Overcoming Rejection

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Been dumped out of the blue by a romantic partner? Or had a friend suddenly shut you out? Rejection can feel overwhelming. But it is possible to navigate rejection with your self-esteem intact.

How to handle rejection

1. Step back. Now.

Obsessively calling, texting, or in any other way hounding the person who rejected you? Stop. Not only does this push any chance of reconciliation or future peace further and further away? It lowers your self-esteem right when you need it most.

2. Let yourself have bad days.

Pretending you are fine just means more problems down the line. Let yourself have a few down days. Cry if you need to. Our brains are wired to seek acceptance -- at one point being rejected by our 'tribe' would have meant certain death. So it's normal to at first feel upset.

3. Stop telling the story.

The problem here is that each time we tell the story we make him or her more the 'baddie'. Or, perhaps worse, romanticise the good bits of the relationship. Either our self-respect drops with each additional white lie, or we end up going back to a bad relationship we've painted better than it was. By all means tell your friends (once), and talk it through with a counsellor. But stop going on about it.

4. Get it out in other ways.

Of course you do need to get out the emotions around rejection. So do it in ways that actually work. Write it out in a journal. Write him or her furious letters you rip up. Imagine a pillow is your ex and punch it, or go right for that punching bag at the gym. Whatever works in a safe, useful way.

5. Accept your responsiblity.

There were two people in the relationship. Unless you just met the person and they ghosted you (that is about them, not you), then one of the best ways to free yourself and move on is to be honest about any manipulations or poor communication you used. And then learn how to do things differently next time.

6. Hang up your victim shoes.

If you always go into ‘poor me’ mode, then learn about the victim mentality. The problem with being a victim is it requires ignoring and denying all your personal power. And you need that power right now to make better decisions and take care of yourself.

7. Up your self-care.

Yes, you might want to eat cake all day, get drunk, and run out and have casual sex with someone. But this will simply lead to feeling worse. Call supportive friends who are into healthy living, book a massage, pick up that book you have wanted to read. And learn about self-compassion, the fine art of being nice to yourself.

8. Connect it back.

Does your response to the rejection feel, well…. huge? It's probably related to unresolved past issues. Did you feel rejected by parents? Siblings? Classmates? Write letters to those people. If you want you can ever start a dialogue, imagining writing their response. Write until you feel less emotional, then rip everything up (don't send!).

9. Don’t make it all about you.

Just like you are bringing past pain to the situation, accept that the other person probably did the same with their decision to reject you. They have their own issues that you are not responsible for. So don’t make the rejection who you are. Leave it as who they are.

10. But do learn from it.

When you are feeling steady again, see what you can learn from this situation. Did you rush into the relationship? Was the communication poor? Did you take the time to get to know them? Were you yourself in the relationship? Learn about healthy relationships and resolve to do things differently next time.

11. Recognise how you reject yourself.

If we are always rejected by others, it’s because on a certain level we are rejecting ourselves. Listen to your thoughts. Are you always criticising yourself? Or are you always putting aside your own needs, desires, and interests to be codependent and please others?

12. Get support.

Can’t stop texting your ex, or the friend who dumped you? Or talking about it? Or feeling sorry for yourself? Friends don't seem to understand, or have nobody to talk to? Consider booking a counsellor. They create a safe, non-judgemental space for you to process your experience and consider what you want next for yourself.

Ready to stop the cycle of rejection in your relationships? Find a therapist you like at a price you can afford and get talking.

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