Here's why rejection is actually good for your brain, according to a psychologist
Rejection is a universal experience, but its sting can still feel so individual.
"Everyone gets rejected all the time in ways big and small," says Mark Leary, a former psychology professor at Duke University.
Instead of seeing rejection as a discouraging emotion, see it as a sign that your brain is working exactly as it should.
Feeling rejected is helpful
Historically, the shame and anxiety that comes with rejection has been a useful tool, Leary says.
"Throughout human evolution, being accepted and included in groups was essential to our survival," he says.
Being rejected by a group or spouse had far greater consequences hundreds of years ago than it does now. Still, we are "determined" to read rejection as a threat to our health.
"The reason it continues to hurt is the same reason we continue to experience pain when we step on a sharp object," he says. "Negative emotions are a warning that something may harm your well-being."
Neutrality is not rejection
If you take rejection personally, your self-esteem will suffer, Leary says. But if you attribute injustice to the world, it will make you angry.
"Do your best to make a realistic assessment of the problem," says Leary.
If someone doesn't call you for a few days, don't jump to the conclusion that they don't want to talk. They may be sick or busy.
It also helps to remember that you're probably not getting rejected as much as you think.
"People misinterpret ambivalence and neutrality as rejection," says Leary. "A lot of people see a lot more rejection than there really is."
This can be isolating and cause a kind of victim complex.
"Obviously it rains on all of us, but if you think it's only raining on you, that's really discouraging. Remember that rejection is a normal part of everyone's life, and feeling bad about it means your brain is working properly, Leary says.