8 steps for dealing with rejection

Posted on April 12, 2010


So you put yourself out there. You put your precious, vulnerable self out into the world in a big way.  Perhaps you were feeling brave. You were feeling confident. You were feeling like it was time to unveil your heart. You were scared but you did it anyway.

And then, it all came crashing down to land empty and broken at your feet. Yep, you got it. I am talking about rejection.

It’s one of the worst and most unavoidable parts of life, being rejected. And it doesn’t just happen when you’re single, although you may have fooled yourself into thinking that once you were no longer single you would never have to face this feeling again. However, as long as you’re growing and moving forward, rejection is bound to happen at times.

We are human. We want things to happen in a certain way. We want certain situations and jobs and people to want us in the same way we want them. And sometimes this doesn’t happen. And yes, sometimes that totally sucks.

Since it’s pretty inevitable that you’ll have to deal with rejection at some point in time (I have a hunch you may even be dealing with it now) here are eight steps on how to deal with this emotional monster.

1. Admit that you feel rejected.

He didn’t call you back. She never returned the email you sent her. Or worse, they just came right out and said you weren’t what they were looking for.

As tempting as it may be to go into psychoanalysis mode (my personal favorite form of denial), as appealing as it  may be to make a bunch of excuses for this person’s behavior, all this does is prolong the hurt.

Bypass all of that misery and  just admit that you feel rejected.

2. Admit that it sucks.

Rejection sucks.  Why waste time and energy pretending it doesn’t? Don’t tell yourself it didn’t matter to you. IT DID. Don’t try to sugarcoat how you’re feeling. YOU FEEL LIKE CRAP. Feeling awful when you don’t get something that you really, really wanted is completely normal. It feels horrible. That’s okay. That’s how it works. Dogs bark, birds fly and rejection sucks.

3. Feel rejected.

Okay, I know you’re probably wondering what  I’m getting at here, but I literally mean feel your rejection. Sit there and let yourself feel it. The longer you push down the feeling and try NOT to feel it, the most it persists. And often it persists in actions that make us feel even worse.

One afternoon I ate several boxes of girl scout cookies when suddenly I realized I was not suffering from some kind of freak addiction to thin mints-I just wasn’t allowing myself to feel how hurt I was by a rejection. Once I felt it, my sugar craving disappeared. Well, at least for that day.

4. Become an observer of how your body feels when you feel rejected.

That’s right. I’m gonna get all Eckhart Tolle on you and tell you to be “the watcher.” As you’re letting yourself actually feel the rejection, watch what happens to your physical body WITHOUT JUDGMENT (or at least as little judgment as possible).

What does your head feel like right now? Your neck? Your shoulders? Your chest? Your stomach? Go through your entire body and see where there’s tension or pressure or heat or a sense of cold. If it helps, you can say it out loud or write it down. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you observe your body and the effect that this feeling has on it. NOT TO JUDGE IT but just to observe it.

5. Take a harmless physical action that makes you feel better.

Maybe you want to punch a pillow or cry or go for a walk or write a letter to the SOB who just rejected you. Go ahead and do it. One of my favorite things to do is to write a really mean letter to the person who rejected me and then rip it up into tiny pieces. It toally works.

6. Do something really nice for yourself.

I love Julia Cameron. In The Artist’s Way, she tells new artists that as soon as they feel rejected to go out and do something really, really nice for themselves. I agree. Buy yourself some flowers or go see a movie you’ve wanted to see or spend sometime at your favorite park. You’re hurt. So be gentle with yourself.

7. Get yourself some love and empathy.

7a. If you feel safe doing this (and only if you feel safe), confide in a “validator”. If you don’t have a validator, proceed to 7b.

A “validator” is a trusted person with whom you can share a hurt and who will validate your feelings. (No, I don’t think validator is a real word. I probably just made it up but I like it and so I’m gonna keep it).

You should exercise caution with this one.  NOT because it doesn’t help to process a rejection with someone else-it does. In fact an empathetic response can help you faster than any of the aforementioned steps. But I would advise you to do this VERY CAREFULLY.  A lot of people I know seem to be very confused about who the “validators” are in their lives. I’ve noticed that after a rejection, they often turn to people who only make the situation worse.

Don’t call the person who’s going to lecture you or tell you that you’re being ridiculous. Don’t go out for lunch and talk about this rejection with the friend who’s going to roll their eyes. Don’t share this with your “tough love” colleague.

Find a “validator”-that wonderful, sacred person to whom you can speak your heart and who will listen to you and empathize with you-and tell that person how much this rejection hurts.  If you don’t have a validator in your life, don’t worry. Just go to part b. And if you do have a validator, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to complete part b as well.

7b. Be the one who loves and accepts you.

Do something that inspires acceptance, love and confidence. Of course, that’s different for everyone. A friend of mine says she always feels totally and unconditionally loved by her dog. After a rough day, she goes for a hike with her canine. I know I feel totally accepted when I’m with my meditation group. Maybe when you play a sport, you have all of the confidence in the world. Whatever it is, find a way to give yourself the love and acceptance you are craving. If will help heal the rejection a bit faster.

8. Remember, this too shall pass.

In Vipassana (the type of meditation I do), we are taught to say “Anicca, Anicca, Anicca.”

Anicca refers to the changing nature of all things-it is a reminder that everything will pass. No matter how bad the rejection, no matter how much you hurt, no matter how much it sucks right now, you can take some comfort in knowing that it won’t last forever. It couldn’t possibly. And perhaps, once you recover, you’ll be able to find something that suits you even better.

Posted in: Rejection