You’re here because you want to get over a recent rejection. And I’m here to tell you:
You can’t get over rejection like it’s dust to sweep under a rug.
Rejection hurts. It’s incredibly painful.
But, unfortunately, the most effective way to get over rejection is to fully embrace the pain.
If you ignore the pain, you’ll push the problem down the line. But if you take the opportunity to feel the pain and learn from the experience, you’ll get over rejection much more quickly.
It’s therefore essential to learn how to handle rejection in a healthy way. I’ll explain how you can do this in this comprehensive guide.
Why rejection hurts so much (according to science)
First of all, let’s explain why rejection hurts so much. Here are some reasons why, according to science:
1. The pain is physically real
Scientists discovered that when we experience rejection, it triggers the same part of the brain that triggers real pain.
Emotional and physical pain runs along the same neural pathways. When you experience sadness, heartbreak, and yes—rejection, your body physically responds to it.
2. It’s an evolutionary response
The sting of social rejection comes from our deep evolutionary need to be a part of a community. Back when humans were hunter-gatherers, staying in a tribe was a crucial part of survival. Being alone meant little chances of making it.
That is why when we are rejected by others, our instincts tell us that we don’t belong. In an evolutionary sense, we are hardwired to fear rejection.
3. Romantic rejection creates the worst pain
Ever wondered why breakups hurt so much? According to research, it’s because getting over a breakup is exactly like getting over a drug addiction.
When we’re in love, we are technically addicted to the “love hormones” our body produces. Once we’re dumped, our body experiences a sudden withdrawal of those happy love hormones, making us depressed and grieving.
But honestly, most of it is self-inflicted
Emotional pain from rejection is actually more self-inflicted than anything else.
According to psychologist and public speaker Guy Winch: “The greatest damage rejection causes is usually self-inflicted. Indeed, our natural response to being dumped by a dating partner or getting picked last for a team is not just to lick our wounds but to become intensely self-critical.”
Isn’t it ironic? It’s after rejection that’s when we are most vulnerable. But it’s actually the time when we need to be kindest to ourselves.
Yet, every single one of us does this. We criticize ourselves for what we “did wrong” instead of focusing on what we can do better.
This habit is deeply unhealthy. But don’t discount the reasons why you respond that way. In fact, the underlying reasons behind the pain may give you clarity.
So instead of “getting over” rejection, try to learn how to respond to it in a healthy manner.
How to not let rejection get the best of you
1. Don’t ignore it
Don’t stamp it down.
The first mistake you can make is acting like it doesn’t affect you.
I’m not saying you should break down and wallow in pain for 3 months.
I’m saying that you should acknowledge that it hurts. You certainly have the right to feel sad about missing the promotion you’ve worked hard for or being rejected by a romantic interest.
It’s hard not to take things personally when you’ve invested time, effort and emotion in something.
So tell yourself that it’s okay. Your feelings are valid.
Keeping them locked down will only result in festering emotional pain.
2. Make sure you’re not making it up
Here’s what you may not know:
You’re probably not getting as much rejection as you think.
Most of the time, it’s just us. Meaning, we make it up even when that’s not the case.
According to psychologist Dr. Lynn Margolies: “Many of us misread social situations and incorrectly perceive deliberate rejection or unfriendliness when it’s not true.”
While that may not be harmless on its own, it can actually cause things to happen the way you imagined it to be.
Dr. Margolies adds: “Believing we’re being rejected when we’re not can be self-fulfilling and, ironically, actually create the rejection we fear. For example, withdrawing can make you more invisible to others — making it more likely that you will be left out. And being unfriendly in response to perceived rejection can make other people feel rejected and then they may, in fact, reject you.”
Make sure you’re not misreading signs. If it’s not blatantly reiterated, then you might just be imagining it.
3. Observe your reactions
Do you take the time to observe how you react to situations of rejection?
Try it. You’ll find it tells you a lot of significant things about yourself.
Dr. Margolies explains: “The first step in learning to read interpersonal situations is noticing that we’re having a strong reaction and stepping back from it. This separates us from our reactions so we can observe ourselves rather than let our feelings and repetitive internal dialogues take over.”
This method won’t only help you alleviate rejection, it also helps you understand why you’re so quick to react the way you do.
Why do you lash out? Perhaps you become confronting. Or maybe you go back into your shell.
Either way, it’s best to remember that your reactions don’t define you.
4. Adopt a growth mindset
A growth mindset is about not setting limitations for yourself. It’s about taking rejection in stride.
It’s about being constructive and focusing on what you can do better, instead of what you can’t do.
Rejection gets the best of people because they focus on the negative. They take rejection as a sign to quit.
