Handling Emotional Rejection


Reject verb: to refuse to have, take, recognize, etc.; to refuse to grant; to refuse to accept; to discard as useless or unsatisfactory; to cast out or eject


We've all been rejected at some point in life. Whether it be that job we really wanted, the grade that we thought we deserved on a well written paper, being ignored by someone who we really needed to hear us, a break up with someone we love, an unanswered text, etc, etc, etc. At some point in life we learn that we don't always get what we want and we learn to accept that this is just sometimes the way life goes. But still, rejection hurts no matter what form it is, how little it seems or how used to it we become. I always say that the emotions that come from being rejected are one of the hardest things in life to manage. But why? Why is it so hard to accept, manage and recover from rejection?


The truth is this: emotional pain triggers the same areas of our brain that physical pain does. The only difference is that unlike a physical injury, rejection can damage our mood, self-esteem, trusting abilities, impulse control and at worst our ability to love others. I'll give you a few examples...


Example 1: You go through 12 years of education then add another 4 because you've decided what you've set out to be. You earn a degree with good grades, hard work and maybe lots of money owed. After you walk across the stage you know exactly what job you want to apply to so, you apply. You get an interview and in your mind you've killed it. You answered all the questions like a rock star and even had amazing questions to ask back. A week later you get an e-mail that says they've decided to choose someone else for the job but they don't tell you why you weren't chosen. REJECTION! You have a flood of emotions that last longer than you want them to. You ask a million questions in your head and maybe even judge yourself. "I'm an idiot," you say. "I shouldn't have answered that question that way," you wonder. "I shouldn't have asked them that. That made me look so dumb," you think. You begin to damage your self-esteem. You begin to convince yourself that you aren't good enough. You have no answers as to why you didn't get the job so you begin to answer them yourself with all negative things. You never stop to wonder that maybe the person they hired was already lined up to get the job. You never stop to think that if you apply again in 6 months, you'll get it then. Bashing yourself seems to help you feel better at that point in time. But what you're actually doing is responding with impulse to rejection.


Example 2: You found that person for you! You're head over freaking heals in love and you dedicate all of your time, money and attention into making the relationship as dreamy as possible. You put off plans with friends and family just to spend time with that person. Weeks, months and even years go by and you're positive you will marry this person, have a family with them and live happily ever after. All of sudden things start changing. Maybe there was some damage done at some point either by you or that person but you try your best to recover from it and get back to where you were when you were both seeing rainbows and butterflies. That person no longer sees things the way that you do though. They are thinking and acting as the damage is done and there is no coming back from it. You try and try and try some more but nothing you do can make this person happy. They begin cancelling plans with you, turning down intimacy, staying out late at night and ignoring your texts and phone calls. Eventually they break up with you saying they can no longer handle the relationship. Maybe they say "it's not the same anymore" or even worse "I don't love you anymore." REJECTION! Emotions flood you and if you've been through it before you know the term "crazy" begins to be thrown around. You act off impulse maybe even trying to remain in this persons life one way or another. You feel depressed, anxious, heart broken, literally in pain and can no longer seem to function like you used to be able to. You're suffering from a break up but really you're trying to handle being rejected.


I can be the first to admit to you, I have been through both examples above with the same results after being rejected. I have learned so much about the psychological affects on someone after they have been turned down, pushed away, refused to be accepted, unloved, untrusted, discarded and/or casted out.


So what do you do when you've been rejected? How do you handle those emotions? How do you prevent yourself from acting off of impulse?


My first and best advice to you is this: NEVER REACT BASED OFF OF EMOTION! I always talk about having self-awareness and that comes from years of really getting to know yourself and understanding your own emotions. Sometimes it can take you multiple events of rejection to fully understand the right way to respond. It doesn't matter if it's something as small as a rude email from a coworker or something as huge as a break up from a long term relationship, do not react based off of your immediate emotions. Don't get me wrong here, I am a firm believer that you should absolutely allow yourself to feel however you are feeling even if it is negative emotion. It's similar to the grieving stages and allowing yourself to feel goes hand in hand with allowing yourself to heal. However, one thing I learned in grad school that really stuck with me is that the human brain has a tendency to believe that whatever they feel in that moment is how they should react. But the truth of the matter is that you should absolutely never just react. You must understand that it is always okay to feel a certain emotion because this is who we are, this is our chemical make up and our identity. However, it is sometimes not okay to behave based off of those feelings. Dialing it back a few, I always tell Johanna something like this, "I know you're tired right now and that's okay because you will sleep later, but it is not appropriate to be throwing a temper tantrum because of it." Now, I am not saying to treat yourself like a toddler. What I'm saying is that you should THINK before you REACT. I have a 24 hour rule whenever I feel myself worked up over being rejected. Simply put, I give myself 24 hours to get my emotions in check, figure out what the appropriate response is and act accordingly.


