — but you sure taste damn good to somebody.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Farah Harris is a licensed therapist in private practice and workplace wellness advocate. She is the founder of the Facebook group, WorkingWell Daily, a community that addresses self-care and work-life alignment. Her personal mission is to help individuals find and own their voice. Harris works to connect people to their stories to produce truth, freedom, and self-actualization. Pragmatic in her approach with peppered humor, Harris aims to help clients identify professional and personal strengths and weaknesses that can be harnessed into meaningful growth that supports their goals. Farah resides in the south suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three young children.