In the new world order, friends aren’t just friends anymore they’re a combination of virtual and real acquaintances that fill a sometimes unspecified need. They can live in the ether, or just across the street. And as with old fashioned rejection, social rejection can wreak havoc with self-esteem. Thankfully, there are some things people can do to minimize the negative impact of being rejected though, and Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps, a private practice psychologist on the medical staff at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, New Jersey, has some suggestions on how to do just that. She recently summed them up in a column in Psychology Today (see references).
First of all, she says, it’s important for people to realize that social rejection is not something to be taken lightly. Being rejected is painful and worrying about impending rejection can lead to anxiety and in some cases outright fear. She also says that the level of pain and embarrassment that can come from social rejection is generally directly related to the level of importance a person places on social relationships. Thus, the best way to avoid being bowled over by social rejection is to learn to not take it all so seriously. And the way to do that is to take a personal inventory to find out if you’re someone who is at risk.
Becker-Phelps says some signs of overdependence on social acceptance include: going overboard in trying to please others, constant need of validation, putting the happiness of others ahead of your own and building up unrealistic expectations with social relationships.
For those who fear that they might be a little too reliant on social relationships, she says that, like many other emotional problems, simply admitting to yourself that you have something about yourself that is problematic is a good start.
Next, she suggests looking at current relationships, whether in person or online, to see if there are patterns that might lead to rejection, and if so head them off. If someone seems to be preoccupied for example, when interacting with you, it’s likely they don’t place much value in being a social acquaintance, or friend of yours, and thus, you should consider cutting them out of your life. Yes, sometimes that best way to deal with social rejection is to reject others.
And finally, Becker-Phelps suggests that people with social rejection issues seek out more meaningful relationships that are based on more than a listing on a Facebook page or a casual exchange. True friendships are based on mutual attraction and trust and those that put themselves in a position to be rejected on a casual basis, will most certainly find their worst fears come true.