Rejection and How to Handle It
Life is about going for things. And when we do, rejection is always a possibility.
Big or Small, Rejection Affects Us All
Rejection doesn’t have to be about the big stuff like not getting into your top college, not making the team, or not getting asked to prom. Everyday situations can lead to feelings of rejection, too, like if your joke didn’t get a laugh, if no one remembered to save you a seat at the lunch table, or if the person you really like talks to everyone but you.
Feeling rejected is the opposite of feeling accepted. But being rejected (and we all will be at times) doesn’t mean someone isn’t liked, valued, or important. It just means that one time, in one situation, with one person, things didn’t work out.
Rejection hurts. But it’s impossible to avoid it altogether. In fact, you don’t want to: People who become too afraid of rejection might hold back from going after something they want. Sure, they avoid rejection, but they’re also 100% guaranteed to miss out on what they want but won’t try for.
How to Cope
The better we get at dealing with rejection, the less it affects us. So how can you build that ability to cope?
Here are some ideas:
Coping well with rejection involves working with two things: how you feel and what you think.
Let’s start with feelings: If you get rejected, acknowledge it to yourself. Don’t try to brush off the hurt or pretend it’s not painful. Instead of thinking “I shouldn’t feel this way,” think about how normal it is to feel like you do, given your situation.
Notice how intense your feelings are. Did this rejection upset you a lot? Or just a little? Cry if you want to — it’s a natural way to release emotion.
Now, move on to name what you’re feeling. For example: “I feel really disappointed that I didn’t get chosen for the school play. I wanted it so badly, and I tried so hard. I feel left out because my friends made it and I didn’t.”
If you want, tell someone else what happened and how you feel about it. Pick someone who will listen and be supportive.
Telling someone else can help for two reasons:
- It can be reassuring to know that someone understands what you’re going through and how it feels.
- It forces you to put your feelings into words.
Whether you decide to share your feelings with someone else or simply think about them yourself, acknowledging feelings can help you move beyond painful emotions.
When you’re dealing with a painful emotion like rejection, it’s easy to get caught up in the bad feeling. But dwelling on the negative stuff can feel like living the experience over and over again. Not only does it keep hurting, it becomes harder to get past the rejection.
So admit how you feel but don’t dwell on it. Avoid talking or thinking about it nonstop. Why? Negative thinking influences our expectations and how we act. Getting stuck in a negative outlook might even bring about more rejection. It certainly doesn’t inspire a person to try again.
Examine Your Thought Soundtrack
Now on to what you think: Consider how you’re explaining the rejection to yourself. Are you being too hard on yourself? It’s natural to wonder, “Why did this happen?” When you give yourself an explanation, be careful to stick to the facts.
Tell yourself: “I got turned down for prom because the person didn’t want to go with me.” Don’t tell yourself: “I got turned down because I’m not attractive” or “I’m such a loser.” These aren’t facts. They’re imagining a reason, reading too much into a situation. If put-down thoughts like these start creeping into your mind, shut them down.
Self-blaming or put-down thinking can exaggerate our faults and lead us to believe stuff about ourselves that simply isn’t true. This kind of thinking crowds out hope and a belief in ourselves — the very things we need to get past feeling bad and want to try again.
If you start blaming yourself for the rejection or put yourself down, you can start believing you’ll always be rejected. Thoughts like, “I’ll never get a date” or “No one will ever like me” amplify a simple rejection to disaster level. Rejection can hurt a lot and can be terribly disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world.
Keep Things in Perspective
Tell yourself: “OK, so I got rejected this time. Maybe next time, I’ll get a ‘yes'” or “Oh, well. This is what happened. I don’t like it. It’s not how I wanted things to work out. But everyone gets rejected — and I can try again.”
Think about what you’re good at and what’s good about you. Remember times when you’ve been accepted, when you made the cut, when someone told you “yes.” Think of all the people who like you and support you.
Give yourself credit for trying. You took a risk — good for you. Remind yourself that you can handle the rejection. Even though you were turned down now, there will be another opportunity, another time. Get philosophical: Sometimes things happen for reasons we don’t always understand.
Use Rejection to Your Advantage
A rejection is a chance to consider if there are things we can work on. It’s OK to think about whether there’s room for improvement or if your goals were higher than your skills.
If your skills weren’t strong enough this time, maybe you need to work on your game, your studies, your interview technique, or whatever it takes to improve your chances of getting accepted next time. Use the rejection as an opportunity for self-improvement.
Sometimes a rejection is a harsh reality check. But if you approach it right, it could help nudge you in a direction that turns out to be the perfect fit for your talents, personality, and all the really great things that make you who you are.
Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: May 2013