What Can You Do When You’re Feeling Rejected?

By Julia Thomas

Updated August 27, 2019

Rejection hurts. There's no doubt about it. The rejection can be over a small matter, or it can be something so important that you don't know how you will go on. Either way, feeling rejected is no fun. So, how do you get past that feeling and move on to a better emotional place? Here are some tips for handling rejection gracefully.

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Don't Deny The Rejection

No one wants to believe someone else rejected them. So, you may find yourself denying that the incident ever happened. You might look for ways to reinterpret the other person's words or behavior so that you can believe they didn't mean what you thought they meant. When they said, "I don't love you anymore," they were joking. When they said, "We've decided to go with another applicant for the job," they only said that to get you for a lower salary. Deep down, you probably know that your reassessment of the situation is off. Yet, by denying the rejection, you hope to avoid the pain.

Instead of denying something so obvious, recognize that it did happen. Accept that it wasn't a figment of your imagination. It was real and denying it won't make it go away. Allow yourself to feel the sadness and disappointment. Only when you experience your true emotions can you get past them.

Avoid Clinging To The Impossible

Holding onto the hope that someone will change is a dangerous game. Change is rarely an easy thing. If the other person has no interest in changing, it will take a major life event for that to happen. They probably aren't going to come running to you tomorrow and say, "I want you back," despite what you see in romantic movies. Be frank with yourself. If it's obvious that your hopes are futile, let go of them and prepare yourself to move on.

Don't Over-inflate Your View Of Them

Sometimes, when someone rejects you, you put them on a pedestal. You assume they're better than you in some way. You might think that they must be better because if not, you would be the one to do the rejecting. If you see things that way, you may exaggerate their importance in your life. You may find yourself seeking their approval when they aren't interested in giving it to you. Instead of thinking about how you don't deserve their kindness, remind yourself that you are just as worthy of love as anyone.

Understand Why You're Feeling This Way

Rejection is painful. The words we use to describe rejection reflect this. We talk about a broken heart and hurt feelings. The truth is that the brain processes emotional pain in the same way it processes physical pain. Being in emotional pain because of rejection, then, doesn't mean you're weak. In fact, what it means is that you're just like other humans.

Researchers have studied the pathways in the brain that are influenced by both physical and emotional pain. By taking MRIs of the brains of people who have been socially rejected, they've discovered that the same brain structures and brain chemicals are involved in the feelings of rejection and the experience of physical pain.

But, why is this so? Scientists have concluded, through this evidence as well as studies of animals and evolutionary studies, that this system developed long ago. In the hunter-gatherer era, being a part of the group was critical for each person's survival. Without the group, they couldn't hunt as effectively. They had no one to rely on to help them avoid danger or deal with threats.

The researchers believe that this situation caused early humans to develop a neural alarm system to warn them when they were in danger of being kicked out of the group. Then, when they felt that rejection, they could do whatever they needed to do to get back into the good graces of their clan. Today, this alarm system has become a part of the human condition. So, if rejection feels painful to you, it only means that you're like most other humans.

Stop Criticizing Yourself

While feeling rejected, it's common to blame yourself for the rejection. You might think, "If only I were smarter, thinner, more lovable, they wouldn't have rejected me." Or, "I'm not enough fun to have a friend like that." You may even call yourself derogatory names. Looking for problems in your own character and behavior is only helpful to a point. Certainly, it's good to learn from mistakes and past experiences. However, when you attack yourself on a personal level when you criticize yourself for being who you are, you only make matters worse.

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Boost Your Self-Esteem

Your sense of self-worth can take a big hit after you've been rejected. Give it a little extra attention during this time. Take a few moments every day to think about your positive qualities. Celebrate your accomplishments. Get out and do things you can be proud of, like volunteering to help others, being a good friend, or reaching for a personal goal.

Stay Socially Connected And Engaged

Rejection by one person or one group is painful, but it doesn't have to become the theme of your life. Just shift your social focus to other people and groups. Spend more time with other friends, family members, or coworkers. If your social network is small, make an effort to widen it now. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Get involved with community activities.
  • Be a part of a spiritual community.
  • Get in touch with a friend or extended family member you were once close to but haven't seen in a while.
  • Take up a hobby and join a hobby group.
  • Sign up for a class that interests you.

Laugh And Have Fun

If feeling rejected is painful, having a good time may be the best medicine. Look at the world through a humorous lens. Do things that make you happy. Here are some specific ways to have a better time:

  • Share jokes, puns, or humorous thoughts with friends.
  • Watch a funny movie or a comedic musical.
  • Go to a comedy club and listen to a comedian.
  • Read a humorous comic strip every morning.
  • Set up a game night with friends or family.
  • Get a pet.
  • Stop taking life so seriously - look for the humor in everyday things.
  • Create a Pinterest board or scrapbook and fill it with funny quotes from people you know.
  • Spend more time with your funniest friend.
  • Go outside to take in the view and get some fresh air.
  • Sing a happy tune as you do housework or walk your dog.
  • Create an artwork that expresses your silly side.

Check Your Expectations

Sometimes, it isn't the event itself that makes you feel bad. Instead, it's the unrealistic expectations you brought into the relationship that makes you feel so disappointed. Think about those expectations now. Is it realistic to believe that no one will ever reject you? Does it make sense to assume that every relationship will be a good fit for both of you? Do you expect everyone to love and accept you? If you objectively look at what you were anticipating, you might discover that you've put too much pressure on yourself and others. Once you understand that, you can move toward other relationships that are healthier and more fulfilling.

Evaluate The Thoughts Behind The Pain

When it comes to emotional pain, there's nearly always a thought behind that pain. It isn't the rejection itself that makes you feel so hurt. It's what you think about the rejection that makes you feel sad or inadequate. One way to evaluate those thoughts is to do some journaling. Write at the top of the page, "Why did they reject me?" Then, make a list of your thoughts on the subject. Finally, take each thought separately and ask yourself if it's true. Ask yourself if it's a helpful thought. Consider if there's a better way to look at it. If you need help sorting out your thoughts, talking to a relationship counselor may help you put your thoughts into perspective.

Get Emotional Support

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Feeling rejected can be extremely lonely. The emotions that come up can be hard to bear on your own. So, it's important to get emotional support from someone you trust. Perhaps that's a friend or family. Maybe you would rather go to a trusted minister or teacher. You can also talk to a counselor about your feelings of rejection.

When you seek out emotional support from someone trustworthy, you can benefit in many ways. You get a chance to express your feelings without being judged. Their attention reassures you that you're worthy of being accepted. You feel safer and more secure in the world.

Being rejected is a part of life. Everyone experiences it. Yet, feeling rejected doesn't have to put a cloud over your entire world. When you assess the situation objectively, take care of your emotional and social needs, and reach out for help and companionship, you can move beyond the rejection and reach a better emotional place.


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