Something happened. You got rejected. Now you can barely focus on anything other than that. I’m going to share how to stop obsessing over rejection. Similar to my post on steps to stop feeling so behind, I’ve got multiple ideas to share with you here. Try one or all to help you right when you’re in that obsessive moment and also a few to help you deal with rejection long-term.
I decided to write about this today because of a friend. He’s awesome. Kind, funny, smart, top triathlete, architect, amazing painter. No question he’s a cool guy, right?
Yesterday morning he texts me while he was headed to work. Here’s the short of it:
‘Feeling lonely and loser-ish. I never get what I want. And I can’t stop thinking about what happened with her.’
‘Her’ is a girl he’d been crushing on and asked on a date. She agreed but then canceled last minute with a (lame) excuse and hadn’t wanted to reschedule.
So what’s happening here?
Rejection. Yes, there may be other issues here, but we don’t have a week to delve into all the possible issues. We are going to remain top-level and go over real ideas that work to help you stop obsessing.
Is this limited to romantic rejection only?
This was romantic rejection. But rejection of any form stings and can set your thoughts spiraling into negative overdrive…for hours, days, months, even.
I’m no psych expert and this post is not to replace professional help if you’re dealing with an obsession that needs more help beyond a blog post.
But I’m confident branding myself as an expert on ‘I feel like a loser right now because I was rejected’.
How did I become an expert, you ask?
Unless you do nothing. say nothing. try nothing. have zero ambition. goals, drive….you, too will become an expert in rejection. Actually, you probably already are.
You’ve been rejected in one way (or many ways) over your lifetime.
How we deal with it is different. And not all of us dwell and ruminate over it and can’t seem to think about anything else but that for far too long after it happens.
Why do we feel so crappy when rejected?
Dwelling on the negative is actually normal. Biological, even.
Our minds are trained to focus on the negative. It’s something to do with our biological, survival mechanisms. At one point in time, negative stimuli were potentially dangerous (ie. I hear a tiger rustling in the brush or the last time we ate berries that looked like this, we were sick for days).
This survival tendency proved essential. It helped prevent errors in judgment and stopped our ancestors from making the same mistakes over again.
The trouble is it’s no longer needed. We’re not in extreme survival mode.
There’s no tiger in the brush.
And the grocery store doesn’t even sell poisonous berries.
But our brains don’t know that and so we hyper-focus on negative events, stimuli, possibilities.
Then there are all the other reasons we feel so crappy when this happens. Usually childhood-issue stuff around rejection, abandonment, and other psych-y stuff we won’t get into in this post.
Working those out takes years (and for many, long sessions with professionals).
But right now you don’t have years.
You just want a few quick ideas to help when you’re in the thick of rejection city.
I’ve got you.
I’m going to share what’s helped me stop obsessing when I’m rejected.
Try one -or all- of these when you’re engulfed in feelings of rejection and can’t seem to focus on anything else
(After these, I’ll share a few longer-term tips for dealing with rejection in general.)
Wallow in your feelings
Wait, what? I know this must seem strange that this post is about stopping obsessive thoughts and here I’m telling you to wallow in them.
I don’t believe that stuffing away thoughts and emotions, trying to cover them up with pretty words and optimism works.
Obsession isn’t good. But! Going through the emotions you’re feeling is needed to come out on the other side.
Whatever it is that you’re feeling….feel it. Fully.
The trick is to put a time limit on it. You’re not going to stay stuck (read: obsessed) feeling that way indefinitely (more on this in numbers 6 and 7)
You can do this by feeling what you’re feeling, but putting a limit on it.
You feel down. Feel down.
Angry ‘who does she think she is?.
Sad ‘but I really liked her’
Feel it. Use the tools in 6 & 7 to feel those emotions. Own them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you that you’re feeling this way.
As I explained above, it’s not only normal, it’s biological.
Stop making stuff up
When we’re rejected, we usually start making stories up. My friend text that he’s a loser and nobody wants him and he never gets what he wants. Ummm….making stuff up.
All this just from that one girl who lame-o canceled a date.
That one rejection from her does not tell him A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G and certainly doesn’t mean he’s a loser + doesn’t get what he wants. And it doesn’t even tell him that she doesn’t like him/isn’t attracted to him.
Hear me out.
She may be going through her own mucky stuff and canceled because she’s just not up to it. Or maybe her ex popped back onto the scene and she can’t get over him/her. Or maybe or maybe or maybe. A million maybes.
