Human beings are hardwired to avoid and fear social rejection, simply because we crave attachment, deep interpersonal bonding with other fellow beings.
Have you ever come across a situation where you’re the last one to be picked up for a school basketball team, even after you have met all the selection protocol? Or did not get through an interview that went awesome?
You felt awful and terrible. Right? This is simply because social rejection is itself lousy and incurs pain somewhere deep inside you.
In this article, we will highlight the various shades of this social exclusion process, the reasons and remedies in detail.
Social Rejection – Definition
Social rejection refers to a process of intentional and deliberate exclusion of a person, by another individual or a group as a whole. This process means excluding the person from all sorts of social interaction and participation.
Human beings have an intrinsic need to belong and feel accepted in a group. This sense of solidarity and belongingness gives them a sense of security and stability. However, it’s a fact that we all have suffered small or big rejections in our life.
Some people have the power to overcome social rejection successfully, others do not. But, the reality is, social rejection is painful and can have many adverse physical and psychological effects.
Social rejection can be defined as a phenomenon where a person may feel that they are being deliberately stripped off, not included, or accepted in a social group. This also means lack of belongingness and acceptance by someone or a group that considers the person as an ‘outcast’.
You may be rejected by the peer group as you are not like them, or your family members can reject you for not being able to accept their terms and conditions, or you are different from them in certain ways.
Social rejection leads you to the fringes of society where you are forced to feel isolated and abandoned. It hurts you mentally somewhere deep within.
When we talk about social rejection, we also mean a person who somehow does not fit into the social structure. It can be due to individual differences, or they are mentally not stable, or differ in their appearance, etc.
Sometimes, if a person is lacking adequate social manners, then also social rejection occurs. Moreover, low social status due to financial disparities can also contribute to rejection.
Thus, the reasons for rejection are manifold. The person is excluded from the group just because they are not similar to the others in the group.
From sociological perspectives, social rejection simply means a process through which group cohesiveness is retained.
If any person is considered unfit to gain acceptance, then he/she might be excluded intentionally, so that the overall fabric of the group is maintained.
Social rejection is also seen as a way to protect the group members from outside threats. But, in today’s fast-paced living, we have become intolerant of others’ differences. As such, anyone not listening to a particular music can be considered as an outcast by the group.
You may also suffer social rejection if your dressing style does not match with your peers in the group. In one way, you can say that the main motive of social rejection has vanished and other unnecessary elements have taken over the concept no sooner.
Signs of social rejection
If you have ever experienced one or more of these situations in your daily life, then it could be due to social rejection.
- You are subjected to verbal or emotional bullying
- Failed to cut through a school or college team, even after fulfilling all the requirements
- Sitting for a lunch without someone by your side in a college or office canteen
- Being the last one to be chosen for a drama or music fest
- Not invited to a party when all your friends were present
- Being called by derogatory names; name calling in particular
- Your well-wishers favoring your sibling more than you
- Being ignored or abandoned, not spoken to in social get together
- Others have built up an emotional wall against you
- Being told that you are not worthy of anything and so you were excluded from the team
- Your individual differences in appearance became your worst enemy. Your features are not a good fit inside the team
- Your feelings, beliefs, and opinions are never given any importance
- Intense social anxiety or social pain leading to diminished interaction with others
Feelings associated with social rejection
From the above discussion, it is clear that social rejection is hurtful and agonizing because the person feels insulted and humiliated deep inside.
This means that social rejection brings a host of negative emotions that is psychologically draining. The person feels abandoned and helpless, with nobody to share their deepest feelings.
If you have been rejected for no genuine reason, you will perceive the rejection process extremely painful. Moreover, seeing oneself at the receiving end of a social setup is not easy to accept.
Thus, the person suffers from emotional problems that can undermine their self-esteem, stain their sense of worth and dignity.
Some of the feelings associated with social rejection are as follows:
1. Feeling hurt
The results of a scientific study showed that social rejection can lead to sadness, feelings of being hurt, shame, social embarrassment, and much more.
Social rejection leads to feelings of being neglected and abandoned. The person may experience a deep void that expresses deep pain and suffering.
The hurt feelings after being rejected can also stem from unmet expectations and needs. If the person is in a close relationship, and gets socially rejected, feelings of non-acceptance or dismissal can make them feel sad and unhappy.
When social rejection comes from close friends or relatives with whom the person is close to, the hurtful feelings arise because of disappointment for not being able to get along well.
