Fear Of Rejection- It’s Evolutionary
May 23, 2021
Imagine you have the power to time travel and you go back 20000 years. You belong to a close-knit tribe of hunter-gatherers living in the open forest lands. You hunt and defend yourself against all the other animals as a tribe. Your strength comes from being in the tribe.
One day you get into a fight with a few of your tribe friends, and the tribe decides to banish you. They reject you, and you are on your own.
What do you think the consequence will be? You are most likely to be a meal for the next animal in the forest.
Rejection by the tribe means death-This is an evolutionary lesson deeply ingrained in our human psyche. One part of our brain is called the Amygdala, or the lizard brain, and its only job is to ensure that we never lose sight of this evolutionary knowledge. The Amygdala helps us recognize danger and deal with it through a fight or flight response.
New Age Tribes
We are all today part of different constructs of imagined tribes. Family, Friends Circle, Office, housing society, college alumnus groups, Organizations, Country, Social Media – these are all conceived constructs of tribes that we feel we belong to.
And if for any reason we feel a sense or rejection, our evolutionary bias kicks in.
Rejection could be your partner refusing to talk to you, your colleagues going out for lunch without inviting you, your company giving you a pink slip, your customers not buying your products, or your date ignoring your messages. None of these are life-threatening events. They will not kill you.
However, due to our evolutionary conditioning- our brain processes rejection as life-threatening, and this is at the core of why most of us struggle with the concept of rejection. We want to feel wanted, valued, protected and rejection threatens this need to belong. We start feeling unsettled and untethered.
The fear of rejection or the pain we feel from rejection is not a vague emotional problem. It is a physiological reality and a hard-wired evolutionary problem that we cannot escape from. Knowing this to be an evolutionary problem will help us recognize that the problem is not unique to anyone. It’s the same for everyone.
But, we can learn to manage ourselves better whenever we encounter a rejection of any sort. The better we are at dealing with the fear of rejection or rejection itself, the more efficient and productive we will be.
Here are a few ways we can deal with rejection more effectively.
- Understand That It’s Never Personal: In many situations, we conflate rejection of our ideas and our actions as a rejection of who we are as an individual. We assume that the rejection is personal when it is not. Rejection in the professional or social realm is often due to issues of fitment or circumstance. Don’t try to pin all rejection to some inherent flaw in yourself. Don’t beat yourself unnecessarily, thinking there is something wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you.
- Stay Connected: We all have people in our lives who value us for who we are- it could be our spouse, parents, siblings, mentors, close friends. I have always found great value in opening up and speaking with them when I have encountered any rejection that bothered me immensely. There is no bigger antidote to the pain of rejection than feeling connected to someone close.
- Practice Acceptance- Rejection is not death. Drill it into your mind that rejection at best can cause you some pain, but it will never kill you. Anything that does not kill you can be handled and managed. Certainly, you can review why the rejection happened and consider what you can do differently in the future. But don’t get entangled in a negative mindset. Accept the rejection and move on.
- Don’t crave others’ validation- Someone wise once said, if you live for people’s acceptance, you will die from their rejection. This desire to be a part of a bigger group and for others to like us makes us feel powerless and fearful of rejection. Don’t let the opinion of others define how you see yourself.
- Don’t take it seriously- Life is always funny. Whenever we think we have been rejected from something good, life is actually working hard to redirect us to something better. Most rejections are often blessings in disguise. There is always something better destined on the other side of rejection.