Rejection is one of those unpleasant experiences that most human beings and other social animals would rather not endure. Whether it’s being dumped, ignored, or turned down for an opportunity, rejection stings. In some severe cases, it can even paralyze you, making you never want to leave the house or enter another relationship ever again.
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I am very susceptible to the feelings of rejection. Even incidents as minor as not receiving a response from an acquaintance or not being invited to a social event have affected my self-confidence. At times, my fear of rejection has hindered me from stepping outside my comfort zone, whether it was initiating a conversation, going to a networking event, or performing in front of an audience.
So why does rejection hurt so much?
There’s a scientific reason for this pain. We are wired to feel pain from rejection because it signals us to adapt our behaviors — so we can be accepted by our tribe. As social creatures, being ostracized is basically a death sentence. (And yes, even introverts need some social connection in order to thrive.)
Basically, rejection — as response mechanism — is supposed to help us survive as a social species. But similar to stress and anxiety, modern humans often don’t use these emotional responses in a constructive way, and this can lead to long-term social and health problems, including poorer sleep quality and a lowered immune system.
Although not landing a job or getting turned down for a date will probably always hurt, I have learned some ways to recover from rejection. Here are a five tips to make it sting a little less:
1. Remember that the most successful people fail the most.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, life is not easy. It’s full of setbacks, disappointments, and, of course, rejection. Although it may seem like the end of the world when you don’t get accepted to your dream school or get dumped by your significant other, these setbacks happen all the time — even to successful people. In fact, the most successful people fail the most. These are the people who take chances, learn from their mistakes, and don’t give up. For example, James Dyson made 5,162 failed prototypes before inventing the bagless vacuum cleaner. It took 52 tries for software maker Rovio to get Angry Birds right.
Personally, I started getting used to rejection when I had a door-to-door sales job. I discovered it was a numbers game; for every ten perfect pitches, there would be one sale. In this type of work, rejection was the norm and I had to become almost desensitized to it.
2. See rejection as an opportunity to choose a new path.
It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to not get what you want. Perhaps you perfected your theater audition but didn’t get the part. At the moment, it feels like your dreams are crushed — and it’s perfectly normal to feel this way. However, there comes a time when you have to move on. By dwelling on your loss, you are preventing yourself from seeing other opportunities. For instance, I used to think that there weren’t many viable career paths for philosophy majors. When I didn’t get into grad school, I became despondent. In retrospect, I’m so glad things didn’t work out as planned, because by going a different path, I gained many “real world” experiences, such as working at an ad agency and connecting with other professionals at conferences.
3. Be up front about it.
If you feel like someone is ignoring you because of something you said, or if you’re not sure why you didn’t get the job, it helps to be up front about it. Sometimes the pain of rejection goes away when you get some clarity. Feedback is always a good thing, because it lets you know how to improve. And often, the rejection that you experienced isn’t personal, but has more to do with the situation.
As an HSP, I find it useful to communicate the issue in written words because it gives me time to reflect on the situation and choose my words wisely.
4. Be glad that the worst is over.
After being rejected, the worst is really over. Now you know that whatever it was that you were hoping to achieve didn’t pan out. I find that anticipating rejection feels far worse than rejection itself, as it’s frustrating not knowing the outcome of a situation. Think of rejection as a definite answer to a problem or question you have. Does your crush like you? Will you make the basketball team? Knowing the answer, even if it’s “no,” informs you about what to do next or how you can improve.
5. Savor the moments when things do go well.
If everything was smooth sailing, life would be pretty boring. Stories don’t exist without conflict, climaxes, and interesting plot twists. In fact, without rejection, there wouldn’t even be a life story to tell. I think what makes those successful moments so memorable is they don’t happen as often. They are rare gems that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for all the unpleasant and laborious experiences we suffer through. Make sure to savor those moments — they put your rejection in perspective and make it seem a little less bad.
Did you enjoy this article? Sign up for our newsletters to get more stories like this.