Actually, the hurt feelings will be more intense if the social rejection has come from someone dear to the person being rejected.
Scientific studies have revealed that emotional closeness with the person will cause more hurtful feelings if you are rejected by them in some ways.
Social rejection can lead to intense feelings of jealousy and antagonism. A bitter feeling sets in when you see others being accepted in the social group and you are deliberately excluded for no big deal.
Jealousy is a negative emotion that is a natural response when you find yourself cornered because of no fault. You will feel overwhelmed and may try your best ways to get accepted in the group.
Research studies have also indicated that interpersonal rejection either individually or from a group of members always causes jealous feelings. Slowly, if too much jealousy builds up, it could also lead to passive aggression.
Loneliness is another feeling that accompanies social rejection. If you are rejected intentionally, you will feel lonely like none other, as if the stable sense of belongingness has been taken away from you.
You may feel that there is no one to understand your feelings or feel concerned about you. Moreover, the lonely feeling that arises out of social rejection comes from insecurity and instability. You may feel abandoned and excluded from a group or from a person’s life.
This situation can make you anxious and restless. There is no support and friendship tie present in your life, and there is a sudden emptiness that is making you feel lonely.
Research studies support the connection between loneliness and social rejection. It has shown that social rejection can make you feel alone, no one to talk to or share your feelings with.
These feelings are more pronounced for teenagers and young adults who feel left out very easily if their social acceptance level goes down due to social rejection.
Social rejection is heart-pinching and causes intense sad feelings, alienation, and unhappiness. You may feel alone, socially isolated, and completely broken deep inside.
For some people, the sudden loss of social support can lead to symptoms of depression as well, if not checked out soon.
Some of the other feelings associated with social rejection are as follows:
- Social embarrassment
- Feelings of being judged
- Shame and guilt
Causes of social rejection
As already referred to, human beings have an intrinsic need to feel accepted and included in a group. Even Abraham Maslow concluded that the need for social belongingness is vital for good physical and mental health.
We crave meaningful connections and whenever it is not in place, we might face tremendous anxiety and loss of positive self-image.
The causes of social rejection can be enumerated as follows:
1. Lack of attachment
Lack of strong familial bond with caregivers in early and late childhood can make the person suffer from several insecurities that can stop them from forming strong adult relationships.
The person may always try to fit into a group but unable to do so due to his/her innate vulnerabilities and hidden trauma.
This can lead to social rejection as the person may have several problems relating to others humbly and closely.
2. Individual differences
All of us are born with certain key qualities and shortcomings. If a person’s individual differences are not taken into consideration, then they might face social rejection by the peer group, or family members. The differences could be based on appearance, social status, educational background and many more things.
Other reasons cited for social rejection are as follows:
- poor fit and lack of compatibility with peer, or partner, or any work group
- Social discrimination based on religion, language can lead to social rejection.
- Failure to meet the group expectations by an individual member can lead to social rejection
- Less tolerance for criticism can lead to conflicts with others leading to isolation and rejection
- Emotional distancing and inability of a person to relate with others deeply can also cause social rejection.
- Differences in individual choices and decision making
- Levels of achievement and ambition can vary in peer groups leading to social rejection of one or many members.
Consequences of social rejection
Research reports have proved that the consequences of social rejection are always negative. If you are rejected by a person who is dear to you, you’ll feel broken from inside. The pain experienced will be nothing less than physical pain.
Here are some predominant negative effects of social rejection:
- rejection can lead to anger and jealousy, shame and embarrassment
- Social rejection is unpleasant and leads to formation of a poor self-image.
- The person may become resentful to ‘self’, may think that he/she is inadequate in some way, thus being excluded by others in the group.
- Social rejection leads to intense anxiety and the need to prove oneself as a worthy being.
- Rejection also leads to fear of being rejected again and again in other social situations. Thus, the individual may feel lesser than others.
- Loss of confidence to face challenges may occur.
- It increases anger and annoyance leading to violence.
- The mind is occupied with negative thoughts that stop the person from seeing varied perspectives that could have led to social rejection.
- Selfishness increases to a great extent.
- It decreases performance in various cognitive tasks.
- Poor impulse control can be found.
- The person can act in a passive-aggressive manner.
- Sadness or depressive symptoms leading to self-harming tendencies.
- The person may become socially withdrawn and start living a solitary life.
- Social rejection can have adverse mental health implications in the form of constant rumination about being inadequate and imperfect, wherein the person can resort to any means to gain acceptance; or try to fit inside the group.
