Rejection, whether from a crush, from family, or someone else, is one of the experiences in life that ache most. That pain isn't a matter of sole perception or emotionality, either. Science says that rejection = pain. More specifically, rejection and physical pain literally activate the same part of the brain. It can affect self-esteem, mood, and general mental health. So, if you want to know how to deal with rejection, it's a valid ask.
We can confirm that rejection is a genuine strain on the mind and body, but it is possible to make it less painful. How? Follow these steps.
Give Space to Your Feelings
Let's say that you are in the initial stage of rejection from a girl, from a guy, or from another romantic interest. The wound is fresh, and you start to grieve. Yes, grieve. Grief is not confined to the loss of a loved one; you may also endure the stages of grief after rejection, and it's necessary that you give yourself space to process the feelings that come with this grief.
When denial, anger, bargaining, or depression show up, the first of the four stages of grief – greet them like a temporary houseguest. What would you do if you had a guest over? Likely, acknowledge their presence, use your manners (read: be kind to yourself), and reply to what they say – even if it's not what you want to do at the moment.
How can you translate this to your feelings? Rather than push emotions away, you might say to yourself, “it makes sense that I feel angry” or “it makes sense that I want to bargain and find a way that things could've been different, though I acknowledge that this may not be a fact.”
If you want to know how to get over a rejection of any kind, compassion toward yourself will often be the most vital step. You don't have to act on rage, sadness, or denial. Instead, acknowledge the feeling (“I understand that I’m feeling down”) and respond with self-compassion.
Look at the Positives
You can welcome your feelings and look at the positives simultaneously. What could be favorable about rejection? Here are some things to consider:
- You may not know everything about the person, the opportunity, etc. Maybe, you'll get a job far better than the one that turned you down – one that pays more reasonably and makes you feel more satisfied. Perhaps, you get this bigger, better opportunity because the other job didn't work out. That's why it's so paramount to put your best foot forward and keep working on yourself – no matter what the past says.
- It could save you from a partnership that doesn't give you the love you need. Deep down, most would agree that we don't want to be with people who don't want us. We seek reciprocal love, and healthy relationships are reciprocal.
- You might learn something new about yourself. Maybe, that means you find an area you can improve on. You don't get the job, so you decide to go back to school or take an at-home course on how to do well in interviews. Or, it could be a chance to reflect on what you want. Either way, learning about ourselves is an exquisite part of life, and it's something to cherish.
It's vital to give space to your feelings, but there's a line between that and overthinking. It's important that you acknowledge feelings and give yourself space to be authentic, but we must also take note and redirect if overthinking, self-blame, self-sabotage, or other harmful patterns start.
If you see yourself overthinking, challenge any cognitive distortions that may come up (a common one with rejection is all or nothing thinking) and use positive self-talk. If you notice rumination or overthinking that relates to rejection, or if you can't seem to challenge it on your own, it’s ideal to work with a therapist.
Examine the Situation
Rejection can show up in our lives in various ways. Targeted social rejection, rejection from an employer, and romantic rejection are all common themes. Sometimes, rejection has nothing to do with us. Other times, we do play a role. Neither circumstance is a judgment of our value as a person, but there are times when rejection can be an opportunity to learn.
Let's use romantic relationships as an example. Maybe, you made an unfair assumption or had an unfair expectation of this person. Or, the fear of rejection itself led you to push the other person away. You meant to protect yourself from further rejection – maybe, you encountered rejection in a relationship in the past and didn't want to get hurt again – but it had the opposite effect in the end. If this is true, look at what you can do differently next time.
Does this mean that you should blame yourself? Absolutely not. Examine the circumstance briefly. Look at your role, and do this from a neutral standpoint.
Don't Blame Yourself
If negative self-talk shows up, redirect and reframe. Say that your initial reaction is to beat yourself up for a mistake. Redirect that with a statement like, “Actually, I can learn from this. This mistake gives me information that will help me in future relationships/with future opportunities/etc.” Or, maybe it's “I don't deserve to have people in my life after this rejection. No one will ever really like me, so I should isolate myself.” In that case, you can redirect it with a statement like, “There's no evidence to support that no one will ever like me, and isolation isn't healthy. I deserve to have good people in my life.”
It's also essential to note that there are times when rejection seriously has nothing to do with you. It is hard when feelings aren't mutual or you don't get the job you want, but sometimes, it's not about you. In romance, the spark just isn't there sometimes – and there's no real explanation for that. Again, if you did play a role, do what you can through self-reflection, but understand that this is reality.
Similarly, if it was a work position, do what you can to spruce up your resume and interviewing skills. Walk into your next job opportunity confidently. But also know that, sometimes, the person who gets hired might've just had an interview first. They could've been equal to you in talent and charm, but they got the job out of chance. You can't control that, just like you can't control the actions of other people in social or romantic relationships, so don't let it let you self-sabotage!
Reach Out to Others
Social ties encourage health, so when you endure something that affects health negatively, like rejection, it makes sense to reach out to other people. You may vent to friends, family, and peers, or you could spend time with them to focus on the good in life. If concerns related to rejection persist, are something you want to address in a private setting, or if they cause distress, you may speak with a therapist.
Not only does therapy give you a place to vent, but it can help you find tangible solutions. Suppose there's a roadblock, like a persistent fear of rejection, trouble with social situations or self-esteem, insecure attachment, or trauma from past relationships. In that case, you may work on these things with a therapist.
A therapist will often aid you with the most urgent goal first – if rejection took place in a work opportunity, for example, they may have resources for employment and help you through that initial bump – and then, you can get to the bottom of it and really overcome rejection.
Best of all, what you say to a therapist remains with the therapist. You can express raw feelings and fears in therapy judgment-free, which means that you can let it all out, address any applicable root issues, and make real progress.
What if you don’t have time or other means necessary to get to a therapy office? There are alternatives, like online therapy, with the same benefits.
Online therapy is a comfortable choice for those who need affordable, safe, accessible care. Some simply favor online therapy for convenience. Either way, therapy is suggested for those who want to know how to deal with rejection, gain resilience, and put their best foot forward.
Focus on Resilience
After rejection, some think, “I should just give up” or “I'm not worth it.” However, you must try again to get to where you want to be.
Remember: We all undergo rejection. Your favorite actor likely encountered rejection before their starring role – possibly, many times. Your favorite band likely played in a small pub with just a few attendees at some point. Maybe, they even found themselves in front of the wrong audience and got booed off the stage. Note that this doesn't mean that the actor is inadequate, nor the band.
The right fit – in romance, career, friend groups, activities, and so on – is out there. You must be resilient and try again. It's also okay to fake it until you make it; be kind and walk through the world with confidence. Welcome new opportunities. Whether it's today or years down the road, better days are out there, and you deserve to have them. If the temptation is still to sabotage, again, online counseling can help.
The Bottom Line
Maybe, rejection is a theme of fear in your life as a whole, or perhaps you need to heal from rejection after a tough breakup. If you're struggling and aren't sure where to turn, reach out in the way that is most comfortable for you. If you are interested in online therapy, we are here to help.
There are answers for those who wish to know how to deal with rejection. With work and time, resilience will come.