Being rejected can be tough, no matter how it happens, but dealing with rejection is one of those tricky things that we all need to learn how to do. Because, let's face it, rejection happens to everyone at one point or another. It's just a fact of life, baby.
So, how can you deal with rejection, why does it hurt so much, and what can you do to make it easier?
Why does rejection hurt so much?
To deal with being rejected, it helps to understand exactly why being rejected hurts so much. Because, let's be real, it can hurt... like, a lot.
It all boils down to how personally we take rejection, explains relationships counsellor at Relate, Holly Roberts, especially if we interpret being rejected as meaning that we're not 'good enough' on a personal level. "Rejection can lead to us second guessing the things we liked about ourselves," says Holly, "and it can be hard to stay objective."
Plus, if your self-esteem is already low or you have a negative perception of yourself, that's only going to make rejection feel even worse, Holly adds.
What are the different ways we experience rejection?
If you're worried about being rejected, it can help to think about how common rejection actually is in life, and all the times you've handled it before.
We often just think of rejection in terms of being ghosted or dumped, but it actually happens in all areas of life outside of relationships, too, and sometimes we don't even realise it. For example, not getting many likes on social media, a friend forgetting your birthday, not getting a promotion, or feeling like your mum spends more time with your siblings than you: these are all ways that we experience rejection, Holly explains.
When it comes to relationships, rejection can range from the big things, like a long-term partner leaving you, to a new date not wanting to take things further, to more subtle rejections, like your partner never wanting to go out with you and your friends. Whatever it is, it can hurt - so it helps to know how to deal with it.
How to deal with rejection
No matter what kind of rejection you've experienced, the good news is that are things you can do to make it easier.
Take time to feel your feelings
Rejection, on any scale, can really hurt, so it's important you let yourself properly feel your emotions instead of just brushing them under the carpet. "Rejection can feel incredibly painful, but suppressing your emotions doesn't allow you to work through them," explains psychosexual and relationship therapist Aoife Drury. "Spend some time digesting, processing and understanding your feelings, which will help you to heal."
Remind yourself why you're amazing
We often take rejection super personally, meaning we start to think we've done something wrong, or that there's something wrong with us. So, it can help to remind yourself of all your positive traits, instead of dwelling on what you perceive to be the negative.
Try writing down some positive affirmations about yourself, or a list of all your wonderful traits, Aoife suggests. And you can even try saying them out loud.
It can also help to keep these things on tap for when you need them. "Think of a few things that you like about yourself and repeat them back to yourself whenever you’re feeling low," Holly suggests.
If you can't think of anything, then listen to compliments others pay you and take them on board, Holly adds, or try to think about things you're grateful for instead.
Friends will also be able to help remind you of all the reasons why you're brilliant, if you need an extra confidence boost. "It might feel embarrassing to admit how hurt you are," says Holly, "but if you're finding it hard to see the goodness in yourself, great friends will be able to help remind you."
Don't ruminate on what happened
While it's important to feel your feelings, that doesn't mean it's helpful to do a complete "postmortem" on what has happened, says Aoife. Try to avoid becoming consumed by picking apart the situation, and instead allocate a specific block of time to think about it, Aoife suggests.
This might mean setting aside 30 minutes to think about or write down your feelings surrounding what happened, then put it to one side and find a distraction, she suggests.
See the bigger picture
Taking rejection personally often means it's hard to see the situation from an outside perspective. Talking to friends who can see the situation more objectively can be really helpful. "Talk to people you feel safe around to be yourself," says Aoife. "We often lose the ability to see things from other angles when we are distressed or upset, so another perspective can really help."
Make time for self-care
As with any tough emotional experience, it's important to make some time for self-care. Do things that you know will make you feel good, says Holly, whether it's a bubble bath, listening to your favourite music, or going for a long walk.
Accept and move forward
Dealing with rejection in the long-run ultimately means accepting what happened and moving forward. "You might not be able to forgive your partner for cheating on you or the date that left you in a bar on your own without showing up," says Holly, "but accepting the reality of what happened helps you to take control and move into the future in a way that you choose."
Being rejected can make us feel disempowered, Holly adds, and how you move forward is one thing that you can control, so it helps to focus on the future.
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