- Heightened sensitivity to all sorts of future rejection
- Lonely and isolated feelings can haunt the person deep inside.
- Manifestation of poor social skills due to poor self-esteem.
Sensitivity to social rejection
There are some individuals who might overreact to social rejection and exhibit fear symptoms that are marked with intense anxiety, disappointment, etc. this is known as rejection sensitivity.
They may show health related symptoms such as racing heart or palpitations. These individuals harbor a misconception that they will always be rejected no matter how much effort they put in to fit into the group they belong to.
For them, a slight disregard in personal relationships can be extremely painful and they might consider the isolated behavior of their partner as an end to the relationship. This is nothing but a hypersensitive reaction to social rejection.
The fear of rejection is due to previous bad experiences that the person has suffered socially.
Several scientific studies have also proved that sensitivity to social rejection can be devastating. It might cause suicidal tendencies for people suffering from mental health problems such as social phobia or avoidant personality disorder.
Why does social rejection hurt?
Social rejection is emotionally painful because it induces deep pain and suffering, not easy to be forgotten. Pain is unpleasant and we want to avoid it at all costs. Social rejection causes intense emotional pain that is similar to physical pain.
Several research findings support this idea that rejection is heart-pinching and the impact of this emotional suffering is no way lesser than physical pain.
When facing anything not pleasant or painful, your sensory receptors send this message to the brain. In the brain areas, the feeling of pain is received, experienced, and processed.
Just like physical pain, social rejection will also be perceived as unpleasant and the brain will process this experience in a negative way. This will cause more intense suffering.
Moreover, the negative feelings come from the person’s inability to relate with others, or get accepted in the group. Maybe the person wants to belong to the group but is not able to do it successfully.
Social rejection occurs due to unstable relationships, emotional distancing, etc. When an individual’s desires and wants are not fulfilled, it leaves a void deep within. These empty feelings bring loneliness and a feeling of being socially isolated from all others.
Social rejection also hurts because it undermines your self-esteem. You may start to shame yourself badly and feel more insecure and vulnerable in all other relationships in your life.
Forms of social rejection
Social rejection can show up in various forms. It can happen in peer groups, work groups, social settings, and even in personal relationships. Moreover, rejection can also occur in dating, career opportunities, sharing of common resources, etc.
1. Job or career rejection
A job supports a person’s stable livelihood. It also renders them a sense of security and financial stability. If you couldn’t achieve a desired job position or feel rejected, it might feel like the world crashing down on you.
Sometimes, even after having all the necessary skills or desired qualification for a particular job role, you may be rejected in some way. You just do not get the job and it is the only reality for you.
2. Rejection in friendships/peer rejection
This is one of the most common forms of social rejection. Friendships are the cornerstone of stable relationships outside the immediate family.
Friend’s share many common traits and qualities but sometimes they do differ in their opinions and outlook towards life. It can’t always be the same.
In such circumstances, if a person fails to comply with the opinions of the peer group, they might be outright rejected. They may be isolated by others as being different or not being ‘their types’.
Social rejection in peer groups can occur due to individual differences, financial disparities, or differences of values and opinions in life.
3. Social rejection in dating/intimate relationships
This type of rejection stings and can take place due to lack of incompatibility between partners. When two partners feel that they do not share many common traits or cannot get along well, one of them may try to isolate himself/herself from the relationship.
He/she may show signs of disinterest in the relationship. This leads to hurting feelings and social rejection of one of the members involved in the relationship.
Social rejection in marital relationships is also not uncommon. If there is a large scale individual differences between partners and lack of adjustment seem probable, then one partner can close doors to the other, leading to rejection.
The potential romantic partners can sideline if one of the partners is a mismatch or has low compatibility score with the other partner.
How to deal with social rejection? (Social rejection interventions)
Getting past social rejection is not an easy thing. After all, you will have to confront and break your insecurities to become a confident person; so that you can deal with the agony of being rejected.
Here we will discuss some of the ways that will help you to overcome social rejection and become more confident about your identity and self-worth.
1. Remind yourself that rejection happens with everyone
Social rejection is not an uncommon thing. Thus, you should remind yourself that sometimes it’s natural to be rejected or not accepted in social spheres. Rejection is not always because of your insufficiency but it could be that you are a misfit in the social structure you belong to.
Many big and small issues in your daily life have resulted in rejection. Some of the simple examples that show rejection are as follows:
- Your friend is not answering your calls and messages and trying to ignore you blatantly when seen.
