The Antidote for the Pain of Rejection
by Kevin Hogan
A Primitive Emotional Warning System
Psychologist, Mark R. Leary, Ph.D., proposes the theory that
self-esteem is a type of internal meter that is built into each
of us to help us detect rejection and to prompt us to avoid the
threat of social rejection.
His theory suggests that the self-esteem system is an internal,
psychological gauge that monitors the degree to which the
individual is being included versus excluded by other people.
Self-esteem, then, as we consider it in this article, is an internal representation of social
acceptance and rejection.
Think of self-esteem as being the fuel gauge in your car. We
usually never think about the function of the fuel gauge, which
is keeping fuel in the car. Instead, we are focused on the
alerting system of the fuel gauge. We are busy trying to keep
it from registering "Empty".
The same thing goes for our self-esteem. We rarely focus on it
or worry about maintaining it for it's own sake - keeping our
self-esteem healthy and its tank "Full".
Rather, self-esteem should be used as a gauge to keep our own
"internal gas tanks" from running low.
When your self-esteem gauge's warning system goes off… when you
are sitting on "Empty", you're not thinking about repairing your
self-esteem, which is what you are lacking, but your immediate
response is to repair your standing in the eyes of others. You're
focused on ways to maintain your positive connections that are in
When your "alarm system" goes off, you immediately begin
checking to see what you are doing that could possibly be
turning others off to you or to something that you are doing.
"It's a primitive emotional warning system to get you to
analyze the situation you're in," explains Leary. "Say you're
talking to someone and notice the person's suddenly frowning; a
sign of disapproval. You think to yourself, 'I said something
they don't like. I've got to let them know I was just kidding'."
This personal alert system operates constantly with or without
you being aware of it... it's on autopilot.
Over time, people develop a range of protective responses to
react to the signals that their internal radar gives them.
Sometimes these responses can be as simple as hurt feelings, but
other feelings such as embarrassment, shame, guilt, or jealousy
can also serve as signs of this response to us. Because our
adaptive response to rejection and ostracism is such a natural
part of our internal selves, it often takes very little to
trigger our detection system and bring out our built in defenses.
Sometimes they are right...sometimes they are wrong...but no matter
what, the other person will react with "no" if they see that you are feeling
rejected when they weren't rejecting you.
And that is the difference between the millionaire and the guy that
never quite makes it. It's the difference between the one who gets a 5 and the one who gets a 9...and I'll show you why...and how next week.
Attend an online e-course with Kevin Hogan. Registering now: