Social Acceptance and Rejection: The Sweet and the Bitter

Little blonde girls holding happy and sad face masks symbolizing changing emotions

For proof that rejection, exclusion, and acceptance are central to our lives, look no farther than the living room, says Nathan Dewall, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky. “If you turn on the television set, and watch any reality TV program, most of them are about rejection and acceptance,” he says. The reason, DeWall says, is that acceptance—in romantic relationships, from friends, even from strangers—is absolutely fundamental to humans.

In a new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, DeWall and coauthor Brad J. Bushman of Ohio State University review recent psychological research on social acceptance and rejection. “Although psychologists have been interested in close relationships and what happens when those relationships go awry for a very long time, it’s only been about 15 yrs that psychologists have been doing this work on exclusion and rejection,” DeWall says. The results have highlighted how central acceptance is to our lives.

DeWall thinks belonging to a group was probably helpful to our ancestors. We have weak claws, little fur, and long childhoods; living in a group helped early humans survive harsh environments. Because of that, being part of a group still helps people feel safe and protected, even when walls and clothing have made it easier for one man to be an island entire of himself.

But acceptance has an evil twin: rejection. Being rejected is bad for your health. “People who feel isolated and lonely and excluded tend to have poor physical health,” DeWall says. They don’t sleep well, their immune systems sputter, and they even tend to die sooner than people who are surrounded by others who care about them.

Being excluded is also associated with poor mental health, and exclusion and mental health problems can join together in a destructive loop. People with depression may face exclusion more often because of the symptoms of their disorder—and being rejected makes them more depressed, DeWall says. People with social anxiety navigate their world constantly worried about being socially rejected. A feeling of exclusion can also contribute to suicide.

Exclusion isn’t just a problem for the person who suffers it, either; it can disrupt society at large, DeWall says. People who have been excluded often lash out against others. In experiments, they give people much more hot sauce than they can stand, blast strangers with intense noise, and give destructive evaluations of prospective job candidates. Rejection can even contribute to violence. An analysis of 15 school shooters found that all but two had been socially rejected.

It’s important to know how to cope with rejection. First of all, “We should assume that everyone is going to experience rejection on a semi-regular basis throughout their life,” DeWall says. It’s impossible to go through your entire life with everyone being nice to you all the time. When you are rejected or excluded, he says, the best way to deal with it is to seek out other sources of friendship or acceptance. “A lot of times, people keep these things to themselves because they’re embarrassed or they don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” he says. But our bodies respond to rejection like they do to physical pain; the pain should be taken seriously, and it’s fine to seek out support. “When people feel lonely, or when people feel excluded or rejected, these are things they can talk about,” he says.



Only someone with a truly expert understanding of his field could speak so eloquently.

This is a society wide problem which needs to be dealt with!

It has been my experience that sharing episodes of having been ignored or rejected makes it more likely for the people you confide in to reject you in their turn. That is why many people hide these episodes and, when they are public, often give others the idea that they don’t care, thet it doesn’t affect them.

I have read and I do agree with this contagious aspect. I find that trying to hide my subconscious feelings betrays me. The outcome for me is the wall. Closing out people who I, for no good reason, distrust. Fearing some type of harm or abuse I guess. Am I living? Yes! I love my life and I do care for others, just the others who care for me also. It seems I am too demanding, perhaps. Perhaps many negative other things too. Who really can answer?

My teacher confides in us his failures everyday and all of our class mates reject him. I guess your right

I think rejecting people reject people by their negative criticisms. They tell you that you need to change in order for them to like you better–for them to accept you.

Accepting people accept people. they may not think you are perfect, but you are good enough for them, maybe even great, They are not telling you you should change for the better, for yourself or them.

Whether you are rejected or accepted depends on the type of person you are dealing with and says nothing at all about your worthiness.

I stand up to rejection whenever I encounter it, and make sure my inner circle has room for accepting people only.

My late father was quite religious and he had taught me this simple prayer/saying that I feel applies directly to the concept of acceptance and rejection: Lord, give me the courage to accept the things I cannot change, the serenity to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Half of my siblings have ostracized me for reasons I am partly responsible for and for which I have apologized, however the outcome has remained the same. Is it jealousy, anger, who knows? I believe my late father did and that prayer gets me through it all with humility and helps me understand my human limitations.
I have misunderstandings and I guess anger over my responsibility with the outcome and these feelings are possibly transmitted to my children also. I make efforts to hide my shameful part. Then I realize how little control I have over Love. God bless whoever reads this and if there is no God, cause I can’t prove there is, then l say let kind and loving souls surround you.

Makes a lot of sense and thanks
Very deep

Rejection includes many different type of people and their situations. There is one group of people who suffer from rejection in high numbers. They are the sexually abused. The stats for men, women, children, infants and teens are astronomically high. Rejection is taking it’s toll in this area.

To Patrick Morin yes there is a God and I do believe that we all have and have been rejected at one time or another, that prayer I n your message is perfect for social acceptance when it comes to people feeling rejected thank you for the words of encouragement

I have been ostracised in the past. It has made me feel very insulted and angry.

I know they would never be sorry and instead of apologising will come up with unconvincing excuse.

Thanks for these. it indeed helpful

I understand the pain in rejection and exclusion but you have to know where to draw the line and weed out those people who exclude. They don’t want to be a part of your life so I say the heck with them !! Keep the people who want to be a part in your life ! This can make you a stronger person !! So have self respect !!

I think describing the problem in detail is an effective way of analysing where I may improve myself. Just a thought. Everything has a negative side to it so.. I make efforts to change to positive. It sometimes works.

I deal with BPD & because professionals feel BPD is a result of a child abuse or PTSD, which we all know, PTSD can happen to anyone – not just military or people who’ve been through significant traumatic events,, but rather how one handles the situation. I bring that up because I feel like the problems I have experienced in my life are a result of my BPD which is directly tied to having been rejected! I wasn’t abused as a child, but did start experiencing rejection around the time I was in 8th grade. I had gone from being very popular, was a cheerleader, in student council, was well liked, which equals “acceptance”. At my school, cheerleading tryouts 1st took place in front of 4 teachers who picked 10 girls (there were 6 spots) & then those 8 girls tried out in front of the entire school. The kids then voted for who they wanted as cheerleaders that year and I was 1 of the 2 not selected. That was my 1st experience with rejection & I remember being extremely sad.As time went on, I started gravitating toward kids who were in a different social class but that accepted me. Then during the end of my 9th grade year (1st yr of HS),I was rejected again when I didn’t make the JV team either. My boyfriend who I had been with since my 8th grade year, broke up with me at the end of the school year & I was distraught! When my Sophomore year started, the rejection increased & I really only had one friend. It got so bad that my parents put me in a different school which didn’t really help either. But, I remember going to some parties when I was maybe 16 & being booed & had water thrown on me. That was very traumatic – for me anyway. After that I was not very outgoing & had a hard time making friends. I always felt out of place. I have adapted as an adult but I fell like it’s to the point of being unhealthy. I have built up such a strong wall that I find it hard to talk to people. So I definitely feel like being rejected, particularly at a young age, contributes to the development of problematic personality disorders as an adult. I hate being alone but every time I get close to someone, they go away so I just try to stay by myself & have convinced myself (sort of) that I like it that way! I too agree with the comment above about being vulnerable & opening up to people abt anything that isn’t so wonderful about yourself just ends up being to your detriment as I have always ended up being rejected by those people as well. IDK why I am even typing thins other than I was looking for a self help group for Mothers with BPD b/c I don’t want my daughter to live in the mental torment that I have endured all of my life. She is 6 now so hopefully I can help her avoid being rejected since that is where I feel like all of my issues stem from. If anyone knows of a self help group for moms with BPD, I would be very grateful. I feel like having this disorder is a life sentence as I have even been rejected by therapists! Thanks for reading.

Lisa I feel your pain. I feel exactly the way you feel.

“She is 6 now so hopefully I can help her avoid being rejected since that is where I feel like all of my issues stem from”.
As someone who has been in intensive therapy for BPD, this is exactly why it’s so crucial to get help. This IS the fallacy of BPD, you are still engulfed in it. Rejection loop and obsession with it is actually a major symptom of the disorder. No one avoids rejection, and attempting to do so is going to limit your/her life in -major- ways. The problem is in the emotional coping/self soothing and sense of self that allow neurotypical people to be emotionally resilient and bounce back, while disordered people can not. You don’t change the world, you work on changing yourself and your brain from the inside.

Good self evaluation I think and being positive is something very attractive. I think it’s not at all like a magnet where opposites attract. No, we look for inspiration and goodness deep down in our hearts. We are a work in progress and caring, loving and respect don’t carry any baggage, but they are as rewarding as fresh air and pure spring water.

I believe it’s THE Ohio State University…

No, it’s not “The” Ohio State University. “Ohio State University” is the title of the college… “The Ohio State University” would be implying that there’s more than one Ohio State University, and the “The” would be pointing out an official state-wide one, but there is in fact only one, voiding the need of the word “the.”

This doesn’t help. I’ve been excluded everywhere I go. More than normal people would. What should I do? I’m depressed, alone, excluded, treated differently by everyone else because “I’m a weirdo”. Why am I treated differently?

It is not yo. It is the environment you are in that is the problem. American cultre in particlar has become extremely shallow and bling/image-obsessed, at the expense of a lot of good things. Who in the world has the right to define what is weird and what is not? Only God can point the finger, and he never does. “The Lord is mighty, yet he despises no one.” Be comforted. I’m sure you will find your place.

