April 18, 2023

Soothing the Pain of Rejection

The last episode of the rejection series is a good one on how to respond to and soothe the pain from rejection. Like eating something super cold or hot with sensitive teeth, adults with ADHD tend to react more strongly to rejection than others. Due to repeated rejection, we’ve developed maladaptive coping mechanisms that do not benefit us in the long-run. 

Avoidance, people-pleasing and perfectionism are responses that many of us identify with as a way of limiting the amount of rejection in our lives. These serve us in the short-term, but they limit our growth potential and can be downright emotionally exhausting. These three coping mechanisms can be replaced with productive strategies, however, which I have double the options for! 

I even offer a free course on addressing perfectionism at  

The last, and perhaps the most important, of the productive strategies is to surround yourself with safe people. If you’re struggling with finding a strong, encouraging community, come join my group coaching program FOCUSED with similar adults working on becoming their best regulated selves.



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Kristen Carder
Welcome to the I have ADHD podcast, where it’s all about education, encouragement and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carter and I have ADHD. Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor and challenges of adulting relationships working and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain. Unlock your potential and move from point A to point B.

Hey, what’s up, this is Kristen Carter and you’re listening to the I have ADHD podcast. I am medicated, I am caffeinated. I am regulated and I am ready to roll. It is a gorgeous April day here in the Philly suburbs. And I am so grateful that spring is finally springing. Winter just feels so long around these parts. And I’m so so excited. for warmer weather, longer days, green trees, all of the things I am just so so so relieved that it is finally finally happening. And I hope that whatever the weather is in your area of the world that you are enjoying it and that you’re grateful for it that you’re able to get outside and enjoy it.

Today we are wrapping up our series on rejection and oh my word. This has been an intense experience for me. I’m finally said the things that I’ve been wanting to say for four years but have been too afraid to say them. Did you know that I put off recording these episodes for four years because of my own rejection sensitivity issues? That’s true. I’ve had these thoughts for so long. But I haven’t been able to externalize them on a large scale like for this podcast, because I’ve been massively afraid of being rejected. That’s so ironic, right? The irony of it all. But after four years of getting coached by various coaches and two years in therapy, I’m finally brave enough to navigate whatever pushback or rejections I may receive.

When I say publicly, I reject the label of RSD. Of course, rejection sensitivity is a real and valid experience of nearly every person with ADHD. But I will no longer associate myself with the label of RSD. Because along with it comes the implication that it’s exclusively genetic. So it’s my brains fault that I’m sensitive to rejection, not society’s fault, and exclusively treated with medication. As if therapies and coaching do nothing to help, which is totally, totally totally, totally bonkers.

So, here I am, as a product of both therapy and coaching, being able to stand before you today and scream at the top of my lungs. Okay, on screen that would be that’d be bad. But say very clearly and plainly from a grounded place. That non medication approaches to treating rejection do in fact work. They work to alleviate the debilitating pain of rejection sensitivity. And you Yes, you my dear listener can learn how to soothe that pain. And that’s exactly what we’re going to be chatting about today.

Now, as we get rolling here, I want to take a moment to invite you to join my group coaching program focused. This program was created by someone with ADHD. That’s me, for people with ADHD. That’s you. And in it, you’ll have access to bingeable courses, like how to regulate your emotions, so you can deal with your rejection sensitivity, live classes with me and other ADHD coaches, and a warm, welcoming supportive community on Slack. Focus has helped 1000s of people with ADHD understand themselves accept their ADHD brains and make forward progress in their lives. Here’s what my client Jason had to say on a live call recently.

Jason 4:24
Anyhow, I just want to say quickly that I really, really appreciate what you have created here, you and Paula and the whole focus community. Everybody out there, this has been exactly what I have been looking for without realizing it has been a game changer in my life. And I know a lot of people can relate. So it’s really good to be here.

Kristen Carder 4:48
Did you hear him say that focused is exactly what he’s been looking for. I wonder if maybe it might be exactly what you’re looking for as well. Go to I have to find out and join, and I’ll see you in our community today. Okay, today’s episode is going to go like this. First, we’re going to chat about the maladaptive coping mechanisms that we ADHD are often use, because we’ve been chronically rejected, then I’m going to go into productive strategies to help you soothe the pain that comes with being rejected.

