If you think about it, almost every situation in life goes with a risk of being rejected: from starting a mere conversation to applying for a job over relationships with your partner, friends, and family. Depending on our experiences and our level of self-esteem, some rejections sting more than others. As parents, we usually particularly struggle when being rejected by our own child. Be it a toddler who only wants to be held by daddy, a 7-year-old who finds your passion for line dancing “stupid”, or a teenager who favors their friends over you.
But what is it that makes rejection so difficult to handle? In fact, the desire to belong and fit in is deeply ingrained in human nature, and being isolated and left alone, or worst, considered unlovable, belongs to our greatest fears.
Fortunately, there are strategies to help you deal with rejection and even grow from it.
1. Acknowledge your emotions
When we experience rejection, we tend to show resistance trying to suppress our painful emotions. Even though it might seem to be the easiest to do, this is the best way to prolong the pain and dwell on your feelings of rejection. Instead, you should allow yourself to acknowledge and feel these emotions. Remember that you have the right to feel hurt, disappointed, embarrassed, or angry. Give yourself enough time to grieve, depending on the intensity of the experience and the emotions that arise. Once you have allowed yourself to express and feel your emotions, you can bounce back and move on.
2. Understand what exactly hurts you
Do you find yourself being upset when people don’t immediately respond when you contact them? Or maybe you noticed that you couldn’t handle someone showing their disapproval? Everybody has their own triggers.
Overcoming rejection can be an excellent opportunity for introspection. Try to understand why a specific situation is particularly upsetting for you – often, our triggers are related to old wounds. Identifying your emotional triggers will help you understand and maybe re-adjust your responses to specific situations, and eventually heal.
3. Accept rejection
Be aware ahead of time that you could be rejected
This doesn’t mean that you should expect rejection, but depending on the situation, preparing yourself to be rejected might help you handle your emotions more easily. E.g., when our children reach a certain age, we should be prepared to sometimes be rejected by them and even encourage them on their journey to finding themselves. In this case, knowing that this behavior is perfectly normal can help process the strong emotions that might emerge.
Admit that you have been rejected
Noone likes to admit that they have been rejected, but the sooner you will face it, the sooner you will be able to move on. Acknowledging what happened and that you feel hurt is the first step to process the situation.
4. Don’t take it personally
Be aware of your wounds. Identify self-critical and unrealistic thoughts by putting rejection into perspective. It is important to understand that rejection is a two-sided situation. E.g., you might feel upset and hurt when a friend refuses your help, but it might have nothing to do with you. Maybe they need time to process their feelings or don’t want to bother you with their problems.
Also, remember that, just as you, other people have their triggers too. Maybe your behavior or a simple comment made them feel uncomfortable, but it has little to do with you.
Don’t let rejection define you. If a person turns you down, it doesn’t mean you are not worthy or unlovable. It could be that you are just incompatible with this person or that they couldn’t handle a specific behavior instead of your entire person. Remember that rejection is a kind of judgment and therefore something subjective.
5. Learn from rejection
Once you were able to process the feelings and get a better understanding of what happened, try to turn rejection into an opportunity of self-growth.
Rejection can be a good way to gain feedback from others. You might even realize that there is something you want to change. Of course, you should only consider this if you want it and you feel it would allow you to grow. I’m not talking about changing to get other people’s approval or fit in.
You could even ask the person why they rejected you. You will realize that, often, the reason is entirely different from what you thought.
Filter out incompatible relationships
In some cases, being rejected can be an opportunity to spot incompatibilities or even screen out toxic relationships. At the end of the day, if someone leaves your life, it probably means that the two of you were not a match.
6. Face your fear
We shouldn’t let the fear of rejection prevent us from doing certain things. One of the best ways to diminish the effects of rejection on you is to face your fear consciously. As with most feelings, we handle them better once we get used to them. Consider purposedly putting yourself in (manageable) situations with a risk of being rejected: if you are dating ask someone out; if you are running a business, offer your services; if you believe in something, share it with other people. This is a constructive way of taking your power back – and who knows which opportunities it might bring?
Even if rejection is an integral part of life, nobody is immune to it. If we want to grow and be ourselves, we need to put ourselves out there and face rejection. However, it is crucial that we don’t let it affect our self-image and stop us from being ourselves. Learning how to embrace rejection gives you a great opportunity to develop your emotional strength.