Dealing With Rejection the Right Way: How Do You Move On?

Rejections can be painful, but they are often unavoidable. How do we deal with one constructively?

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Mind It
5 min read
Rejections can be painful, but they are often unavoidable. How do we deal with one constructively?
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Rejection can come to us in various forms, from expected and unexpected sources, in work or in love.

But each time, it can be heartbreaking.

We have all been there. The subtle ‘try again next year’ reply to a college application, the email notifying we did not get the job, or a simple ‘things aren’t working out’ text from a friend or a partner.

In all of these forms, rejection is often followed by a bleak perception of the future and a general sense of hopelessness. How do we resist falling into a self-deprecating spiral of thoughts? FIT speaks to psychologists to guide us through these phases.

Rejection Affects Our Sense of ‘Self’

Speaking to FIT, Dr Rakhi Anand, a clinical psychologist at Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, elaborates on how rejection can make us question ourselves. “Rejection is a strong negative emotion which often generates a sense of loneliness, depressive mood and a sense of worthlessness.”

“As most of the people don’t take it n a healthy manner, it precipitates doubts regarding self-worth, which further affects our behaviour and progress. This may lead to a vicious cycle of negative thoughts which could, in fact, even result in self-harm attempts in extreme cases.”
Dr Rakhi Anand

These experiences and feelings that follow rejections are backed by research. A 2015 paper, for instance, examines the seven emotions that arise when people are faced with rejection or potential rejection: hurt feelings, jealousy, loneliness, shame, guilt, social anxiety and embarrassment.

“Am I not good enough?”
“Am I not good enough?”
(Photo: iStock)

“The fact that a large portion of human emotion is devoted to the maintenance of interpersonal connections points to the importance of acceptance and belonging in human affairs. People are inherently motivated to be valued and accepted by other people, and many of the emotions that they experience reflect these fundamental interpersonal concerns,” the author notes.

In fact, it all boils down to a single question, says Dr Kamna Chhibber, Head, Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences at Fortis Healthcare. Are we really equipped to handle negative experiences?

“Often, people just don’t know how best to handle a failure. And when that does happen, it ends up impacting them even more because of the multiple interpretations they start making of this rejection. These usually involve negative valuations of their own self, of the kind of person they are, or the fact that something is drastically wrong with them as individuals.”
Dr Kamna Chhibber

These feelings are often exasperated with the heavy dependence on social media and the role it plays in influencing what we feel about people’s perceptions of us. “The comparisons, the number of likes, comments and engagement, everything reshapes our self-worth and confidence. These can lead to a ‘perceived’ sense of rejection which could have as real an impact on our mental health as an actual rejection,” she says.

Allow Yourself Time to Feel, and Then Get Going

Ask yourself, what can I learn from this?
Ask yourself, what can I learn from this?
(Photo: iStock)

Before reorienting and working towards a positive outlook, Dr Chhibber points towards the importance of acknowledging your feelings at that very moment of rejection and the days that follow.

“You can’t be expected to suddenly be okay. You can only take a constructive approach once you have truly allowed yourself to feel the emotions and go through that whole process. But keep reminding yourself that you are doing this in order to move forward. The objective is to not let it leave an indelible mark on your future expectations,” she says.

Once you have given yourself this time and space, start working towards a positive approach to look at the situation more objectively, and to eventually learn from it.

“When you are in such a situation, you need to step back and take a whole look at the scenario. Instead of narrowly and critically evaluating the role you may have played in the rejection, try to take a more holistic view. Also ask yourself, what can I learn from this? You can transform it into a constructive experience to perhaps do things differently the next time.”
Dr Kamna Chhibber

“If it gets difficult to do on your own, it may be beneficial to involve a friend or a family member to open up to and to get an external perspective,” she adds.

On similar lines, Dr Anand explains, “It is important to always assess the situation more objectively. Environmental negative responses may not always be correct and may be an incomplete reflection of the situation. It is important to keep assessing our own strengths and reinforcing our self-esteem.”

This is especially significant in the times we are now living in. A global pandemic has shaken up our worlds. With an impending economic recession, loss of jobs and in many cases, estrangement from family members, the strain on our mental health is as high as it has ever been.

On this note, Dr Chhibber states, “We are all struggling with rejections in different forms. Whether it is on account of financial instability, losses of jobs or relationship issues, it’s important to remind ourselves that this is a temporary phase and it will pass soon. Focus on the present, looks at the here and now, be grateful for what you have and direct your attention towards the things that you do have some control over.”

“It’s very easy to get drawn into the thoughts about the future. Work towards grounding yourself and maintain some amount of hopefulness. Embrace the low moods, distress or anxiety if you do get rejected, but understand that this is normal and everybody goes through this. Try and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.”
Dr Kamna Chhibber

“At the end of the day, surround yourself with robust support systems and people who can help you navigate your emotions,” she says.

Having a positive attitude and a solution-focused approach is the most important in such cases. Dr Anand sums it up for us, “It is crucial to re-evaluate the situation, have high resilience, and accept change as a part and parcel of our lives.”

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