You were turned down for a date; your boss shot down your proposal; you were never invited back for a second interview; or maybe you were dealt another rejection. What do you do now, especially if rejection stings you more than most people? Follow these five steps to bounce back from rejection.
- Take time to heal.
Rejection stings, even for the strongest of us. We want to either erase it from our memory or analyze it to death. As I mentioned in a post about The Number One Mistake in Dealing with Rejection, analyzing your feelings is good but not when you’re an emotional wreck. Research has found that being good at delaying gratification can help people who are sensitive to rejection. One way to delay gratification is to take time away from a hurtful situation, at least until your head clears. This could be a few minutes but more likely a few hours or days. Once you’re feeling calmer, come back and start to figure out what went wrong.
- Acknowledge your emotion.
Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, points out that people who are mentally tough acknowledge their emotions. If you’re sensitive to rejection, you also need to acknowledge your feelings, whether you’re angry, upset, or depressed. That is different than just stewing in hurt and making blanket negative statements, like “Everyone hates me!” or “I’m so stupid!” Understanding your emotions can allow you to start to deal with them more effectively. Look beyond over-generalized negative self-talk and understand how you feel.
- Remember no one can reject you without your consent.
As I discussed in my post on Overcoming Rejection: 5 Inspiring Lessons from Famous Women, the most damming effects of rejection come from rejecting ourselves. You have the power to change that and to decide whether you internalize negative feedback and criticism. Rejection doesn’t have to mean we are fatally flawed.
- Put away the crystal ball.
Many studies of rejection sensitive people find that they anticipate rejection and act in ways that make them feel rejected. For example, one study found that people sensitive to rejection tended to break up with their partners after conflict, while those low in rejection sensitivity tended to stay together. How ironic that when we feel most vulnerable, we tend to reject others preemptively. This doesn’t mean we’re bad people for being sensitive but be aware of whether you are seeing rejection as inevitable. Try to become more aware of this tendency and recognize that your fears are going to anticipate the worst. If possible, try to think of other alternatives to a situation — not just the bad ones.
- Practice self-compassion.
Loving kindness, also called Metta, is a way to practice self-compassion. Self-compassion is hard for people who are sensitive to rejection but it is a much-needed medicine. Why do we fear rejection? Because we feel vulnerable and flawed. If we learn to love ourselves and have compassion for others, we can heal those pains. The best part is that you don’t have to wait for rejection to develop self-compassion. You can practice the loving kindness meditation a few minutes every day and start building more self-acceptance.
These five steps aren’t a cure for the pain of rejection but they will strengthen your ability to rebound from it and to see it in a different light. As you practice them, you’ll find that you have more control over how you feel and eventually learn to let go of rejection.
Ayduk, O., Mendoza-Denton, R., Mischel, W., Downey, G., Peake, P. K., & Rodriguez, M. (2000). Regulating the interpersonal self: strategic self-regulation for coping with rejection sensitivity. Journal of personality and social psychology, 79(5), 776.
Downey, G., Freitas, A. L., Michaelis, B., & Khouri, H. (1998). The self-fulfilling prophecy in close relationships: rejection sensitivity and rejection by romantic partners. Journal of personality and social psychology, 75(2), 545.