Next, NO ONE IS IN CHARGE OF YOUR HAPPINESS EXCEPT YOURSELF. Rejection can often times feel like someone doesn't want to fulfill your needs or make you happy. FALSE, FALSE, FALSE. You are in charge of your own happiness. You are in charge of fulfilling your own needs. Whenever we truly become happy with ourselves, we can then begin to share our happiness with other people. In other words, it's not up to the CEO of a company to hire you in order to fulfill your happiness. It is not up to your significant other to stick around to fulfill your happiness. If it isn't the right fit or it is not working out any longer, move on. Determine what makes you happy and that's it. Obviously, having that dream job or amazing person in your life is something that will help you flourish. But if you're being rejected from those things, it is not up to them to get you through it or give you something just because you tell them that's what will make you happy.


Next, remember how I told you that emotional rejection triggers the same areas of the brain that physical pain does? Think about it this way..... if you broke your leg would you just give up? Likely not, right? You'd go to the doctor, maybe get some pain medication, have the surgery it might require, get a cast and go to physical therapy for rehabilitation. Remember this, emotional injuries also need rehabilitation. In other words, give yourself time to heal, give yourself grace and compassion and give yourself time to figure out what you want to do next. Rehabilitate your emotional pain. After you broke your leg, would you tell yourself it's not okay to be in pain right now? Likely not, right? So remember that it is okay to feel hurt, pain and emotions that we don't like after being rejected. If you've broken a bone before, you know you don't like that pain. You're not going to like the pain you feel from rejection either but it doesn't mean it's wrong!


Here is a list of some things you can do to help you heal from rejection:


  • Write down a list of all of your positive qualities!

  • You have them and you have a lot of them! Writing down positive qualities about yourself will help heal your bruised self-esteem and get you back on track to remembering how great you are!

  • Examine why you may have gotten rejected!

  • This is not always about what you did wrong! Was the other person applying for the job more qualified? Should you gain more experience in that work type? Was the person you were dating actually the one for you? Does God have another plan for your life?

  • Go out with some friends or family who make you feel valued!

  • It's important to surround yourself with people who love you for you after being rejected. Call up your friends and family and just give them an overview of what happened. You won't be judged because they love you!

  • Don't stop doing things you normally do!

  • No matter how painful rejection might be, don't stop doing your normal daily routine. Whether that means going to work, the gym, taking a walk, etc., don't stop doing it. You don't want to create the habit of doing nothing all day. I know it can be hard but force yourself to get up and do what you like to do.

  • Take some time to notice the things you still have in your life!

  • Although rejection from one thing or a few things can feel like we've lost everything the truth of the matter is we probably haven't. Take some time to recognize everything and everyone that is still there.


Lastly, if you feel like you're reaction from rejection has gone on for way too long and you are perhaps feeling symptoms of depression or anxiety, please please please listen to your body and get some professional help! There is absolutely no shame in sitting on a therapists couch to tell them that you're hurting from rejection. I've done it and I'm so glad I did!


If you're a religious person like me, remember this verse!

Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:9

God encourages you to be strong and courageous through all trials and tribulations of life. He promises that he will never leave you or forsake you and that he will be right by your side. God knows His plans for you and understand that rejection might be part of them. Understand that God will never give you more than you can handle and through every part of life that is not appeasing including rejection, He is making you stronger. Trust in the Lord and listen to His commands.


*DISCLAIMER: I am not a Doctor or practicing professional in mental health. I earned my M.A in Forensic Psychology from Argosy University. I am currently a member of the peer support team for first responder's and those who work with first responder's. I enjoy studying mental health and I take trainings to further my education on current mental health issues.



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