Surviving Rejection

Reviewed Aug 11, 2017

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Summary

  • Learn from it.
  • Don't take it personally.
  • Don't overanalyze it.
  • Distract yourself.

No one likes it, but you can’t get through life without experiencing some amount of rejection.

The first experiences are particularly painful. In fact, scientists have determined that the brain responds to rejection as if it were real physical pain. That’s why we often feel “crushed” or “heavy hearted” afterward. This response most likely develops as a survival mechanism. As a social species, humans need each other, which is why rejection can cut to the core—to our very sense of self-worth.

The good news is that we can develop coping skills to lessen the sting. If we can’t control the incident, we can at least control our response to it.

Taking risks is part of life

If you’ve recently been rejected, either personally or professionally, congratulate yourself. Why? Because you’re out there playing the game, you’re taking risks and living life. Some people become so afraid of rejection that they become emotionally paralyzed. If you don’t try, you’ll never succeed.

Know, however, that the riskier your ambitions, the more you’ll be rejected. Artists, writers, athletes, entrepreneurs—all those pursuing tough competitive fields—know that rejection is part of the process.

Build up immunity to it

Tell yourself that the rejection didn’t kill you—you’re here to fight or love another day. Here are some coping suggestions:

  • Learn from the rejection. If possible, find out why you were turned down. You may gain insight needed to sharpen your skills for the next time around.
  • Don’t take it personally. More than likely, the rejection has nothing to do with you or your talents. Every person and organization has differing needs, and maybe you weren’t the best fit at this time. Or maybe the person who rejected you was having a bad day or has bad taste.
  • Resist the urge to overanalyze. You need to recognize the hurt but not wallow in it. When it comes to rejection, a little bit of blocking, detaching, and rationalizing can go a long way to cushion the blow. Positive people can separate from life’s let-downs, while those who tend toward depression spend too much time dwelling on the negative. 
  • Recognize that rejection can be a great motivator. Learn to take slights and turn them into fuel for victories. But don’t fall into the revenge trap. Chronic anger depletes energy and deflects you from your goals. So go ahead and write a nasty letter to the offending party, but then put it in the proverbial freezer. When you read it later, you’ll be thankful you didn’t send it.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to adapt. If you find that you’re consistently striking out with similar people or jobs, you might want to re-evaluate strategies and goals. Don’t give up your dreams, but look for realistic ways to fulfill them.
  • Distract yourself with positive activities. This is no time to crawl into a hole. Though you might start with instant gratification diversions—like eating a pint of ice cream—try to factor in activities that offer more long-term benefits. Some suggestions include:
  • Call friends and relatives for support.
  • Get out of the house. Go for a walk or take a long dreamed of vacation.
  • Laugh even if you have to fake it. Laughter has tremendous therapeutic value.
  • Exercise. Work up a sweat. Get those pain-killing endorphins flowing.
  • Set small goals that have nothing to do with the source of rejection—sign up for an art course or attend a motivational lecture.
  • Let nature soothe your soul. A day in the mountains or on a lake can help put your temporary setback into perspective.
  • Volunteer—give to someone who needs love/attention/support more than you.

If you’ve gone through a particularly serious rejection, recognize that you’ll go through the stages of grief: denial (shock), anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. You may find that counseling helps.

Remember, we learn from suffering and value that which is hard won. At the very least, experiencing rejection can make us more compassionate and humble people. 

By Amy Fries
Source: “Coping with a Job Loss” by Robin Ryan, 2003; “Rebounding After a Rejection” by Jacqueline Fitzgerald, Chicago Tribune, July 9, 2003; “Rejection Protection” by Melissa Ezarik, Current Health, February 2001; “Rejection Really Hurts,” University of California—Los Angeles, public release, Oct. 9, 2003; “The Sadness and Pain of Rejection,” Harvard Mental Health Letter, June 2004; “Strategies for Coping with Rejection,” University of Denver, Jamey Collins, LCSW, www.du.edu, Jan. 13, 2004.

