Everyone faces rejection at some point in their lives, whether that’s not getting hired for a job or accepted into an organization, having one of your ideas shut down, or being friendzoned. Although your self-esteem almost always takes a blow from rejection, some people are more affected by it than others. Finding healthy ways to cope with rejection can help you get through it without it taking a huge toll on your mental health. Here are 10 ways to deal with rejection:
1: Accept Their Answer
After someone rejects you or your work, respect their decision. Don’t pressure them to change their mind or give you a second chance because even if you manage to convince them, you will be stuck in an environment with someone who doesn’t really want you there, and this can quickly become toxic. However, it’s important to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy where you assume someone has rejected you before they’ve made a decision. If you go into a situation thinking someone will reject you, you might unconsciously self-sabotage, which can lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy of you being rejected (APA, n.d.).
2: Distance Yourself from the Situation
After a difficult rejection, you may need to leave the setting to calm down and process your feelings. Research suggests that leaving a situation as a healthy coping mechanism can help reduce intrusive thoughts over time (Ayduck & Kross, 2010). If you were rejected over the phone or computer, take a break from your electronics. Move into a different room than the one you got the news in or take a walk outside. Of course, sometimes you can’t physically leave your current situation. If you need to stay in one place, or if having a public breakdown might lead to a panic attack, try to mentally distance yourself from the rejection by focusing all your energy on the present until you can find somewhere private to process your emotions.
3: Allow Yourself to Feel
Although you may need to suppress your emotions in the moment so you can safely exit a situation, long-term suppression can lead to emotional repression, which can cause poorer physical and mental health, increased stress, and even depression (Patel, 2019). It’s important to let yourself feel your emotions even if you think you’re overreacting. Everyone has different levels of resiliency and reacts differently to situations depending on the state of their mental health and the other factors in their life at the time. For example, a rejection is more likely to trigger a depressive episode in people with clinical depression (Leary, 2015). Some common feelings in response to a rejection include: guilt, embarrassment, sadness, and anger (Leary, 2015).
4: Spend Time With Friends, Family, or Your Therapist
Talking through the situation and your feelings with someone you trust is another healthy way to deal with rejection. Spending time with those you love can help boost your self-esteem and keep you out of your head, especially if you are experiencing self-hatred or self-doubt during this time. Remember to set boundaries and communicate your needs to the people you’re spending time with. We all know a well-meaning person who offers advice when you just need someone to listen to and empathize with you. Because therapists are trained in psycho-(talk)therapy, they are also an option to help you process rejection.
5: Do Something You Love
Doing something you love (like practicing an instrument, watching your favorite movie, or going for a walk) can help distract you from the pain of rejection and remind you that your life has more value than just this missed opportunity. It’s easy to equate your worth with your job, significant other, or success. Doing something that brings you joy helps you focus on other aspects of yourself (Bressi, 2017). If you feel like you can’t do the thing you love for a little while because it was related to your rejection, do something related to it. For example, if you were rejected from an orchestral group and need a break from the violin, listen to classical music. Or revisit an old hobby or learn a new one!
6: Practice Self-Care
Getting rejected can be a major blow to your self-esteem. You may doubt your competency or worth. Practicing self-care is another way to rebuild self-confidence. Self-care looks like different things depending on the person. The media often portrays self-care as eating ice cream and bingeing your favorite shows and while these things can help, self-care is also making sure you’re eating taking care of your body. Eat at regular times, drink plenty of water, and working out to release feel-good endorphins (Bressi, 2017). If working out feels like too much, well, work, even something as small as getting out of bed and walking around can help. For people who aren’t as affected by rejection, self-care can look like remembering to assess how you feel and making sure you are taking breaks from school or work when needed (Bressi, 2017).
7: Work on Yourself
Self-reflection is key immediately following a rejection. If the person, group, or organization who rejected you gave you constructive criticism, look it over and consider incorporating some of their advice into your next idea, request, or application. If they didn’t offer any feedback, try to determine if part of the problem stems from yourself. Perhaps you have a fear of failure and it got the best of you this time.
For example, you might have had a really good project idea but you got so nervous during your presentation that you couldn’t express it properly. Getting more comfortable in front of a crowd by practicing in front of your friends and family is one possible solution. But sometimes you achieve your personal best and still get rejected. In those situations, be proud of the progress you’ve made and continue working on improving yourself and your skills.
8: Learn from the Experience
Although rejections hurt, there is always something to be learned from them, even if it’s just adding them to the list of things you’ve survived and worked through. Maybe the lesson you learn is that you weren’t ready for the opportunity yet and need to develop yourself, your skills, or your education further before trying again. Or maybe you find out who in your life is there to support you during hard times. This way of dealing with rejection can be difficult because you associate good feelings with the person, job, or opportunity you lost and it’s hard to be objective. But it’s important to take something away from the experience to avoid letting it define your future.
9: Put the Rejection in Context
While you shouldn’t minimize your emotions over a rejection, it can help to put the event in context. Make a list of the things you lost with that opportunity, then look at which of these things are unique to that situation and which ones can be found in other opportunities or from other sources. Think about the negatives of the opportunity you lost as well; maybe you would’ve had to live in a city to take advantage of the lost opportunity and now you are able to move closer to nature. All too often, we romanticize things we can’t have and turn them into regrets, but taking time to debrief potentially traumatic events like rejections as they happen and reflecting on past rejections may help minimize future intrusive thoughts that can hold us back (Taku et. al., 2009).
10: Explore Other Opportunities
When we dwell over rejection, we miss out on new opportunities. The point is not to forget your rejections, but use them to fuel your search for new goals and experiences. After you’ve evaluated what you were hoping to get from the person or organization who rejected you, set aside a few minutes each day to research new opportunities. These new ventures may look very different from the one you missed, and that’s okay as long as your needs are still being met. It’s important to consider all your options moving forward and choose the one that is best for you.
How do you cope with rejection? Have you tried any of these tips? Let us know in the comments below. Because we’re all different, some ways of handling rejection may not work for you. Developing healthy coping mechanisms is really important, and talking to trusted friends or family members or seeing a therapist or other licensed mental health professional may help with making a plan to deal with rejection and sticking to it.
- American Psychological Association (n.d.). Self-fulfilling prophecy. In APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved 20 September, 2020 from dictionary.apa.org/self-fulfilling-prophecy.
- Ayduk, Ö., & Kross, E. (2010). From a distance: Implications of spontaneous self-distancing for adaptive self-reflection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(5), 809–829. doi.org/10.1037/a0019205.
- Bressi, S. & Vaden, E.R. (2017). Reconsidering self care. Social Work Journal 45(1). 33-38. DOI: 10.1007/s10615-016-0575-4.
- Leary, M. (2015). Emotional responses to interpersonal rejection. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 17. 435-441. Retrieved 20 September, 2020 from researchgate.net/publication/298641054_Emotional_responses_to_interpersonal_rejection.
- Patel, J. & Patel, P. (2019). Consequences of repression of emotion: Physical health, mental health and general well being. International Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 1(3),16-21. DOI: 10.14302/issn.2574-612X.ijpr-18-2564.
- Taku, K., Cann, A., Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (2009). Intrusive versus deliberate rumination in posttraumatic growth across US and Japanese samples. Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal, 22(2), 129–136. DOI: 10.1080/10615800802317841.