- When you were turned down for a dinner date by your husband or wife.
- If you have not received an invitation to a family function.
- You were not selected in the school football team in spite of you playing well in all the practice matches.
- A partner leaving the relationship due to his/her engagement with someone else.
These examples are everyday incidents and we have faced such issues in our daily lives. Handling these small rejections is an art in itself. You can do it by becoming stronger and confident from within.
2. Validate your deepest feelings
If you are hurt and feel socially isolated and rejected, accept your negative emotions. Validate your feelings as real and a part of your inner being. You may find yourself in a pool of deep sadness and gloom; sometimes lonely feelings can take over you and you will feel empty from inside.
It is important to accept that these feelings are natural and will go away soon. Never allow your negative emotions to rule your heart completely, otherwise you’ll feel overwhelmed more.
Self validation of your negative feelings helps you to control the upsurge and stay in control of yourself. Rejection brings social embarrassment and shame. Your emotional pain will surely linger if you deny these feelings as real and genuine.
Thus, if you are someone who is highly sensitive to rejection, you should always acknowledge what is going deep down the heart.
3. See whether you have learned something from the rejection process
Rejection is not always bad. Sometimes it may teach you important life lessons that you would have never learned otherwise. Reframing your thoughts related to rejection is important while you are trying to deal with the trauma.
For example: If you have given a good interview and still not got the job, it could feel disappointing but after a few months when you land on a better lucrative offer, you realize that the previous rejection was actually beneficial for you. It helped in personal growth and skill enhancement.
Thus, in any social rejection, you need to look at it from various perspectives before feeling overwhelmed and jittery.
Even in romantic rejections, the initial sad feelings and disappointment will go off if you find a better match for yourself later on. Maybe a good fit partner was already waiting for you when you’re beating around the bush for absolutely wrong reasons.
4. Remember that you are a worthy being
Social rejection can be more hurtful if you forget to acknowledge your true worth. Remind yourself that you are good all by yourself. In reality, you do not need anyone to prove yourself as an ideal being.
It’s vital to reconstruct your lost self-esteem. You need to accept the fact that you are good enough and capable of overcoming all odds in life. Even if you are rejected, you are all ready for a comeback.
Rejection as an opportunity for personal growth and self-development can be achieved by the following ways:
- Always feel proud about the small achievements that you have earned in your kitty.
- Never allow others to define your worth.
- There is no need for you to fit into other people’s shoes.
- You are good enough and a worthy being.
- Your personal values are dear to you, even if others do not like it.
- Never try to please others. It is not needed.
- Remind yourself that you always have so much to offer to others.
- Never shy away from your true feelings, even if it’s negative.
5. Stop thinking about worst case scenarios
People who have suffered rejection many times tend to ruminate about worst case scenarios. They will lose confidence pretty easily and will always feel like a failure.
So, if you are also one of them, you just need to remind yourself that social rejection cannot define your identity and worth. If you are rejected in one particular scenario, it doesn’t mean that you will be rejected in all your personal and professional endeavors.
Stop catastrophizing as it is not always real. Your negative thoughts are the by-product of your fears and insecurities. So, you need to reframe your thoughts in positive ways and see the change that is occurring in you.
6. Do not blame yourself
Another way to overcome social rejection is by staying strong and not to blame you for the process. It is natural for you to feel bad about the situation but the reality is, social rejection might not have any clear-cut reasons.
Whenever you are confused about why you have been rejected, you may start to blame yourself for the same. These negative self-blaming tendencies are enough to break your self-confidence.
You have the choice whether to break these false beliefs and move on with life happily or to succumb to rejection ill-effects helplessly.
As an adult, you have other options to look at the situation from various angles and derive a conclusion that it should be. Stop blaming yourself for the things that were not your fault at all.
Your critical inner self may taunt you and tell you that you’re not good enough if you allow it to say so. Stop being critical of your identity and self-worth because you are worthy of much more in life than what you have lost due to the social rejection process.
7. Be resilient
You should learn the skills needed to bounce back from a setback. This ability to overcome adversities happily is known as resilience.
This is a powerful tool to accept all sorts of unforeseen bad happenings in your life. Social rejection is a painful experience that you will have to overcome by your fighting spirit.
If you are resilient, you will not think about worst-case scenarios. Moreover, your mind will be open and flexible to accept everything positively.
You will be able to see rejection as a learning process for self growth and actualization. Resilience will help you to seek support from others, whenever required.
