We, as human beings are naturally inclined towards being accepted because we are social beings. When we are not accepted or rejected, it damages and hurts us emotionally and lowers our mental health. Rejection of a university application, of a job, a proposal, or aside from all these you may even be struggling with emotional rejection or physical rejection from our own bodies or rejection from yourself. But this is normal and in fact, we all must experience rejection in life to become more emotionally refined human beings.
What makes rejection harder is that sometimes this comes with criticism too, and this is what attacks our mental health, triggering our self-confidence, self-worth, motivation and our dreams too.
There is a psychological term for it, ‘rejection sensitivity’. What this means is that you might be so sensitive to rejection that you will change everything about yourself to be accepted.
Studies in Psychology Science reported that social rejection affected the heart directly, which leads to attacking us mentally. We see our worth in the eyes of people. When subjects were told that others didn’t like them, their hearts were beating faster. “In other words, the body seems to carry programming which influences it to try to fit in with the herd, and when that isn’t happening, the body goes into shock mode.”
This makes us needy on others for approving ourselves and evaluating our self-worth. Even if 8 out of 10 people were to say they like you and 2 out of them said they didn’t, you will be most impacted by the 2 out of 10 people. We want to constantly please people and everyone around us.
This also comes from ourselves too when we set a standard for ourselves and we are not able to achieve or are not able to please ourselves, we start rejecting ourselves. We start rejecting ourselves by not eating well, overworking, blaming our self, immense negative self-talk and this is detrimental to our physical and mental health.
COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS: MINIMIZING AND MAGNIFYING
We all want to be loved and liked universally and be accepted by everyone. It could be when it comes to the workplace and you propose a new idea, or when you suggest a new place to visit but your loved ones deny it, or when your university application was not accepted. Psychologists call it cognitive distortion when we magnify one negative and minimize the ninety-nine positive. We want 100% approval!
In reality, we must strive for this kind of attitude/relationship only with Allah SWT. And this will, in fact, assist with dealing with rejection, as we only ‘magnify’ when a matter related to our relationship with Allah is hurt and ‘minimize’ when a matter related to this world arises.
THE NEED FOR APPROVAL AND CONTROL
“It’s almost an addiction that makes them feel like they need to be needed,” says social psychologist and author Susan Newman, “this makes them feel important and like they’re contributing to someone else’s life.” And this statement could fit into any form of rejection that we feel in our life. We want to be approved by everything because we are low on self-confidence and need an outer source to validate us.
Of course, in a work setting or academic setting if one was to be rejected we feel very deeply affected by this.this happens because we are not internalizing the fact that Allah will make things in our life happen even if the world were to disagree on it, and Allah will take away something from you even if the world agrees on it. In other words, WHATEVER happens, happens for good. In reality, this should calm and satisfy one’s inner self. However, sadly, we attach our self-confidence and self-worth to our promotion or academic excellence or any worldly achievement.
But how can one think otherwise and NOT attach ourselves emotionally to such matters?
First and foremost there needs to be a checklist. The matter that I was rejected for….
- Was I doing for the sake of Riya, showing off – You can never lie to yourself. If you began this for the sake of being praised by others, then this a disease of the heart. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “What I fear for you the most is the minor shirk, that is ar-riya. Allah will say on the Day of Judgement when He is rewarding the people for their actions: Go to those for whom you did riya for in the world then see if you find the reward with them.”  – This hadith is referring to anything worldly project you do for the sake of being praised. Allah SWT takes away the barakah from such a project so we must refresh and purify our intentions no matter how small the task.
Scholars say that it is part of human nature to do things that one loves and in return be pleased when someone approves or recognizes it. But then, you’re making yourself emotional depending on a matter that is not permanent. Strive to place your emotional dependency on something that is permanent, i.e. Allah SWT.
- Did this benefit me? – Especially when it comes to criticism, we tend to take it too personally while ignoring the benefit that comes from it. We can judge if the intention of the criticism was good or bad. If it was bad, ignore it. If it was good, this has become a standpoint for you to develop.
One practical tip here is, when someone criticizes you the first thing you must do immediately, without analyzing whether it was good or bad, is verbally appreciate it. Tell them “I appreciate this advice a lot. This will help me immensely in enhancing this project/work/experience.” This tricks your mind without giving it time to think about it, so your mind registers this as something positive. A Muslim is supposed to be positive because positivity does WONDERS!
- Does this small event/project REALLY summarize my self worth? – One tip here to stick to, is to attach your worth to something permanent, rather than attaching it to something that keeps on changing as the season changes. And Allah is the ONLY permanent existence.
“SO WHAT IF THEY REJECTED ME?”
Our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) went through The Year Of Sadness during the 10th year of Nubuwwah. He (phub) lost his beloved Wife Khadijah RA and his dear companion and caregiver since he was child, Abu Talib Ra, just a few months after. Not only this, He (PBUH) went through rejection from his community as He (PBUH) lost the support of a powerful companion. He (PBUH) was insulted and tormented, in the same year when He (PBUH) went to Taif to call people to Islam, He (PBUH) was rejected brutally and was thrown stones at! Our Prophet SAW was human just like you and I. This broke Muhammad (PBUH) into pieces and was emotionally tortured and rejected!
So, How did our role model Prophet Muhammad SAW react to this rejection?
There were 3 factors in total backing our beloved Prophet:
- His SAW’s firm iman
- His SAW’s blinded trust in Allah SWT
- His SAW’s dua to Allah SWT
The most powerful weapon that He (PBUH) used was his dua. Specifically, he made one statement that would bring a conclusion to rejection sensitivity, cognitive distortion and our need for approval. He (PBUH) mentioned in his dua in Taif, “Oh Allāh if you are not angry with me than I do not care what you do with me.”
WORK ON YOUR IMAN
All the above checklists, hadiths and stories from the Seerah will be trivial if we don’t work on our faith. The world will come and go, it’ll rise and fall and change every day but the only thing that stays with you is yourself and Allah. Your Iman. Begin there. The easiest way to do this:
- Iman rises when your good deeds rise and drops when your good deeds drop.
- Put in more than sufficient amounts of sincerity and good intentions into each good deed.
- Make dua for help
Your energy too, is an Amanah from Allah SWT, it’s a trust. Don’t abuse it by putting your energy into trivial matters that are negative and will not benefit in the long run. Imam al-Shafi’ says, “There is nobody except that he has someone who loves him and someone who hates him. So if that’s the case, let a person be with the people who are obedient to Allāh SWT’ (as they love and hate for the sake of Allāh and they are not unjust).”
Remember, you’re in control what you allow to affect you and you’re in control on what you allow your energy to go towards.
Zuberi, hena. “11 Ways to Deal with Rejection and Criticism.” MuslimMatters.org – Discourses in the Intellectual Traditions, Political Situation, and Social Ethics of Muslim Life,
Hilyat al-Awliya 9/124
Related by Ahmad (5/428, 429) and al-Baghawi in Sharh as-Sunnah (4135) from the hadith of Mahmud bin Lubaid, radiallahu ‘anhu, with an authentic chain upon the conditions of Muslim