How to Deal With Rejection

My romantic history reads like Cliff Notes from all of Shakespeare’s’ tragedy’s. And most of his comedy’s. Not entirely successful then, with a smattering of jealousy and rejection by the ladle full.

Rejection’s out there all the time. In your relationships, in your career and with your friends, and it hurts like nothing else, right?

It’s tempting to cast “rejection” as the enemy, the thing that makes you feel small, unwanted and not good enough, and the thing that destroys your confidence.

So, here are 3 ways to deal with rejection the next time you find yourself in the midst of it.

1. Don’t Make It Yours

Rejection is a concept, an idea we’ve developed that infers that we’re not wanted. It’s something done by someone to you, or maybe by you to someone else. Sometimes it’s intended—at the end of a romantic relationship, for example—but sometimes it isn’t intended to be rejection at all.

It could simply be that someone’s pre-occupied and doesn’t have time or space right now. It could be that they’re in a place where they’re not ready or able to go further. Or maybe they’re just really selfish and don’t consider how their actions come across.

They’re reacting to their circumstances in a way they think is best for them, loaded with all of their own context, nuance and history.

It’s a response to where they are in their life, not a response to you

“Feeling rejected” is taking their response to where they are and making your experience one of being rejected. But it’s not your experience. It’s theirs. Don’t make it your own.

2. It’s Not Truth

Being rejected isn’t how things are. The experience doesn’t speak to your worthiness, your capability or your place in the world. It’s just something that happened.

Choosing to interpret rejection as a statement about the value of who you are will riddle your life with more holes than a barn full of moonshine after an FBI raid. It’ll keep you fearful, make you small and strip you of your confidence.

You haven’t been rejected, you just have a feeling of rejection

Rejection is not truth, it’s just a transitory feeling you experience. And as it’s a feeling, manifested by thoughts in your brain, you get to choose what you do with it.

Sometimes a little mourning or grief can be an appropriate, healthy and useful thing to experience (but even then you can be fully aware that you’re in a process that has an end). Other times you’ll be ready to chalk it up to experience, let go of any hurt or blame and get right back in the game.

You always get to choose how you relate to events in your life; all you have to do is to make choices that allow you to flourish rather than see you atrophy.

3. Don’t Build Higher Walls

Hands up who protects themselves from rejection?

If you didn’t raise your hand, you’re a big fat liar (in a lovely fluffy way), because we all do.

Sometimes it really fucking hurts to feel that you’ve been rejected, damaging your confidence and seeing you create defences that make it harder to get hurt next time around.

While building higher walls in response to feeling rejected is natural in some ways, it will only keep you at arms length from life, becoming more distant and disconnected as time goes on.

And going about your life with your armour on and your defences up makes you more attuned to being rejected, paradoxically having you experience it more often while simultaneously lowering your confidence even further as you stop living fully.

The only real alternative then, is to deliberately keep your arms open, to take off your armour and to remove bricks from your defensive wall rather than building it higher.

It feels dangerous and even foolhardy to do so, but it’s the only way for you to live confidently and completely.

I’m curious, how have you dealt with rejection?

  • This is sadly terrifying.

    I honestly think I’ve dealt with rejection by creating an elaborate system of actions, personas and responses over a few decades that have landed me where I am today – essentially without any kind of real connection beyond the one I have with my best friend, and more or less following in the path of the ill-fated Joyce Carole Vincent. It started as a child, craving love and attention and affection from my parents (mother and stepfather -dad died when I was 9) but not getting it. It continued in high school where I didn’t fit in anywhere despite (or because of) fighting desperately to. In my going-out years (20s and 30s) I rarely ever met men in bars, clubs or restaurants, which baffled me as well as my colleagues/friends/acquaintances.

    Since starting to work for myself from home 5 years ago things have gotten even worse. Almost no social circle, nothing resembling a date or a boyfriend. Reading your post has made me think that I’ve likely spent years rejecting people right from the get-go to avoid the prolongation of the hurt that I’ve carried for so long and through so many scenarios.

    Thing is, it doesn’t really work that way, does it… “While building higher walls in response to feeling rejected is natural in some ways, it will only keep you at arms length from life, becoming more distant and disconnected as time goes on.”

    Right. Bugger.

  • Great post again, Steve! Thanks so much. This is something I’ve been pondering myself lately. Despite being married to a wonderful women for more than 20 years, raising a beautiful family, and overall having a pretty good life, I often find myself reflecting back on “the ones that got away” (decades ago!) because I was “rejected.” You’ve put it in perfect context. Like so many things, it’s how we choose to react to a situation/event that frames our reality. I still struggle with this at times. For years I’ve had this feeling of “they won; I lost” and I still put them on a pedestal. It’s time I put that to an end once and for all and move forward with all that is good in my life. Thanks for today’s gem.

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