Society enforces a lot of expectations on an individual from a very early phase of life. These expectations keep increasing and become more varied as the person grows older and enters into different phases of life. Such expectations have been carried on for years and in many ways have become an integral part of society, and have developed into norms that must be followed.
Most of these expectations are usually about general behaviors, appearance, ways of interacting, socializing, career choices, and even the kind of success. Most of the time, an individual is expected to be outgoing, smart, prim, intelligent, confident, competitive, a good conversationalist, sociable, someone who is popular and successful – all that makes a person likeable and appreciable.
These are characteristics that almost everyone would like to have; after all being likeable is something that anyone would want to be. For some people, however, these characteristics do not come naturally. No matter how much they try, they just cannot behave in that manner. They are different from what is expected of them, right from the beginning, perhaps due to their temperament.
Such people are often associated with words like socially awkward, shy, timid, morose, melancholic, or loner. Right from an early stage of life, they are told by others to behave in an appropriate manner, to be normal, or to be like others. They are always asked questions like “why are you like this?” or “why don’t you be like others?”. These are questions that they do not have any answers to, and would like to be the first ones to know them.
The inherent condescending, mocking, and sometimes rude tone of these frequent questions make them realize that they are different and that perhaps there is something wrong with them. They get the feeling of being looked down upon and unwanted. As they grow older, this feeling of being unwanted keeps on increasing. They begin to realize that they are not really liked by anyone, and they get the feeling of being rejected by everyone.
The feeling of being unwanted and not being accepted by others is a disturbing experience. It develops low self-esteem and inferiority complex. It also develops a sense of loneliness, neediness, clinginess, and an excessive need for social approval. This excessive need for social approval tends to make such individuals put in too much of effort and try extra hard to get accepted by others, which makes them look more needy, and may make them behave in socially inadequate and inappropriate ways, further leading them to be avoided.
The experience of social rejection is certainly devastating for the individual. The belief of not being liked by anyone gives a choking and suffocating kind of feeling that only leads to the feeling of worthlessness. The person feels there is nobody to take care of him/her and that he/she is all alone in the big bad world.
No matter how devastating the feeling might be, however, it is surely not the end of the world. It does not mean that the person is doomed forever. Depending on how the individual takes it all, he/she can either go further down in the dumps, or he/she can rise above everything and turn the tide – of course, easier said than done.
When the individual gets the realization that he/she is not being accepted almost everywhere, it tends to make that person aloof and relatively socially isolated; the person experiences aloneness. Being alone, however, becomes advantageous.
Being alone, the individual gets more time to spend by himself/herself. The person gets to put everything in perspective. He/she looks back at all the past experiences and events in relation to other surrounding events. All of this is done in terms of an evaluation and analysis, and not in terms of rumination. In other words, being alone and distanced from others, the individual tends to get involved in self-reflection. The individual begins to have an inner focus of attention with respect to thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
All this self-reflection gives the individual a certain level of self-understanding. The person gets a realization of what he/she truly is all about. It helps in developing self-awareness. The person develops an understanding of who he/she is, what are his/her strengths and weaknesses, what is his/her true potential, what does he/she want from life, and why does he/she belong here. On the whole, the individual is able to get some realistic perspective about himself/herself, and develops purpose in life.
Once this happens, the individual does not have too much difficulty in accepting that he/she is unwanted and not liked by many. The person does not let it all affect him/her too much and stops giving it a lot of importance. He/she develops an understanding that he/she may not fit in within the normal and the usual, and feels that perhaps that is what was meant to be. A feeling arises that instead of trying to fit in, it is better to step aside and move away.
The idea of not being accepted, then, no longer means the end of life. The individual feels life has a greater purpose than just being accepted by others, and being part of a larger social group. He/she builds a world of his/her own, becomes goal-oriented, and tries not to become too affected by others’ opinions and judgments. Within all this darkness, he/she tries to find happiness. The individual develops a sense of meaning within the painful experience of social rejection.
From the troubling and painful experience of not being accepted, judged, and falling short of others’ expectations, the individual moves towards a sense of positivity. Social rejection leading to aloneness tends to make the make the person indulge in self-reflection. Self-reflection leads to self-awareness, self-realization, and self-discovery.
No one wants to be disliked and rejected by others. It becomes a troubling experience for the individual and takes him/her away from the normal and the usual. Out of all this, due to self-reflection, the individual rises above all the negativity and moves towards a phase in which he/she finds meaning and purpose in life. Social rejection, then, can take the individual towards self-discovery, even if it is a troubled and painful path.

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. I also conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India


Nancy Cabrela said...

Thanks for this article

The Bergons said...

Lovely blogg you have here