Why rejection hurts and how to overcome it?

Rejection is universal. We all experience it at one time or another, sometimes on multiple occasions in life. In childhood, it takes the form of being shunned by peers in school or on the playground. In adolescence, we feel ignored by the object of our affection. Once we start pursuing a career, we fail at job interviews or we are overlooked for a promotion. Marriages and relationships end, leaving us devastated. Having to hear a `NO` is painful and evokes a range of negative emotions in us making us come face to face with sadness, disappointment, anger, fear, shame, humiliation and insecurity.

There is a physiological basis to why rejection hurts so much. Research has shown that rejection triggers the same pathways in the brain as when we experience physical pain. The only difference is that this is an emotional pain, for which we cannot pop a painkiller.

This intense pain brought on by rejection is rooted in our evolutionary past. It dates back to our time as hunter-gatherers when ostracism meant imminent death. The consequences of ostracism were so potentially fraught with danger that our brains developed an alarm to alert us to the risk of being “thrown out` by triggering a sharp pain at even the remotest suggestion of social rejection.


Rejection not only causes pain, it also arouses a host of other feelings which leaves us feeling more despondent. It hurts our self esteem, makes us angry with ourselves or others close to us and destabilizes us temporarily. We have to acknowledge here that most of the associated feelings are self inflicted. We blame ourselves, find faults with ourselves where none exist and generally feel like we are unworthy of everything around us. We need to understand that it is possible to overcome these feelings and the pain of rejection and use it to fuel our passion to improve our lives in all spheres.

Here are a few steps to help bring back balance after having faced rejection:

  • Remember that nothing is permanent and that this too shall pass.

Like all the other events in our lives, good and bad, this too is a phase and it most certainly will pass. Ensure that you resist the temptation to revisit photographs, messages and other correspondence. Avoid the desire to see what is happening in the other person`s life by scouring their social media pages. Cutting yourself off from the source of your rejection will help you heal faster.

  • Understand that it is not all about you.

A rejection most often has nothing to do with you. If you don’t get that job you applied for, it could just be that the company was looking for a different set of skills and not because you are incompetent. Similarly if you feel rejected in a relationship, it could be that the person is not ready to make a commitment or has to tackle his/her own insecurities and limitations. In no way does it make you less valuable or less worthy.

  • Take steps to increase feelings of self worth

Believing in yourself is absolutely essential to maintain confidence and build up an unwavering sense of self. You have to trust yourself regardless of what others say or believe. Have faith in all the choices and decisions you have made, trusting that you know what is best for you. Forgive yourself and at the same time, forgive others and let go of the past which is causing you to feel less than worthy.

  • Avoid all forms of self criticism

We all have to learn to find ways to silence our inner critic. I am too fat, I am so ugly, I am a loser, I am useless……these words we say to ourselves are way too harsh. We must learn to go easy on ourselves and accept our little flaws as they are what make us unique. It is necessary to develop compassionate self-awareness and come to terms with the fact that suffering is a general human condition which connects us with the rest of the world. Try your hand at mindfulness meditation – a practice that allows us to sit with our thoughts and feelings without judgment. 

  • Reach out to loved ones and strengthen your social connections

Rejection usually makes us feel like we do not belong or that we are not loved anymore. Look around yourself and see how much you are loved. Connect with your parents or siblings and speak with them more often. Reach out to children (nieces, friends` offspring) as they offer more unconditional love. Get yourself a pet. Go out more with friends old and new and seek to establish new connections.

Most success stories are built on the foundation of early rejections.  Rejection can act as a powerful weapon for the mind to concentrate while showing us that we cannot take the world for granted and we have to put up a fight for what we want. It makes us determined to prove ourselves, sharpen our ­competitiveness and provides a valuable ­incentive to prove people wrong. As you look back on your life, you will realize that rejection is necessary medicine – it teaches you to move away from relationships and opportunities that are not the best for you and redirects you forcefully towards someone or something you need more in order to lead your best life.

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