Rejection, Overcoming The No's In Life

Rejection may reach us daily in small ways, where people may ignore messages, decline invitations and scroll past social media posts or dating profiles. Larger scale rejections can be devastating, the breakup of a relationship, not getting your desired job, or someone beating your offer on a dream house.

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Neurologically, whether rejection is large or small, it elicits the same emotions as physical pain. This was revealed in a study of functional MRI scans whereby participants were asked to recall a recent rejection, which was found to activate the sectors of the brain associated with physical suffering, hence why emotional pain distresses us so much.

We often respond to rejections by finding fault in ourselves, destroying our self-esteem even more when it is already fragile. Rather than considering what might be wrong with us, instead focus on the fact it may just be a case of an incompatible fit with other job candidates having more experience, whilst in relationships it may be poor chemistry or wanting different things at different times.

Remember that life is not a linear path and setbacks are part of being human. Not every experience will necessarily move things in the right direction but different paths may lead to a new destination, better than you could have anticipated.

So next time you are feeling overwhelmed by rejection, consider the following:

  • Acknowledge your emotions: Rather than suppressing or denying your emotions, admit that you are sad, embarrassed or disappointed. Dealing with your feelings head on is essential to coping and dealing with the situation in a healthy manner.

  • Have zero tolerance for self-criticism: As natural as it may seem to criticise yourself for what you did wrong and overanalyse how you could have done things differently, all this will do is damage self-esteem even further. Of course, you can choose to evaluate what you might do differently in the future and use this knowledge positively for self-growth. The wisdom you gain will be with you for life.

  • Keep rejection in perspective: Just because one person does not return your feelings, does not mean you are unlovable, just as not receiving job offers does not mean you will be unemployed forever. Do not let a single person’s opinion or one incident define you.

  • Boost your self-worth:  Remind yourself of your best qualities and the meaningful relationships you have. Emotional first aid is the necessary medicine to soothe these wounds and help move past the pain.

  • Reaffirm social connections: Rejection can destabilise our feeling of belonging, thus we need to remind ourselves that we are appreciated and loved through spending time with the people who care about us.

Seeing rejection as evidence that you are pushing your limits and striving for something new is not only a healthy way to cope with the situation, but the best way to turn a negative into a positive. If you never experience rejection, you may be sitting too neatly in your comfort zone. Therefore, the next time you are rejected by a friend, a potential partner, a societal group or a job prospect, congratulate yourself on being brave enough to put yourself out there in the first place.


Written by Hannah Bird, who may be found as @thehbird on Instagram.