All right, you ready for it? So first, we’re going to talk about the maladaptive coping mechanisms that we have. Because we as people with ADHD have experienced so much rejection in our lives, most of us develop an extreme sensitivity to this rejection. We’ve talked about this a lot in the last three episodes, obviously. And when I say sensitivity, what I mean is that it hurts us more than it hurts the average person or it affects us more than it would affect the average person. I’m thinking about, like people who have sensitive teeth, like you’re eating the same types of foods, but some people who have highly sensitive teeth are gonna react differently to that same food. And it’s kind of the same when we talk about rejection.

You know, neurotypical people or people who have secure attachments or whatever, they have an ability to process rejection in a way that does not debilitate them, okay. But for us, ADHD errs, a lot of times, either real or perceived rejections can cause physical pain, it can paralyze us. And it’s a downright excruciating. And so because of this, many of us develop maladaptive coping mechanisms. Of course we do. We do this to protect ourselves from the excruciating pain.

Now, what I mean by maladaptive is that it does serve a purpose in protecting us to some extent, but it doesn’t give us long term positive results. Okay, so there’s three of them that we’re going to talk about today. And the first two I’ve already mentioned briefly, I think, in the first episode on rejection sensitivity, which those two are avoidance and people pleasing. And then the third one, a client and coach training student of mine, Laura actually brought to my attention, and I think she is spot on. So I’m going to include it in today’s episode, and that is perfectionism.

So we’re going to talk about avoidance, people pleasing and perfectionism as maladaptive coping strategies, coping mechanisms, in dealing with, you know, being highly sensitive to rejection. So let’s break it down, when we fear rejection, or perhaps because we fear rejection we often avoid. Now, this looks like not trying the thing that we believe we’re going to be bad at, or not putting ourselves out there with people who we feel may not be warm and welcoming.

Avoidance as it pertains to protecting yourself from rejection looks like failing ahead of time, I’m too scared, I’m going to fail at this. So I’m not even going to give myself the chance to succeed. So I feel ahead of time, many of you are not showing up for your own lives, because you’re afraid of being rejected. And I want to say that this makes sense, because you’ve probably experienced a ton of rejection. And you’ve got a lot of evidence that it’s a real possibility. Now, the key here is to recognize that not trying is actually failure. And while the sting might not be quite as sharp, the long term effects of avoidance will stifle your growth. It’s gonna keep you small, it’ll make it so that you don’t show up for your own life.

And this, it breaks my heart. But it’s something we need to see and be aware of, and I do it. I do it as well. I don’t pitch myself to certain people’s podcasts. And my team has been trying to get me to, like, fill out an application to do a TED Talk. Like what No, I, they’re gonna laugh at me, there is no way that I’m gonna put myself out there. Oh my gosh. Anyway, do you see how I’m feeling ahead of time. So I’m afraid that they’re just going to laugh and reject me. But I’m also afraid that if they do accept me, and let me on their podcast, or let me do a TED talk, I’ll definitely mess it up. I’ll make a fool of myself. And then the entire world will reject me see, as a totally fake, made up rejection scenario that I just created in my mind, and it prompts me to avoid showing up powerfully and doing big things. With the whole it’s a whole thing and I’m, I’m totally in that with you.

The next maladaptive coping behavior we’re going to talk about Is this when we fear rejection or perhaps because we fear rejection, we may become people pleasers. Essentially, we tried to be so nice that no one could ever possibly reject us. How could you reject someone who was so agreeable? How could you reject someone who always says yes? Who always makes time for you who’s always willing to go the extra mile? You can’t. Right? And so we overextend ourselves, we say yes. When we want to say, No, we laugh at things when we don’t think they’re funny. We agree with what’s being said, even when we disagree. And we become like this shell of ourselves, we disconnect from who we really are, from what we really think, from what we really want in order to protect ourselves from potential rejection. Because if I say yes to you, if I agree with you, if I laugh along with you, then you can’t tell me you don’t like me? Because everybody likes a Yes, man, or everybody likes a yes, woman right.

Now, this may surprise you. But this is something that I’ve really struggled with in my own life. Not really, with people that I don’t know. Well, I’m pretty good at saying no to people that I’m not attached to. But with the people who are closest to me, especially my family of origin, I have struggled deeply. And I understand now that the fear of rejection was indeed a real threat. Hear me, I’m not trying to say that ADHD errs are making this rejection stuff up in our minds. We’re not that’s not always the case. It’s not always true. Sometimes. Many times there’s a real true threat of rejection. And if we don’t show up in a way that makes people around us feel most comfortable, we may be rejected, we may face consequences, there may be confrontation there.

