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RSD: Dealing with Rejection as an ADHD Entrepreneur

Updated: Jun 17

Have you ever been accused of being too sensitive? Why are you reacting that way? Have you ever felt immense tension or a buildup in your body that just wanted to explode all over every inch of your body? Well, that can be signs of Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). Those are all experiences that I had over decades.  

I talked with Dr. William Dodson all about it. You can watch the interview here.  This is a topic that resonates deeply with many of us ADHD Entrepreneurs and today I want to talk about how it impacts our lives. It has impacted mine. 


Don’t feel like reading? Listen to the episode.  

Unbearable Pain and Perceived Rejection 

As an ADHD Entrepreneur, have you ever felt a wave of unbearable pain triggered by something that someone said or did? Maybe it wasn’t even an actual rejection, but your brain perceived it that way. I’ve been there. This intense reaction is known as Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, or RSD. Understanding this is important to managing our emotional well-being. 


Dr. William Dodson, a leading expert in adult ADHD, describes RSD as the feeling of unbearable pain due to perceived or actual rejection, teasing, or criticism. It’s not just in your head; it's an ADHD brain-related dysphoria. What struck me about my conversation with Dr. Dodson was how RSD is a manifestation of emotional dysregulation—something many of us struggle with. 


Navigating Through Personal Experiences 

One way I've tried to manage RSD is by using it as a strength. That intense feeling can make us more empathetic to others' plights. Before letting these emotions control me, I've started checking whether the rejection was real or perceived. Often, it's the latter. Knowing this helps me pause, reflect, and avoid making rash decisions. 


For instance, seeking validation for perceived rejections kept me trapped in a cycle of rumination and self-criticizing thoughts. By acknowledging that most of these “rejections” were constructs of my own making, I’ve started to take a more rational approach to how I react – before I react. 


The Physical and Emotional Toll 

RSD doesn’t just hurt emotionally; it can feel physical too. For me, the pain starts in my belly, rises to my shoulders, and radiates outwards. It’s intense and raw! Imagine feeling this assault in the middle of a high-stress entrepreneurial venture or situation—talk about being derailed! Some consider it being blind-sided by a semi-truck. 


The physical sensations of RSD aren’t just uncomfortable; they’re debilitating. Our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode, ready to defend against threats that often aren’t even real. This makes it hard to focus, affecting both personal and professional relationships. 


Breaking Down the Barriers 

The impact of RSD extends beyond our personal feelings—it can strain relationships. Emotional outbursts, social withdrawal, and avoiding situations where we might face rejection can lead to misunderstanding and conflict. 


I've seen it in my own life. Past business relationships and friendships ended because I perceived rejections that DID NOT exist! Awareness and open communication are crucial in mitigating these misunderstandings. Now, I work hard to verify my feelings before reacting and to communicate openly with those around me. 


Understanding the Cycle 

Dr. Dodson pointed out that RSD isn’t just external—it's internal too. We reject ourselves with harsh self-talk and unrealistic expectations. I’m my worst critic and harshest judge, and I know many of you feel the same. 


This internalized RSD fuels negative thoughts, creating a vicious cycle of self-rejection. We need to break this cycle by recognizing our achievements, however small, and reminding ourselves that perceived shortcomings don’t define us. 


Strategies for Growth 

  1. Identify and Challenge Perceptions:  Before reacting, ask yourself if the rejection was real or perceived. This pause can prevent knee-jerk reactions and give you a clearer perspective. 

  1. Seek Support and Validation: Discuss your feelings with trusted friends or mentors who can provide an outside perspective. They can often help you see things more clearly and rationally. 

  1. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that perceived failures don’t define your worth or abilities. Celebrate small victories and milestones 

  1. Focus on Strengths: Use your sensitivity as a tool for empathy and understanding. This can be a significant asset in both personal and professional relationships. 


Moving Forward Together 

Living with RSD and the ADHD brain is challenging, but understanding these differences can help us better manage our reactions and emotions. This awareness equips us to improve our relationships, personal growth, and business ventures. We’re not alone in this journey—our community is here to support and learn from each other. 


Thanks for joining me in this exploration of RSD and ADHD. Let's continue to share our experiences and strategies, empowering each other to thrive as successful ADHD entrepreneurs. Let me know how you’ve been dealing with RSD. Send me an email!  


Further Exploration  

The ADHD Transformation Program has launched and it’s working wonders. Clients have shared how it’s changing their lives. Curious to learn more? Visit our website for more details. Remember, ADHD is only a part of you, not all of you.   


Let’s build a community together! Sign up for our newsletter, listen to a podcast, check out our YouTube channel, or share this blog with somebody you think will appreciate it. Talk soon!  



I'm André

...also known as The Impulsive Thinker. I'm a professional engineer, advocate, and podcaster with the special ability to devour and simplify complicated information to solve complex problems. Click here to get my full story.

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