How To Deal With Ridicule Without Getting Depressed

If you want to lead a productive and successful life, you need to be psychologically healthy (Hicdurmaz and Oz, 2016). Your social interactions influence your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, as well as your physical and emotional wellbeing (Richman and Leary, 2009). Thus, the way that people perceive you can dramatically influence your self-esteem, how you perceive others, and the quality of your relationships (Peden et al., 2000; Hicdurmaz, Inci, and Karahan, 2017).

But is it possible to deal with ridicule from others without it affecting you so dramatically?

To be ridiculed is to be subjected to contemptuous and dismissive language or behaviour. Being looked down upon, mocked, or teased are all forms of ridicule.

Psychologists have been studying why humans seek approval from others for decades.

Negative reactions from other people take many different forms, including:

  • criticism
  • prejudice
  • avoidance
  • rejection
  • betrayal
  • stigmatization
  • exclusion
  • abandonment
  • abuse

All of these forms of ridicule have something in common.

If you’re sensitive to how others perceive you, it’s because your ultimate goal is to seek their acceptance. Therefore, when you’re exposed to any of the above negative reactions, your goal of being valued and accepted is under threat (Richman and Leary, 2009).

Your perceived relational value is what determines whether being ridiculed makes you depressed or not.

What is it? Your perceived relational value is the degree to which you believe that others value having relationships with you. You want to be accepted and included in interpersonal relationships and social groups. But, being rejected, betrayed, and so on, makes you feel like you don’t belong, which makes you feel depressed (van den Brink et al., 2017).

Do others think that having you in their life is important, enjoyable, or beneficial to them? Your answer represents your perceived relational value. This, in turn, determines your sense of belonging in society.

Can you increase your relational value so that you feel like you belong?

Research shows that when your belonging is threatened, you’re better at analyzing and understanding information that’s relevant to your social relationship (Richman and Leary, 2009). In other words, being rejected may help you behave in such a way that can enhance your acceptance by others and, thus, increase your perceived relational value.

Let’s say you applied to study Curating but got rejected on the grounds of having inadequate experience in the industry. If you work as a volunteer in an art gallery for a year and try again, your hard work and determination is likely to be acknowledged by the faculty, increasing your chance of being accepted onto the program the following year.

Essentially, to increase your relational value, you need to:

  • take on board feedback,
  • learn from your mistakes,
  • apologize when you hurt someone’s feelings, and
  • cooperate as best you can with others (Richman and Leary, 2009).

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It’s not always possible to increase your relational value. Can you still boost your sense of belonging without being accepted by that particular person?

Yes! One way to feel like you belong is to seek and nurture new relationships. If you can’t build bridges with those who’ve rejected you, turn your attention towards making new friends and connections instead (Richman and Leary, 2009). For example, mothers who find a new partner after a divorce are, on average, much happier than single mothers (Langlais, Anderson, and Greene, 2016).

It’s not just finding new friends and partners that can help you increase your sense of belonging. Being ridiculed can be very stressful (Richman and Leary, 2009). Therefore, it’s important that you turn to existing friends and family for support during times of rejection.

Social support will buffer you from stress and help you meet your emotional needs (Odafe, Salami, and Walker, 2017). By reminding yourself that you have supportive relationships in your life, you’ll restore your sense of belonging (Richman and Leary, 2009). In this way, you’ll be able to deal with ridicule without getting depressed (Richman and Leary, 2009).

One way to stop letting ridicule make you depressed is to build bridges with those who react negatively towards you. When this isn’t an option, focus on forming and nurturing other relationships instead.

Support groups are another great way to prevent depression when you’re being ridiculed. For example, many cancer patients join support groups to get a sense of community and acceptance, which helps to counteract any isolation and rejection that they’re going through (Richman and Leary, 2009). Similarly, lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) teenagers experiencing discrimination and predudice are less likely to be depressed, and tend to do much better in school, if they get involved in LGB organizations (Toomey et al., 2017).

Support groups don’t even have to be face-to-face. They can also be chat rooms, online forums, and social media groups. Anything that promotes the idea that “you’re not alone” will help to restore your sense of belonging and keep depression at bay (Richman and Leary, 2009).

Let’s summarize. How can you stop letting ridicule hold you back and take control of your emotional wellbeing?

Where possible, modify your behaviour to seek approval and repair your relationship with the person who ridiculed you. In other instances, cut your losses, focus on building new, supportive relationships, and turn to friends and family in times of need. Whichever approach you decide to take, remember that there are always support groups filled with other people going through the same ridicule as you – use them!

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