Summary

  • Learn from it.
  • Don't take it personally.
  • Don't overanalyze it.
  • Distract yourself.

No one likes it, but you can’t get through life without experiencing some amount of rejection.

The first experiences are particularly painful. In fact, scientists have determined that the brain responds to rejection as if it were real physical pain. That’s why we often feel “crushed” or “heavy hearted” afterward. This response most likely develops as a survival mechanism. As a social species, humans need each other, which is why rejection can cut to the core—to our very sense of self-worth.

The good news is that we can develop coping skills to lessen the sting. If we can’t control the incident, we can at least control our response to it.

Taking risks is part of life

If you’ve recently been rejected, either personally or professionally, congratulate yourself. Why? Because you’re out there playing the game, you’re taking risks and living life. Some people become so afraid of rejection that they become emotionally paralyzed. If you don’t try, you’ll never succeed.

Know, however, that the riskier your ambitions, the more you’ll be rejected. Artists, writers, athletes, entrepreneurs—all those pursuing tough competitive fields—know that rejection is part of the process.

Build up immunity to it

Tell yourself that the rejection didn’t kill you—you’re here to fight or love another day. Here are some coping suggestions:

  • Learn from the rejection. If possible, find out why you were turned down. You may gain insight needed to sharpen your skills for the next time around.
  • Don’t take it personally. More than likely, the rejection has nothing to do with you or your talents. Every person and organization has differing needs, and maybe you weren’t the best fit at this time. Or maybe the person who rejected you was having a bad day or has bad taste.
  • Resist the urge to overanalyze. You need to recognize the hurt but not wallow in it. When it comes to rejection, a little bit of blocking, detaching, and rationalizing can go a long way to cushion the blow. Positive people can separate from life’s let-downs, while those who tend toward depression spend too much time dwelling on the negative. 
  • Recognize that rejection can be a great motivator. Learn to take slights and turn them into fuel for victories. But don’t fall into the revenge trap. Chronic anger depletes energy and deflects you from your goals. So go ahead and write a nasty letter to the offending party, but then put it in the proverbial freezer. When you read it later, you’ll be thankful you didn’t send it.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to adapt. If you find that you’re consistently striking out with similar people or jobs, you might want to re-evaluate strategies and goals. Don’t give up your dreams, but look for realistic ways to fulfill them.
  • Distract yourself with positive activities. This is no time to crawl into a hole. Though you might start with instant gratification diversions—like eating a pint of ice cream—try to factor in activities that offer more long-term benefits. Some suggestions include:
  • Call friends and relatives for support.
  • Get out of the house. Go for a walk or take a long dreamed of vacation.
  • Laugh even if you have to fake it. Laughter has tremendous therapeutic value.
  • Exercise. Work up a sweat. Get those pain-killing endorphins flowing.
  • Set small goals that have nothing to do with the source of rejection—sign up for an art course or attend a motivational lecture.
  • Let nature soothe your soul. A day in the mountains or on a lake can help put your temporary setback into perspective.
  • Volunteer—give to someone who needs love/attention/support more than you.

If you’ve gone through a particularly serious rejection, recognize that you’ll go through the stages of grief: denial (shock), anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. You may find that counseling helps.

Remember, we learn from suffering and value that which is hard won. At the very least, experiencing rejection can make us more compassionate and humble people. 

By Amy Fries
Source: “Coping with a Job Loss” by Robin Ryan, 2003; “Rebounding After a Rejection” by Jacqueline Fitzgerald, Chicago Tribune, July 9, 2003; “Rejection Protection” by Melissa Ezarik, Current Health, February 2001; “Rejection Really Hurts,” University of California—Los Angeles, public release, Oct. 9, 2003; “The Sadness and Pain of Rejection,” Harvard Mental Health Letter, June 2004; “Strategies for Coping with Rejection,” University of Denver, Jamey Collins, LCSW, www.du.edu, Jan. 13, 2004.