There is no way to fully know the truth behind every rejection.
One of my favorite Authors is Byron Katie. If you don’t know her ‘work’, you have permission to click through (after you finish reading this, of course) and explore. She gives you a toolkit to assess your thoughts and assumptions around.
Most times we jump to ridiculous conclusions about how other people feel and then it makes us feel needy and lacking.
Here’s a video clip of Katie explaining these powerful (life-changing) concepts:
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Explore: what does this rejection *really* mean?
Typically, we’re rejected by one person.
A person we wanted to collaborate with
A person we wanted to talk to/date
An editor we submitted our work to
A job we didn’t get
And what does this rejection really mean?
This is one of the 7+billion people in the world. And that one person comes to the table with a myriad of their own sh*t (issues, insecurities, prejudices, preferences, possible misjudgments, projections) rolling around in their mind.
Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Another thing to think about and explore: if you were given a ‘reason’ for the rejection, is that reason even accurate? Harry Potter author, JK rolling was rejected countless times by publishers.
What did that mean?
Did those rejections mean her books weren’t any good?
Did they mean the books wouldn’t sell?
That nobody would read them?
That she’d never make money?
One publisher even told her that she’d never make money selling children’s books (HA!)
The rejections meant that one person (or even a group of people) had said no on that day. Or several days.
If she’d done what most of us do and jumped to the conclusions (or even believed some these publishers), she would’ve believed her writing wasn’t good and neither were her books.
JK Rowling. Harry Potter series (which has sold over 450 million copies and we’re not even talking movie sales and raving, rabid fan base). Let that sink in for a moment.
Write about it
Write about it to help you understand what you’re feeling why and start the process of dropping the feeling (I have an entire list of rejection journal prompts in the free self-care lounge). But put a limit on the writing that is doomy and gloomy. You can even use a timer for this. Allow yourself to write about how you’re feeling for a set amount of time and stop.
Vent (with a limit)
Vent to someone who is supportive and will listen. But! Put a limit on it. For example, give yourself 15 minutes to talk about it and then stop and change the subject. Do not go back to it.
Remember in step 1 I explained that you need to feel what you feel but within limits. Just like writing, you’re going to put a cap on the non-productive, wallowing.
It cannot go on forever.
That’s when it becomes obsessive and destructive.
Do something giving. Often when we’re overthinking we’re stuck in our own world. Try doing something kind, something generous and see how it shifts your mood. I wrote an itty bitty book, Become a Giver, years ago. It’s got tons of ideas for giving (many have nothing to do with money).
Being generous often pulls us outside of our mental world and plugs us back into the world at large. Suddenly our rejections don’t feel as grand and suffocating.
When you’re obsessing, about anything, your mind is in overdrive. Meditation stills the mind and allows it to rest. Never tried meditation before? Use an app like Calm. I also add meditations to the self-care lounge.
Move your body
Exercise, especially something that makes you sweat. Movement can focus the mind and is powerful tension relief. It’s great for getting your mind off something like a rejection.
During your downtime, those moments when your mind will fill with obsessive thoughts, start learning something new. Learning something takes focus. This helps you stop mulling over the rejection.
Plus you’ll learn something. Win! You can even do this during commutes or while waiting in line somewhere. Try audiobooks, podcasts, audio courses during those times.
There’s a reason coloring book sales exploded a few years ago. They help you zone out, take your mind of stresses and just color. Affordable and accessible for most. Grab a coloring book or print some from my Self-Care Lounge.
How to deal with rejection longer term
Building your rejection muscles:
- Do something that scares you regularly, every day if you can. Put yourself forward into situations where you could possibly be rejected. This may be career-wise or other. You know what makes you most uncomfortable. Those are the things that push you and help build rejection muscles. The idea here is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. The more rejection you experience, the less harsh the sting.
- Make a fool of yourself. Did you know most major cities have improv and comedy classes you can join? Get on stage in front of an encouraging group. This build confidence (and rejection muscles) in a safe environment. It’s also a lot of fun.
The key is to find ways to refocus your mind and minimize the stories running through your mind about the rejection.
There’ll never be a way to live rejection-free. And that’s a good thing. Rejection-free living would mean you’re not doing much and definitely aren’t growing and pushing yourself.
We don’t want that.
We want rejection. It’s confirmation we are living. But arm yourself with the tools to deal with it and not spiral into obsession, toxic overthinking, and self-criticism.
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