How to Handle Rejection
By: Leah Hovey
We all can agree that rejection, on a romantic level, is painful. While the intentions may not be overly critical, when a person experiences rejection it can make one pick themselves apart. What did I not do well enough? Why have they chosen another person as opposed to me? What do I not have that they need?
It can be enough to make a person feel crazy and for good reason. Rejection actually has physical effects on the brain. MRI studies have shown that the same areas of the brain that experience pain are also activated when we experience emotional rejection (Winch, 2014).
So what do we do when we are rejected romantically? How do we lift our self-esteem back up and move forward? These three tips are surefire ways to make the rejection you face much more manageable.
1. Remember that you have a Psychological Immune System.
Romantic rejection is a very difficult obstacle to overcome. However, we possess a psychological immune system that allows us to overcome or “rebound” from challenging emotional experiences such as romantic rejection. We all have the ability to move past emotions and see the experience in an objective light which allows us to heal from the trauma we experience (Stinson, et al., 2016). One example as to how we use our psychological immune system to heal from rejection is instead of having a negative rumination about the experience, find meaning instead (e.g., Saffrey & Ehrenberg, 2007). Seeing the meaning within a rejection can help with self-discovery, self-esteem and can help you move forward from this heartbreak. The meaning could be realizing the person you craved was truly not a good fit for you, or it could be a self-discovery into some negative behaviours you show to people. This could overall help you when pursuing the next romantic interest.
One must also remember that the anticipation of pain is much greater than the true hurt we feel from rejection (Eastwick, Finkel, Krishnamurti, & Loewenstein, 2008). When we sense there may be a rejection coming our way, or that the other person we are dating is slowly pulling away; it is much more painful. The reason being is that the unknown of romantic rejection can psychologically torment us into a state of depression, overthinking, anger and confusion. When we have a solidified experience of rejection we no longer have to worry or wonder if the rejection will or will not happen. We have our answer and now we can work on coping with our sadness in response to this rejection (Stinson, et al., 2016). Overall this is much easier to deal with than the constant anxiety of wondering what will happen.
2. Look at your rejection in an objective light, not a self-centered light.
Objectivity can be vital when overcoming rejection. One of the first things we humans do when experiencing emotional rejection is to pick apart our own flaws. Is it because I am not thin enough? Am I boring? What if they want someone who matches them intellectually? While all of these hypotheses’ may or may not be true, it does not help us move forward. This ends up harming us as we may try to change who we are to match the person they want us to be and as most of our readers have heard before, changing yourself to fit into what someone else wants is not healthy for your own mental well-being.
Instead of focusing on what we did wrong, try to look at this rejection in an objective light (Winch, 2014). Imagine you are a bystander and try to understand the greater motives as to why someone may not prefer to be with you romantically. Do you both truly have similar interests? How is their love language? Is it the opposite of yours? Maybe they are experiencing some difficulty in their personal lives and a relationship is too much for them… or maybe they are just too busy to even think about the possibility of a relationship.
Thinking objectively can help you realize that their rejection towards you may be for reasons that have nothing to do with you. In the long run, wouldn’t you want a relationship with someone who was completely ready for commitment? One day you may look back and thank this person for their rejection because it will lead you to a much more compatible partner.
3. Make an effort to meet new people or have new experiences.
Coping with rejection and moving forward within your dating path is challenging but one of the best ways to move on is to meet more people! Meeting new people broadens your dating pool and introduces you to people you may never have crossed paths with. Sticking with the same group of people does not give you a chance to meet new romantic prospects. This is why we sometimes must reach out of our comfort zone to meet new companions. As well, this can help you make new friends who can aid you with your loss (Norona, et al., 2018).
Trying new experiences can help overcome heartbreak as well. By putting your time and energy into something new, it gives your mind a new purpose or goal to focus on as opposed to dwelling in your rejection. By trying new experiences this can also help introduce you to more people who have similar interests as you! So join a new extracurricular activity, try a new sport, or find community clubs to join that interest you. You will be one step closer to meeting the one for you if you keep moving forward without looking back on past rejections.
“Rejection, though--it could make the loss of someone you weren't even that crazy about feel gut wrenching and world ending.”
― Deb Caletti
Eastwick, P. W., Finkel, E. J., Krishnamurti, T., & Loewenstein, G. (2008). Mispredicting distress following romantic breakup: Revealing the time course of the affective forecasting error. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(3), 800-807.
Norona, J. C., Tregubenko, V., Boiangiu, S. B., Levy, G., Scharf, M., Welsh, D. P., & Shulman, S. (2018). Changes in rejection sensitivity across adolescence and emerging adulthood: Associations with relationship involvement, quality, and coping. Journal of adolescence, 63, 96-106.
Saffrey, C., & Ehrenberg, M. (2007). When thinking hurts: Attachment, rumination, and post-relationship adjustment. Personal Relationships, 14(3), 351-368.
Stinson, D. A., Holmes, J. G., & He, T. H. (2016). Rejection in romantic relationships. Ostracism, Exclusion, and Rejection, 162.
Winch, G. (2014). Emotional first aid: healing rejection, guilt, failure, and other everyday hurts. New York: Plume.