Ouch! How to Deal with Rejection

Margie Ulbrick, an Australian relationship counselor, takes the sting out of rejection by providing useful tools to more effectively move through this common experience.

Rejection is a universally human experience.  We all at some level know the pain of rejection.  Whether it’s missing out on that desperately wanted perfect job, or the pain of a relationship break-up, it hurts.  Sometimes it feels like it’s something we won’t recover from.  Sometimes there is grief and loss and sometimes it does take time.  However, there are some things we can do to facilitate the healing process.

Know what you are feeling.  Be emotionally aware.

We often seek to avoid feeling painful or difficult feelings.  However, we need to feel the feelings.  This is the very thing we most need to do to heal.  Repression, denial, avoidance, distraction are common ways of warding off the difficult emotions.  But they don’t work in the long run and are pretty unsatisfactory as far as promoting our growth and maturity.  The more we avoid feeling the pain of rejection, the more it will run us from our subconscious.  So, when you are feeling hurt, it helps to pause and actually see what it is that you are feeling.  It helps to allow yourself to feel your feelings.  It’s an old adage but a truism: feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are.  We feel what we feel.  It’s the avoidance of the feelings that keeps us stuck.  It’s also the stories we create around them.  So step number one is commit to becoming aware of what you feel.  Face right into it and let your feelings be your guide.

What are the core beliefs?

Look at the stories around your experience.  What does this remind you of?  What do you tell yourself about yourself?  Is it, “I’m not good enough? I’m not worthy, I don’t deserve to be happy/loved,” etc?

Process the issues/memories of your past. Don’t let the past baggage create the future.

When we feel pain, sadness, loss, missed opportunity, or alone, we tend to go into a whole big story about our experience.  Rarely is this helpful.  But it is useful to know and recognize what stories we have playing out.  These stories are of our own making.  We can change our stories.  We do not need to keep them going around like old bad movies inside our head getting reruns, long past their use-by date.  It is far better to be curious about the meaning we make of our experience and what we tell ourselves about ourselves.  When we look at the patterns we have around our stories and what we do with them, we can then be in a place of empowered choice.  We do not need to act on automatic but rather can choose moment by moment.  So the question to ask is:  Is it true?

Once we have acknowledged how we feel and allowed ourselves to feel that, together with recognizing the story or meaning we make of it, then we can move to look at how we may be overloading the experience in the present with the old stories of the past.  For each person it will be different.  We know this because we know that what we react to another person could be fine with.  When we react rather than respond we know we have been triggered.

Respond don’t react. Be intentional about your choices moment by moment.

Rejection is painful but it does not need to have the last word.  If we use the experience as a learning one, we can develop our sense of self and our resilience.  We learn that despite what is happening we can say, “that’s ok, it hurts and I’m ok”.

It’s not about you. Don’t take it personally.

Finally, it is helpful to remind ourselves that we all act based on our history and our past experiences.  As Don Miguel Ruiz says in The Four Agreements “ Nothing a person does is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their reality, their dream.”  Understanding this can prevent a lot of needless suffering.