The question is, am I going to prioritize someone else’s comfort or my own comfort? That’s the question that we must confront. When we people, please, we’re trying to make everyone else comfortable and happy, so that they don’t reject us. It’s pretty manipulative, we exhaust ourselves to make sure that we don’t have to feel the excruciating pain of being rejected. Now, through therapy and coaching, I’ve learned to notice when I’m prioritizing someone else’s comfort over my own, which let me take a moment and say, is not always a bad thing. And I’m learning to make decisions from a more grounded place from a more self connected place.

Of course, sometimes we want to prioritize other people’s comfort over our own comfort. But when it’s a conscious decision, from a grounded place that’s connected to ourselves in our values. That’s not people pleasing. It’s people pleasing, when it’s protective, when it’s disconnected from who we are and what we want, when it’s an effort to manipulate someone into being nice to us. And when it’s, I’m saying yes to this, because I want you to accept me, do you see the difference there?

Anyway, I’m sure many of you can relate and can attest to the fact that it’s exhausting. And it’s really hard to sustain. Now, the third maladaptive coping mechanism that we use when we are highly sensitive to rejection is that we often become perfectionists. We try to be perfect. We try to do everything right. We try so hard to be above reproach, so that no one can ever look at us and reject us for our performance, or our appearance, or our work, or our house or anything else. Everything has to be just so in order for us to pad ourselves from the horror of rejection. And if we don’t think we’re going to do something, well, we often don’t do it, which circles us right back to avoidance. If we do attempt it, and we don’t do it perfectly, we shame and judge and beat ourselves up relentlessly.

Now, Dr. Ross Ramsey has a lot to say about perfectionism and ADHD, like as it relates to ADHD. In his book rethinking adult ADHD, he was the first one to bring this idea to light that I know of. But to my knowledge, he hasn’t linked this to rejection. And I’d love to chat with him about that the next time that he comes on the podcast, I’ve kind of earmarked that as like, that’s a great combo to have with Dr. Ross Ramsey next time we get to chat with him. Anyway, I want to let you know that his work on perfectionism actually inspired me to create a whole course on perfectionism because the more that I learned about how ADHD or is use perfectionism as a coping mechanism, the more that I realized that it was affecting myself it was Back to my clients. And it was really holding us back from showing up to our own lives. And so anyway, you can get that free course it’s totally free.

If you’re in focused, it’s in the bonus materials in the focus program. But if you’re not in focus, you can go to I have that I have It’s really, really a helpful course. So if you believe that you struggle with perfectionism, I highly recommend you grab that free course.

So I’m curious. I’m curious about you, dear listener, and I invite you to take a moment to reflect. Do you notice that you avoid? Do you notice that you people, please? Do you notice perfectionistic tendencies? Do you see how these are an effort to potentially protect you from real or perceived rejection?

Now, please, understand, again, I want to say these are normal rational responses to rejection. But these maladaptive coping skills will not give you the long term positive results that you want. Avoiding people pleasing. And perfectionism is never going to lead anywhere good, long term in the short term, sure, it helps long term, you’re going to burn out and be so detached from yourself and what you want and who you actually are. In the short term, you may feel protected. But in the long term, you won’t show up for your own life in a way that moves you toward what you want.

So let’s talk about productive coping mechanisms in the face of rejection. Now, remember, ADHD is our highly sensitive to rejection. And it’s not necessarily having to be real rejection, it can be perceived rejection, or the sense that we have failed, like rejection of ourselves. So how do we handle this in a productive way? How do we, how do we suit this? How do we navigate this in a way that doesn’t lead to avoidance people pleasing and perfectionism. The first thing that we need to take into account is just being aware that rejection sensitivity is a thing, that awareness might be enough for you to really develop some healthy coping skills.

If you have ADHD, you have been rejected far more than your neurotypical peers. And therefore, you are likely to be very highly sensitive to rejection, meaning that it’s very painful for you that maybe it’s paralyzing debilitating, excruciating pain, that that really makes it so that you kind of want to hide from your own life from yourself from your needs from your wants. So just be aware that rejection sensitivity is a thing.

Next, begin to understand that it’s common for us ADHD errs, to create rejection scenarios. So notice when you start to create scenarios in your mind of potential rejection, so I’m going to take you back to podcasts ago, or maybe three podcasts ago, I actually was like speaking to our builder, and I created this whole rejection scenario where I was like, the builder hates us, they don’t want to work with us. They think our family is high maintenance. I literally made all of that up in my brain. And yet, I felt such intense rejection from this builder, who eventually called me and was like, yeah, it’s great. Let’s work together. Sorry, sorry, it took me so long to get back to you.