But rejection is a part of life. If you quit every time you get rejected, you’ll never get anywhere.
Instead, ask yourself 2 things:
- What do I learn from this?
- What can I do differently next time?
You might not control what life gives you, but you can control what you take from it.
5. Stick to the facts
Rejection has a way of making us focus on the negative. But sometimes it’s worse: we become so self-critical that we start exaggerating our mistakes or weaknesses.
It’s possible you may even commit more mistakes.
That’s because rejection can lower your IQ by as much as 30%. A study shows that when rejected, people’s IQ scores decrease by approximately 25% while their analytical reasoning can lower up to 30%. Aggression, meanwhile, increases.
This is probably why it is so hard to reason our anger and frustration when we feel excluded from something.
In these instances, don’t let doubt create a worse picture of who you really are. Stick to the facts.
6. Develop your self-esteem
You won’t be completely invincible to rejection, but you can be better at reacting to it. You can recover from it quicker and better.
One way to do that is to work on yourself. Focus on your growth and progress that you won’t even have the time and inclination to pay attention to what everyone else thinks.
Start with getting rid of your critical self and practice a kinder self language. Compliment yourself when you do something right. Take and celebrate even the smallest wins.
Look ahead instead of comparing yourself to everyone around you. These are ways you can develop your self-esteem until you see rejection as a step forward instead of a step back.
Keeping your pain to yourself never results in anything good.
When we keep our rejection to ourselves, it can seem bigger than it actually is. Which is why it’s useful to let it out.
It takes a lot to be vulnerable with someone. What stops us from sharing our problems (even when we know it will help) is our feelings of shame.
When we experience rejection, we experience a lot of shame.
You just have to find someone you are completely comfortable with—a good friend or a loved one. Someone you feel safe with, someone who will understand you and comfort you.
Doing so will not only feel good, but it will put everything in perspective, too.
8. Be grateful
It’s difficult to be grateful when you’re experiencing the sting of rejection. The first impulse is to lash out and be angry at everything.
Still, it’s important to realize that rejection doesn’t mean your whole life is a mess.
Don’t get stuck on the one thing you did wrong. Instead, try to focus on the parts in your life where you’re succeeding, even the little things like.
When I got rejected from a dream job, I was sad. I questioned my abilities. But in the end, I realized it was meant to teach me how to be better, how to try harder.
For every rejection, be grateful for the opportunity. It taught you valuable lessons about yourself. Sooner or later, you’ll realize that everything in life happens for a reason.
Just say: “Thank you, next!”
9. Practice empathy
You won’t always feel like the bigger person when someone is rejecting you. Of course, you’ll take it personally. Humans are proud beings.
But the thing is, it’s not always about you.
In social situations, for example, there’s another person involved. If you’ve gotten rejected for a second date, it might not even be because of something you did.
Sometimes, it’s about the other person too. It may be because of their insecurities and not yours.
How other people treat you say more about them than about you.
It can help if you don’t blame everything on yourself. Take responsibility for your shortcomings, but also practice empathy. You’ll have more clarity and peace of mind that way.
10. Surround yourself with good people
There’s nothing more life-changing than surrounding yourself with people who empower you and make you feel good.
Ideally, we shouldn’t get validation from other people. But humans are social beings and we crave being valued and cared for by those we love.
Having a great support system will not only help you bounce back from rejection faster, but they also remind you that life is still and will always be good.
On the other hand, if you surround yourself with negative and critical people, the pain of rejection will only be magnified.
When someone touches you comfortingly, like in a hug, our cingulate cortex—the part of the brain that registers emotional and physical pain—releases opioids, as our body’s way of easing the pain. In short, physical comforting from someone can help you feel better after social rejection.
11. Keep going forward
… even if it’s just one step at a time.
When we’ve experienced enough rejections in our lives, we tend to stop trying and taking risks.
Why is that?
Psychologists call it “learned helplessness.” According to researchers, social rejection causes a “disruption of goal-directed behavior.” This means we react by becoming demotivated to pursue our initial goals.
That reaction is natural. Social validation is extremely influential in our motivations.
We don’t like going to school when we get bullied. We don’t like going to work if we feel left out by our colleagues. We post so much on social media to gain approval from our friends.
But just because it’s instinctual doesn’t mean it can’t be overcome. You need to develop habits that help you process rejection better.
Go at it in a healthy and productive manner. Take what you can learn from it, and then keep going forward.
Don’t let the rejection get you stuck far longer than necessary. If there’s anything we learn from life, it’s that life never stops for us.
You don’t have the luxury of stopping time or rewinding it back. You can only move forward. Being rejected isn’t a valid enough reason to miss amazing opportunities.
The pain may be real, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying to pursue your dreams.