Seems rejection and exclusion is a world wide social problem, i have experienced it too and don’t come from America. It can be depressing if you experience rejection and do not know it is rejection you are going through. I experienced rejection and never understood it for some time, so you asserting yet everything you do or say is taken as wrong, i am yet to understand what gives people the audacity to always brand what one says or does as wrong.
When i look back at my childhood rejection, i can make some inferences:-
1. Those who felt i was a threat to them made my life unbearable and contributed to my rejection in the entire team
2. Some weaknesses i had made me rejected or feel rejected. so as i handle my rejection i went to depths to search the things i might be doing wrongly, if may be i don’t care about people. Although other people always look for opportunity to take advantage of people, it always works well when you are dealing with people of the same understanding as you, so that if by any chance if for example you say, could i be a proud person and i don’t see it, when you deal with it nobody will take humility as weakness, there are those good at misinterpreting.
3. Some rejection is caused by spiritual problems, either a evil spell by evil people and can be broken spiritually. The word of God says put on the whole armour of God,- the sword of the spirit will break the jinxes and hexes of evil people.
Let me give you an example, when you get a job its obvious that now you have income you will buy some new good clothing, i got a job and i did that as well, and for my children too, not to mean i was mean to my other family members – no, i was generous and to others just as a human being, to the best of my understanding. There is a time rodents entered my house and ate almost all my clothes, they ate even cables for electric gadget, i suspected a spiritual attack. my contract had ended so i was not working.
4. I was good in academics, most times topping, the time i did not perform well, many of my classmates were happy, i felt rejected, those ones of, “so after all they wish someone else was performing well,” i should have learnt my lesson.

I hope my story will be different when my rejection ends.

If i could only program myself this way

So what matters is not to make the possible in order to reduce rejecton and spreed acceptance (no liberal-progressive speech implied), but rather to teach people how to learn to be happy with being miserable (because acceptance of the current status is what “coping” means essentially). I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. And no, you just don’t kill yourself nor you go full bersek over a single or certain bad experiences. It takes years of rejection. Coping may work on single, isolated, experiences, but is useless if not balanced by acceptance. A life of rejection (or worse, being rejected during the teenage and youth years) cannot be solved by some kind of coping mechanism.

Everyones always scared of whats different ? Or what they dont know ? for that matter ! A bunch of close minded people, that wouldnt be able to find the same door they used to walk in to a room ? To leave ! Lol. Its like, how can i love you ! If i cant love myself ? Or why would i help anyone that wont help their self ? Point in hand. People degrade, slander and slam people cause they mad at themselves ! Self gratification ? Thats why ! Nothing better to to do with their time ! Maybe thats why ? Personally ? I like rejection ! Cause i like to prove people wrong ! Its like a struggle, if im not bending or breaking, what else is their to do ? Get threw it ! We all learned these things in pre school ! We only have 1 life, so i wouldnt give anymore of my time to those type of people ! And if ya ever got to see any of em face yo face id thank em ! For making me for who i am. Molly

This doesn’t really explain WHY people are socially excluded or rejected. It explains what they are and how it affects us physically and mentally, but why that is isn’t mentioned. I’ve been searching for answers and still nothing. Nothing here seems to help. This author is a great writer, though. Maybe try to write about why it happens? I’m sure that’d help many many people. Best regards

To Babby B., no it’s not “The” Ohio State University. “Ohio State University” is the title of the college… “The Ohio State University” would be implying that there’s more than one Ohio State University, and the “The” would be pointing out an official state-wide one, but there is in fact only one, voiding the need of the word “the.”

I have a girlfriend that can not stop sharing every little part of her life on Facebook. How do I tell her it’s too much and friends are not the most important thing she’s obsessed

We all stand to gain by accepting positive comments from others so long as they are constructive and do not hinder or harm what we have already. Too much idle internet time is unproductive I think as we humans have hands and minds that can do so much more beautiful things.

great article. I am 20 yrs old and I understand how social acceptance and rejection are very important factors that contribute to overall happiness yet I believe my young generation has taken a downfall in being able to achieve being satisfied with themselves because they seek acceptance through social media. I believe social media is a growth-stunting thing for a teenager who is barely coming into their own because they don’t have the emotional maturity to understand how everything portrayed on your phone is not real. yes that couple may look super happy in that photo but life is super messy and they could have easily been fighting the whole day and posed for one picture to make everybody think that their life is perfect. So in conclusion, yes acceptance is a very important factor in overall happiness but I believe going to your phone for instant gratification is a dead end because if you try to make your life look perfect then you’ll never be satisfied because the only thing that is perfect is god.

MaN I got to save this page and you TOO
I’m 10 years ahead and thought I knew so much but then comes this page…

Happy to have another person in this topic as I believe it needs to be a top priority.

Hi Irving from Patrick

Today’s Covid crisis is definitely amplifying internet usage by us all. As demographics are constantly on the rise it seems unrealistic to think positively on the future. Governments are temporarily handing out financial compensation and I doubt this can be sustainable. The only way I believe we can succeed as humans on this earth is to radically change the order of values. The right to live, work, have food and shelter as a basis for all beforehand. Then the establishment of superior talent recognition credits for those who actually are blessed with gifts that embellish life in an unselfish way. This would be a great start to reinvent ourselves.

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