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Posted on: September 2, 2019 at 12:30 pm

“The deepest desire of the human heart is to belong … to be welcomed … to know that you are seen and worthy of kindness,” Rachel Macy Stafford.

Isolation and marginalization are some of the worst social situations a person could go through. The feeling that you are alone and rejected, coupled with outright avoidance from the people you try to cut in with, can make a person spiral into deep anxiety and depression [1]. The need for human acceptance is so powerful that it doesn’t need to be proclaimed. It gnaws at the walls of a person’s heart, creating a sense of longing and a strong desire to be welcomed. The craving for belonging can be so strong that it will manifest physically, taking a hold of all your nerves and muscles until you feel a breakdown coming.

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American psychologist, Nathan DeWall of the University of Kentucky explains that the human body responds to rejection the same way it does pain. People who undergo constant rejection tend to have poor health, and this problem should never be taken lightly.

“We should assume that everyone is going to experience rejection on a semi-regular basis throughout their life,” he wrote in a paper published in the Current Directions in Psychological Science, Science Daily [2]. “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. When people feel lonely, or when people feel excluded or rejected, these are things they can talk about.”

A cold response or a too-quick handshake can make a person feel invisible or unimportant, and this has nothing to do with being too sensitive or unnecessarily emotional. It’s a common trait every human being has, except for people suffering psychopathy [3]. When a person is in physical pain, opioids would be released by the brain to fill in the gaps between neurons (synapses), thereby dampening the pain effect and blocking the signals. A study conducted by the University of Michigan Medical School found that the brain reacts the same way when a person is experiencing social rejection, attempting to block pain signals by releasing naturally-occurring opioids [4]

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One smile is sometimes enough to make a person feel accepted. You’d be doing a huge favor by teaching your kids to do something simple like giving a simple ‘hello’ to the new kid. Donating warm blankets to the homeless in the winter is an act of kindness that can never be forgotten. Talking to someone who looks lost and confused is a new environment can save them from extreme mental distress. Simple acts of kindness and gestures of acceptance make the world go round.

Such was the compelling story of Rachel Macy Stafford, bestselling author and top contributor on the Today Parenting Team [5]. She inspired millions of people with an awakening narrative of lessons learned from her personal experiences. Last year, Rachel enrolled her fifth-grade daughter in an extracurricular activity, and while still getting to know how things work at the activity center, she met a couple of other moms who taught her how important it is to be accepted.

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“On the first day, we walked up to two women who were waiting with their children for the activity to start,” Rachel wrote. “I politely asked them a question about protocol and explained we were new. I was met with annoyed facial expressions and curt answers.”

Rachel no longer bothered to introduce herself. If they couldn’t answer her questions nicely, they certainly wouldn’t want to know who she was or what ‘hole she’d crawled out from’.

“The following week, I saw the women again in the waiting area. ‘Hello,’ I said warmly. “How are you both doing today?” I received mumbled replies and they immediately turned back to each other and continued talking. My daughter and I talked to each other which relieved the painful sense of feeling invisible.”

Rachel wondered why she was being treated this way. She had no idea who the women were prior to that first day at the activity center. She’d never done them any wrong, so why did they choose to treat her like trash? Being rejected several times would prompt anyone into giving up on human association. Reclusion would begin to seem like the best option at that point. 

“I felt a twinge of something I couldn’t explain in my stomach. It was not a pleasant feeling – perhaps anxiety, embarrassment, awkwardness? Whatever it was, that feeling made me feel like not trying anymore.” 

Lessons worth learning

The mom of two didn’t harbor any feelings of dislike or hate towards the other women. She avoided them on subsequent gatherings, but that was only to keep her dignity and self-worth. She explains that she felt gratitude towards them. Gratitude for reminding her of one of the most important lessons in the world. People’s unkind treatment should not influence you to be unkind to others. Rather, you should learn from them the type of person you would never want to be. Learn the attitudes to abhor and the characters to imbibe.

Rachel outlined some of the most important situations when she would remember the humiliation those women put her through. Situations where she would let her experience guide her in dealing with others.

“Remember this when you are in familiar territory and someone new walks up looking for guidance.

Remember this when you see someone on the outskirts anxiously holding her own hand.

Remember this when someone approaches you and asks a question – see the bravery behind the words.

Remember this when you see someone stop trying – perhaps s/he’s been rejected one too many times.

Remember this when you see someone being excluded or alienated – just one friendly person can relieve the painful sense of feeling invisible.” 

Be kind to everyone you meet. You may be in their position tomorrow, and even if that day never comes, being gracious doesn’t cost a thing. You are happier, healthier, and more at peace with yourself when you radiate kindness. Accept people who crave a sense of belonging and identity. Marginalization would only break down the world and strain the essence of humanity. Spread love with the smallest gestures, the gentlest touches, and the warmest smiles.

  1. Kirsten Weir. The pain of social rejection. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/rejection. Retrieved 29-08-19
  2. Association for Psychological Science. Social acceptance and rejection: The sweet and the bitter. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110812213032.htm. Retrieved 29-08-19
  3. Admin. Psychopathy. Learn more about Psychopathy. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/psychopathy. Retrieved 29-08-19
  4. Heather Saul. Brain treats rejection like physical pain say scientists. Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/brain-treats-rejection-like-physical-pain-say-scientists-8884507.html. Retrieved 29-08-19
  5. Rachel Macy Stafford. Am I invisible? One mom’s pain-relieving response to being excluded. Today. https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/am-i-invisible-the-pain-relieving-response-to-being-rejected-or-excluded_1518190386. Retrieved 29-08-19
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