Creating rejection scenarios is normal for us. Because our brain is trying to see all of the ways in which we may potentially be facing danger, so that it can kind of like create safety. So if I can see all of the danger, then I can create safety. But what it actually does is it just makes us feel terrible. About it actually does. So I want you to begin to notice when you’re creating rejection scenarios, and don’t judge yourself, but simply recognize it. Oh, I think this might be a rejection scenario. Do I have enough evidence to show that this is real? Am I positive that I’m being rejected? Sometimes the answer is yes. But sometimes I’m creating that scenario in my mind.

Next, I want To invite you to open up to the big feelings. Now this might be the hardest part for some of you, opening up to the pain of rejection. Even if it’s from a rejection scenario that you know you’ve created in your brain, still allow yourself to feel that pain. So you’re just going to breathe, you’re going to let the emotion be in your body. Maybe you want to spend some time journaling, hiking, walking, or biking, or call or text a friend for validation. This is actually something that my therapist continues to encourage me to do is reach out to a safe friend and literally say these words, hey, I need some validation here. Can you please tell me that I’m not crazy?

Okay, is a window into Kristen Carter’s therapy sessions? Hey, I need some validation here. Can you please tell me that I’m not crazy. And I have four people, including my husband that I can text those words to, and they are safe, they will say to me, you’re not crazy. And they will validate me. And they will hold space for my insecurity in that moment. So open up to the feelings and support yourself through that. And again, you might feel big emotions from actual rejection. Sure. But you might also feel big emotions from a rejection scenario that you even know that you’re making up. That’s okay. Let the emotion be there. process it, let it be in your body, it’s not going to hurt you.

Okay, let me rephrase that it’s already hurting you, you might as well honor it, validate it, and take care of it.

When I say it’s not going to hurt you, I guess what I mean is it’s not going to kill you. Like we can feel these big emotions and let them reside in our bodies. The alternative to that is trying not to feel them and procrastinating, avoiding, buffering, drinking, scrolling on Instagram, or whatever your preferred social media outlet is, when we’re doing those things, we’re usually trying to avoid negative emotion.

So open up to it, be present with it, honor it, let it be there. The next thing is to really create safety for yourself. When we’re rejected, whether it’s real or perceived, we feel very, very unsafe. And so part of your work as a grown adults, navigating rejection is creating safety for yourself. Reminding yourself who you are reminding yourself that you’re a grown up. And you know how to take care of yourself. Making sure that you create safe environments for yourself. So maybe that’s, you know, in a certain cozy nook in your home, or if you create a safe place in your office, or maybe even it’s just like, your car, you know, is the safest place. So go to those safe places when you’re feeling lots of rejection feelings. And make sure to surround yourself with safe people. More on that later. I’ve said this a couple times, and I’m going to continue to say it question your thoughts, but validate your emotions. So you’ll probably feel the rejection, emotion.

First, validate it, honor it, but then go and try to figure out what you’re thinking is, are you creating a rejection scenario? Is it true that you’re being rejected? Question your thoughts, but validate your emotions, your thoughts might not be true, just like I thought that the builder hated us and didn’t want to work with us and said that we were at high maintenance. I don’t know why high maintenance is in my brain. But it was a very distinct, real thought that I had. They think we’re high maintenance. They don’t want to work with us. Like, what? That’s not even true. And so I was experiencing intense emotion around it. I first had to validate the emotion and experience the emotion before I could begin to say maybe this thought process is not the most logical question your thoughts but validate your emotions.

Something else that I’m going to start incorporating when I experienced rejection sensitivity, and I encourage you to do the same is remember a time when you were rejected? And it was actually a good thing that worked out in your favor. Over. So last week, you heard me tell a story about being rejected from a mastermind, and feeling tons of FOMO. And feeling like every, you know, all the cool kids were out there, and I was just here by myself. And that scenario actually worked out in my favor. I didn’t lose 1000s of dollars to someone who was actually not really a good person, I am so pleased, even though it hurt, and it actually still hurts to remember it, I am so pleased that I was rejected. Like,

it still hurts me when I think about it. And I still do feel rejected. When I think about it, I literally do still feel that pain of rejection. And yet, I am glad that I was rejected because it saved me a lot of pain, and a lot of money. So it might be helpful for you to think about a time in your life where you were rejected. And it actually did work out. It was actually the better thing.