Summary

  • Learn from it.
  • Don't take it personally.
  • Don't overanalyze it.
  • Distract yourself.

No one likes it, but you can’t get through life without experiencing some amount of rejection.

The first experiences are particularly painful. In fact, scientists have determined that the brain responds to rejection as if it were real physical pain. That’s why we often feel “crushed” or “heavy hearted” afterward. This response most likely develops as a survival mechanism. As a social species, humans need each other, which is why rejection can cut to the core—to our very sense of self-worth.

The good news is that we can develop coping skills to lessen the sting. If we can’t control the incident, we can at least control our response to it.

Taking risks is part of life

If you’ve recently been rejected, either personally or professionally, congratulate yourself. Why? Because you’re out there playing the game, you’re taking risks and living life. Some people become so afraid of rejection that they become emotionally paralyzed. If you don’t try, you’ll never succeed.

Know, however, that the riskier your ambitions, the more you’ll be rejected. Artists, writers, athletes, entrepreneurs—all those pursuing tough competitive fields—know that rejection is part of the process.

Build up immunity to it

Tell yourself that the rejection didn’t kill you—you’re here to fight or love another day. Here are some coping suggestions:

  • Learn from the rejection. If possible, find out why you were turned down. You may gain insight needed to sharpen your skills for the next time around.
  • Don’t take it personally. More than likely, the rejection has nothing to do with you or your talents. Every person and organization has differing needs, and maybe you weren’t the best fit at this time. Or maybe the person who rejected you was having a bad day or has bad taste.
  • Resist the urge to overanalyze. You need to recognize the hurt but not wallow in it. When it comes to rejection, a little bit of blocking, detaching, and rationalizing can go a long way to cushion the blow. Positive people can separate from life’s let-downs, while those who tend toward depression spend too much time dwelling on the negative. 
  • Recognize that rejection can be a great motivator. Learn to take slights and turn them into fuel for victories. But don’t fall into the revenge trap. Chronic anger depletes energy and deflects you from your goals. So go ahead and write a nasty letter to the offending party, but then put it in the proverbial freezer. When you read it later, you’ll be thankful you didn’t send it.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to adapt. If you find that you’re consistently striking out with similar people or jobs, you might want to re-evaluate strategies and goals. Don’t give up your dreams, but look for realistic ways to fulfill them.
  • Distract yourself with positive activities. This is no time to crawl into a hole. Though you might start with instant gratification diversions—like eating a pint of ice cream—try to factor in activities that offer more long-term benefits. Some suggestions include:
  • Call friends and relatives for support.
  • Get out of the house. Go for a walk or take a long dreamed of vacation.
  • Laugh even if you have to fake it. Laughter has tremendous therapeutic value.
  • Exercise. Work up a sweat. Get those pain-killing endorphins flowing.
  • Set small goals that have nothing to do with the source of rejection—sign up for an art course or attend a motivational lecture.
  • Let nature soothe your soul. A day in the mountains or on a lake can help put your temporary setback into perspective.
  • Volunteer—give to someone who needs love/attention/support more than you.

If you’ve gone through a particularly serious rejection, recognize that you’ll go through the stages of grief: denial (shock), anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. You may find that counseling helps.

Remember, we learn from suffering and value that which is hard won. At the very least, experiencing rejection can make us more compassionate and humble people. 

By Amy Fries
Source: “Coping with a Job Loss” by Robin Ryan, 2003; “Rebounding After a Rejection” by Jacqueline Fitzgerald, Chicago Tribune, July 9, 2003; “Rejection Protection” by Melissa Ezarik, Current Health, February 2001; “Rejection Really Hurts,” University of California—Los Angeles, public release, Oct. 9, 2003; “The Sadness and Pain of Rejection,” Harvard Mental Health Letter, June 2004; “Strategies for Coping with Rejection,” University of Denver, Jamey Collins, LCSW, www.du.edu, Jan. 13, 2004.

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