Then, you will not lose hope, rather you will remain focused on your strengths so that the rejection process cannot undermine your self-esteem.
Sometimes, a touch of humor is also needed. You need to take things lightly and practice self-care to fight odds in life.
8. Lean on those people who are your best pals now
Social rejection can make you feel very lonely and secluded. You may think there is no one to support you in such trying times.
The experience of rejection can also lower your trust in fellow humans. You may start choosing your social connections with caution so that your mental health is not at stake.
Here comes the role of those relatives and friends who are still with you thick and thin. Seek support from them so that you can overcome the hurtful feelings that arise out of rejection in an easier way.
9. Do not allow the rejection process to overpower you
Another way to overcome social rejection is by trying again after you have failed. You should never stop trying to achieve the desired things even if you have suffered several failures.
Your failed endeavors shouldn’t stop you from trying again. Otherwise, you will never be able to rebuild your lost self-esteem.
Sometimes, when people experience social rejection, they feel broken from within and thereby stop trying. But this should be avoided at all costs so that you can revive the happiness that you have lost due to the rejection.
So, next time you suffer rejection on a date, or get thrown out in a job interview, just remind yourself that rejection is good and it will help you grow as a person. You will surely walk along the path of success no matter whether others reject you as many times as they want to.
You will never give up. And that’s what is right.
10. Visit a mental health professional
The rejection triggered intense feelings of nervousness and anxiety can be handled by visiting a psychologist who will guide you through useful coping skills to deal with the emotional surge.
How to deal with rejection in various situations of daily life?
Social rejection is everywhere and you just cannot avoid it in your daily lives. Let’s highlight a few points of how to cope with social rejection in some key areas of your personal and professional life.
1. Coping with social rejection in offices/job settings
If you have ever been rejected from a job setting, you may start to question your skill and competence. Self-blaming tendencies may set in quite easily. Just to avoid it, you may try out some healthy ways of coping without damaging your self-esteem.
- Self evaluate your strengths and weaknesses so that you know whether you have prepared in a wrong manner for the interview
- Do not rush with new job searches. Take a pause and slow down for a while so that your fighting spirit gets a boost.
- Improve your communication skills and try to get more information about those areas where your knowledge is lacking.
- Apply for jobs where your skills match with the job role.
- Stop taking things personally and if possible, seek feedback from your interviewer.
2. Coping with social rejection in dating
You may have used several ways to find true love but unfortunately, your trials went messy and wrong. You could not get through a relationship and suffered a social rejection while dating a partner or after having a relationship with him or her.
Rejection in dating is a painful experience. It is not easy to handle rejection from a future partner. Your level of embarrassment and shame will be too much to be handled.
- Never base your worth and confidence on the basis of what the other person thinks about you.
- Self-reflection is a way to know you well. You can use it to find out your areas of deficiencies in a relationship.
- Go for dating with some realistic expectations.
- Develop a positive mindset that you will be accepted as you are.
- Be prepared to face odds.
- Have an optimistic attitude towards life.
- Remind yourself that one rejection from a future partner doesn’t judge your actual worth.
3. Coping with social rejection from all sorts of social connection
For some of you out there, social interaction may not work out as expected. You may suffer social rejection for many reasons. But, there are ways to cope as well.
- You can find social networking groups online that match your preferences and lifestyle choices.
- Look for local meet-up groups to connect and do some shared activities to strengthen the bonding.
- You can also connect with small groups that match your interests.
Summing Up from ‘ThePleasantMind’
The blow of social rejection can be really big especially for a person who has a weak heart and lacks resilience and tolerance. Social rejection is a complex process and the reasons for its predominance in almost every society are not clearly known.
Yet, it operates quite heavily. The trick to overcoming social rejection is by rebuilding your broken self-esteem, stop your trials to fit into a group or a place that you really do not fit in, and remain happy as much as you can.
After all, no rejection can actually take away your self-worth unless you allow it to happen that way. You can either choose to remain a victim or evolve as a victorious being. After all, the choice is all yours.
A Psychologist with a master's degree in Psychology, a former school psychologist, and a teacher by profession Chandrani loves to live life simply and happily. She is an avid reader and a keen observer. Writing has always been a passion for her, since her school days. It helps to de-stress and keeps her mentally agile. Pursuing a career in writing was a chance occurrence when she started to pen down her thoughts and experiences for a few childcare and parenting websites. Her lovable niche includes mental health, parenting, childcare, and self-improvement. She is here to share her thoughts and experiences and enrich the lives of few if not many.