We all know that rejection hurts. Brain scans prove that it literally hurts.
One of the most fascinating neuroscience experiments ever done with functional MRI brain scanning involved a simple game of catch between three participants. Two were outside the scanning machine and one was in the brain scanner and they played a game in the fMRI room. The scanner showed that brain was happy and relaxed for the person in the scanner.
Suddenly scientists noticed that brain was in pain/torture (activity visible in the anterior cingulate cortex, processing pain in the medial prefrontal cortex). They rushed to the scanner to see if the person in the scanner is hit by something?
What actually happened was the two subjects outside the scanner left out the subject in the scanner and started playing between themselves five minutes ago. The social exclusion/rejection is the emotional pain the subject was coping up. What the scientists saw was that pain in the brain. It looked felt like as if a limb is cut off physically. The brain was trying hard to cope up with the agony by releasing opioids so that the significance of the pain is inhibited.
Experiment Courtesy: Friederike Fabritius
Despite the emotional wounds being invisible biologically, the pain is real for our brains. No wonder rejection hurts.
Churn in subscriber counts, unfollow in Twitter, dips in the likes, crickets in Instagram, Swipe left on Tinder, etc are all processed by the brain as pain. Despite being resilient, it is hard to take onself off the pain infliction possibility in an always connected environment.
The emotional pain from social media was real for me. I am sure I have caused similar pain to my friends, family and connections as well without really knowing all these impacts. This made me think deeply about self-care and wellbeing. I thought we will get numb after a few blows but the pain persisted. It doesn't seem to go away. What 1000 positive comments cannot acheive one negative comment does even today. My heart races, I sweat profusely, I shiver inside me as I read the comment. Damn! What a power this unknown person in the internet has over my emotions with just one line of nonsense?
It felt like slavery in many ways. I wanted to put a full-stop to this helpless pain. After breaking my head for almost 2 years, I found one solution that helped me immensely.It shifted my perception around how I look at rejection.
The solution is simple: I just replaced the word rejection with fitment.
As a product designer, fitment is how we look at everything in the product world. Problem-Solution Fitment, Product-Market Fitment, Business Model Fitment, Content - Market Fitment, Applicant - Culture Fitment etc.
What we go through in the connected age is also fitment in many ways.
Some people want you and you want some people. If there is an intersection between both parties then all things go smooth. When that is not the case, one rejects the other and pain is inevitable.
For example: The basis of any social feed is dependent upon the follows. Following the right people matters. So they seek fitment in whom to follow.
If i take that concept to a meta layer of human nature, it is nothing but seeking compatibility of needs and wants.
As people we seek fitment with whom/what we relate to.
Whom we give time to and whom we don't give time to is based on our dominance hierarchy. What we buy and what we don't buy depends upon our desirability.
In a certain context, we feel certain things are important to us and certain things are not important to us.
Based on our desirability we seek fitment. Based on our fitment we pursue. If we take it one step forward, we chase when we see that fitment.
So why see it as rejection?
Instead why not see it as fitment?
Try this experiment and see in your personal life
If you get rejected by someone, just replace the word with fitment and think again.
"Aww! I do not fit their needs and wants and that is understandable."
Try this for job rejection: "Aww! Looks like I do not fit this position. It has nothing to do with me but my fit to the role"
Try this for a dating reject: "Aww! Looks like I do not fit this person's needs and wants. It has nothing to do with me but how I fit the context of the other person's life"
Try this for project rejection: "Aww! Looks like I do not fit this project's needs and wants. It has nothig to do with me but how my skills are not a match for the current project"
The list can go on.
When rejection is replaced with fitment, a sense of calm strikes in. It allows us to accept the current context and move on with the next steps.
Personally, I stopped brooding over rejection after this shift. Even now when churn happens in a blog or a post or a proposal the pain hits me but I quickly invoke fitment to see things clearly.
I replace my fast thinking with my slow and deliberate fitment thinking and I feel better 💯
The best part is, this perspective shift allowed me to play with my locus of control to see if I can fit ahead of time. In other words my resilience grew exponentially.
Try me! It will be hard for you to give me pain now 😉 Fun isn't it?
🥂 to rejection!