I’m not saying gaslight yourself into believing that every single rejection is like everything happens for a reason this is so amazing. That’s not at all what I’m saying. But once in a while when we are in the throes of that deep, deep pain, it can be helpful to remember certain scenarios that actually did work out for our good. Lastly, as you try to navigate, rejection and rejection sensitivity and a healthy way.

The last thing I want to say that I say a lot recently is some of you need new people. If you continually feel rejected by the people in your life, and you’re working toward being a healthy person, and a self aware person and a person who is developing, and you’re still being rejected over and over and over, I want you to understand that you might need some new people. Because there are two types of people in the world, there are safe people, and there are unsafe people. And if you are surrounded by Unsafe people, you will often feel rejected, you will often feel like you are the problem, you will often be made to feel like everything’s your fault. And if you could just be better, ya know, then this wouldn’t be happening.

And so I want to remind you of characteristics of safe people versus Unsafe people. If you haven’t heard me talk about this. About a year ago, I did a full series on relationships. And I think I have an entire episode on safe people. And this is really, really important, especially for those of us with ADHD and s specially for for those of us who struggle with rejection sensitivity. Because if you are surrounded by safe people, and you begin to feel rejected by these safe people, and it’s safe to talk to them about it. And it’s also safe to assume that their rejection is not intentional because you know that they are safe people that they have the characteristics and the qualities of a safe person.

Okay. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the differences between safe people and Unsafe people.

Unsafe people don’t like to admit their weaknesses.

Safe people are willing to acknowledge when they’re wrong. Unsafe people are defensive.

Safe, people are open to feedback and willing to take responsibility for their words and actions.

Unsafe people are self righteous and refuse to see their own negative qualities.

Safe people are humble and can admit their flaws. Unsafe people apologize without changing their behavior.

Safe people change their behavior. So an apology is followed by real behavior modification.

Unsafe people blame others withhold forgiveness and avoid facing their issues.

Safe people admit when they have a problem and they take action to solve it.

Unsafe people flatter you and only say good things to make sure that you keep liking them.

But safe people will share their concerns with you and we’ll be honest with you.

Unsafe people demand trust, act defensive and hurts if you don’t trust them immediately.

Safe people understand that trust must be earned. And they understand that trust is built over time.

Unsafe people lie and see deception as an effective way to deal with problems.

Safe people admit their deceitful side and work toward being more honest.

Unsafe people don’t grow. Instead, they blame others, respond defensively and refuse to change. Change, save people try their best to learn, grow and improve themselves over time.

Some of you need to find new people. If you are someone who’s constantly feeling rejected, it might be an internal job that you need to work on it probably is. But also, you might be surrounded by Unsafe people. And you might need to find yourself some new people. You deserve to be accepted and seen for who you are. You deserve connection and closeness with safe people. With loving people, you deserve to not feel rejected all the time. So to wrap up this rejection sensitivity series, here are a few things that I want to say first, obviously, adults with ADHD struggle with being highly sensitive to rejection. And we know that studies show that ADHD children experience much more rejection than their neurotypical peers. And rejection is a big part of the ADHD lived experience. And so if this is you, I’m with you, I am you same, same, same, okay.

I personally am rejecting the term and the label of RSD, because of what it implies that it can only be treated with medication, and that it is only the fault of my brain and not the fault of being rejected over and over and over, in my opinion. And in my experience, my highly sensitive nature regarding rejection is a real, reasonable rational response to continual rejection that I have received throughout the course of my life. There are several maladaptive coping mechanisms that we often use as it pertains to protecting ourselves from rejection, and these are avoidance and people pleasing and perfectionism.

But over the long term, these do not give us good results. They do not allow us to show up as who we are really meant to be. Instead, a more healthy way to deal with this rejection sensitivity is to be aware of what’s going on. Understand that we often create rejection scenarios in our minds, open up to the big feelings and be able to process them in a healthy way. Create safety for ourselves, question our thoughts and validate our emotions. Remember that rejection is not necessarily always a bad thing, because sometimes it works out for our benefit, and surround ourselves with safe people who we can trust to prioritize our needs, and take care of us and be connected to us. All right, this has been a beautiful series. Thank you so much for listening along. I cannot wait to talk to you next week.

Hey, ADHD, er, I see you. I know exactly what it’s like to feel lost, confused, frustrated and like no one out there really understand the way that your brain works. That’s why I created Focus. Focus is my monthly coaching program where I lead you through a step by step process of understanding yourself feeling better and creating the life that you know you’re meant for. You’ll study be coached, grow, and make amazing changes alongside of other educated professional adults with ADHD from all over the world. Visit I have to learn more.

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