Most people have horror stories to relay about high school and middle school, a time when being cool trumped all other priorities.
But some people were true social rejects — with few or no friends and constant bouts with bullies — during these years.
A study at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School found that social rejection can, in the right circumstances, fuel independent thinking and creativity.
While this doesn’t mean that bullying is beneficial and that the hermit lifestyle is an ideal choice, it could indicate that feelings of rejection can fuel the turning inward that is so important for creative pursuits.
Independent Thinking and Rejection
Extroverts are people known for their gregarious personalities and their often obsessive need to belong to a group. These people can suffer immensely when they are rejected.
But people who are more introverted and who tend to value their own independence can benefit from the time alone that social rejection often causes.
In an interview with ScienceDaily, the study’s lead author explained that social rejection can confirm to people what they already believe to be true: they are unique and their independent thinking sets them apart from others.
For those needing that final nudge toward creative pursuits, rejection may provide the nudge.
Rejection and Business
Most people know that social intelligence is a strong predictor of career success. But the study’s authors point out that social rejection should not be an immediate job disqualification.
Especially in creative fields where employers are seeking independent-minded people, an unconventional personality that could lead to social misunderstanding may indicate a willingness to look at the world differently. This unique approach can be highly valuable in career pursuits.
Rejection vs. Bullying
There’s an important distinction to be made between rejection and bullying. People who feel rejected may be introverts who have few friends or may be poorly understood by their peers.
Bullying, by contrast, is an active behavior designed to harm people.