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July 26, 2019

Emotional Literacy & How to Handle Rejection

Episode 117

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Karen B.K. Chan, joins Jess and Brandon on the podcast to discuss rejection. How can we manage rejection? And when we feel rejected, how can we embrace it? How do we develop resilience and emotional literacy and to navigate uncomfortable social situations. Listen now and learn more!

The following is a rough transcript of the introduction to this podcast:

When was the last time you felt rejected — in work, socially, or otherwise?

I feel rejected often because I talk to strangers so often. The other day I was walking down the street and I said good afternoon to a woman and she didn’t reply. The way I read the situation was that she looked up at me, mouth agape and then averted her gaze. I felt as though she was irritated with me and though that may have not been the case – she may have been shy or felt threatened or simply didn’t know what to say, but I remember feeling irritated. But I was only irritated because I felt rejected.

I also feel rejected when I try to make conversation with people and they seem uninterested. When I play Ultimate, I often play with new players or new teams or new subs and some people really like to chat on the sidelines and others clearly aren’t interested. I always try to make conversation because I’m chatty and sometimes I get one word answers and I take it personally.

But of course, it’s not their responsibility to make sure I manage my own feelings of rejection. They may not want to talk because they’re into the game. They may not be in the mood. They may just not really like me. And I’m sensitive about this. Sometimes when I’m in certain spaces, I feel like I’m being rejected because of my race, because of my occupation, because of my appearance if I don’t fit in. But this is on me.

I grew up thinking people in Toronto were snobby and at some points in my life, I had a chip on my shoulder because of this. And I think it’s because I wasn’t being honest about how I felt. I wasn’t owning the feelings of rejection.

And feelings of rejection are tough. They’re psychological and physiological. Evolutionary theorists suggest that because we come from hunter-gatherers, we needed the community to survive. When we felt rejected by the group, we feared for our lives because we simply couldn’t survive on our own. It stems from a life or death situation and it’s a warning system for our own protection. Of course, we no longer live in the wild, so we no longer need to allow rejection to scare us. In fact, we’ll be better off if we embrace rejection.

MRI studies show that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain and pain medications like Acetaminophen can reduce emotional pain.

But emotional pain can feel more intense than physical pain because we can recall it, and because when we face emotional pain like the pain of rejection, we tend to self-sabotage and be harder on ourselves. If you get a bruise, you don’t ruminate about it, but we tend to be self-critical when faced with emotional rejection.

I want to talk about rejection because I think we’re getting it all wrong. I think we fear it too intensely and it’s time to embrace it. We often talk about the power of vulnerability and how much it can improve self-esteem, relationships and fulfillment. And rejection is a part of this vulnerability. Rather than avoiding or dismissing rejection, I want us to embrace it and learn from it.

Joining us to discuss how to handle rejection is BK Chan. BK is sex and emotional literacy educator.

BK has an Emotional Intelligence  online course you can access here.

The following is a rough transcript of the podcast conclusion:

Rejection is a life skill. There are so many pearls of wisdom to pull from BK’s insights and even though I’ve only met BK a few times, she is one of my favourite people I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking to and spending time with. If I have to pull one action item out of BK’s many insights, it’s the feelings on the fridge suggestion. If you find yourself stuck on specific emotions — anger, frustration or resentment, for example – can you look at a list of wider emotions to try to identify the true emotional source. If you’re feeling angry, are you really angry or are you really feeling powerless? If you’re feeling or expressing frustration, are you really frustrated or are you feeling lonely or neglected? If you find yourself harbouring resentment, are there other important emotions worth addressing like sadness, guilt or shame? Sometimes just seeing these emotions in writing — on your fridge or on your phone  — can help you to get to the source of the problem. The more authentic – often scarier and more vulnerable emotions that underly the more aggressive ones. LiveBoldAndBloom.com has a long list of emotions, but you can also just Google list of emotions and you’ll find several good options.

And I want to add one more thing. As we spoke, BK was so present and thoughtful throughout the entire interview. So in addition to learning from her insights, I also want to learn from her modeled behaviour and be a bit more curious. Oftentimes, folks turn to me for the answers – especially when I’m being interviewed. And TV has trained me to give as much soundbite friendly information as possible in the shortest amount of time, which may work for a live television segment, but I think I’ve allowed this to seep into other non-TV parts of my life, so I’ll be working on this with a reminder to start today.

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