Why do we have a hard time coping with rejection?
What can we do to cope with rejection? I think it’s fair to say that everybody, absolutely everybody, has at some point in their life dealt with rejection. We’ve all been there. Most of us have been dumped at some point. We’ve been turned down for a job after an interview. You’ve asked a friend for coffee and they didn’t have time. Remember when you told that joke and nobody laughed? You didn’t get that promotion you were waiting for. That nice guy that asked for your phone number has not called you. The list could be endless.
Wait, don’t get that tub of ice-cream out of the freezer just yet! Wallowing in self-pity is only going to make things worse. There are ways to cope better with rejection. But let’s find out why rejection is so painful.
Why do we fear rejection?
The famous Dr. Phil, or Dr. Phillip McGraw (yes the one on TV), states that rejection is the biggest fear among human beings. This is because one of our deepest needs is to be accepted, to belong. Therefore rejection is failure to be accepted. We all want to be liked, to be part of a group, a family. Rejection makes us feel disconnected and disliked.
When we started to evolve as human beings, rejection was a matter of life or death. In those early days, being part of a group was essential for protection and for obtaining food. Being ostracized meant being on your own and in danger. It is very possible therefore, that we have an inherited and instinctive need to be accepted for our own protection.
Another consideration is that some people cope better with rejection than others. Self-confidence plays an important role in this. Confident people tend to brush off rejection more easily than people who lack self-esteem.
So what can you do to cope with rejection?
Here are 5 tips to cope with rejection
- Write a list of things that you are good at. This helps build up resilience to a potential rejection. The list could include qualities such as being a good listener, being kind, being a quick learner, being attractive, being articulate, etc. Find as many positive qualities in your personality you can think of and write them down. This list will be a reminder why somebody would find it difficult to reject you, considering how many good qualities you have. Remind yourself of your worth.
- Don’t make the rejection about you. You don’t know what is going on in the life of the person who is doing the rejecting. They may have reasons to reject you that are nothing to do with you and are based on other circumstances in their own lives. They may have had a bad day. Don’t make it a personal thing.
- Make another list of all the people who love you and why. This list is to reinforce the feeling that there are people who accept you, who love you, who value you and with whom you belong. It is another reminder of your worth, especially in relation to other people who matter. It also helps to know that you have a good support system when the rejection does happen and it’s a good idea to immediately surround yourself with the people who value and love you. Call them and talk about what happened.
- When you have been rejected, remind yourself that this negative feeling will pass. This awful feeling of rejection is only temporary and you will forget about it in time. In some cases it may even turn out to be a good experience in hindsight. Always look at the positive.
- Distract yourself from negative feelings. Do some exercise, play a sport. Or go to your favourite restaurant with your friends, do something nice for yourself. It is much easier to cope with rejection when you are keeping busy doing something that you love. Give Mindfulness a try.
Also remember that time is a great healer. By following the 5 tips above it will help you get over this time much quicker. And remember, you are amazing!
Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for overcoming rejection and what has or hasn’t helped you in the past. Would love to know your story!
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I fully agree with you Nuria that everybody must have experienced rejection at some point of his/her life. Some take it in their stride whereas others get devastated. Your 5 point POA is also very helpful indeed. May I add one more? I will advice people to do some act of kindness with people who are less privileged and need help.
That is an excellent point! What a lovely way to counteract the negativity of rejection, by spreading kindness. Thank you very much for this suggestion Gautam, I love that idea.
I’ve never thought of rejection that way, then again, I guess I’ve never really considered the reason WHY we fear rejection at all, but now that you mention it, you’re absolutely right! We all want to feel like we belong, but we also want to be accepted for who we are and when we’re rejected, we feel like something is wrong with us.
I think it’s so important to be able to accept ourselves as well as accept the fact that everyone has their own opinions about people (including you). It’s definitely important to be able to cope when we encounter rejection!
What are some of your favorite ways to cope with rejection?
I think that now I’m older I find it much easier. Not sure what age has to do with it but I find it much easier not to take rejection personally. I always think that there is probably a good reason why a person has the opinion they have and it’s not necessarily something I can change. I also know that it’s a passing feeling and that time puts things right. I don’t take it to heart, so that I think is my own way of coping with it but other people will probably find different ways to cope. You’re right, it is important to accept ourselves as we are.