Rejection hurts. It doesn’t matter whether it is a relational, romantic or work-related rejection. In fact, research indicates rejection activates the same parts of our brain as physical pain does. Of course, it seems some people bounce back faster from rejection than others. What are those people doing that could be helpful as you seek to overcome rejection?

This may seem counter-intuitive, but start by allowing yourself to feel the hurt. Our society is completely too invested in feeling good all the time and seeking quick fixes. In reality, true healing starts with accepting all human emotions, even the ones that don’t feel good. Are you feeling embarrassed, angry, sad, disappointed, discouraged, heartbroken? Allow yourself to sit with these feelings. You have experienced an emotional injury and it is okay to feel the feelings related to it.  

If you think this means wallowing in your pain, throw yourself a pity party, or permission to take your feelings out on others, your brain is twisting what I’m saying based on your past learning experiences. Catch that thought and challenge it.

What I’m really saying is to treat yourself with compassion and kindness. In the aftermath of a rejection, we often beat ourselves up, call ourselves stupid, weak, unworthy, fill in your go-to automatic negative thought. If you catch yourself doing this, stop and challenge that.

The rejection does not define you; it is a single event in time. Take time with loved ones that remind you of all the reasons why you are loved and valued. Why you are worthy. Engage in self-care activities that get you out of your head and back in a more balanced state. Think “calming” and “reinvigorating” when you consider how you want to spend your time.           

When you are ready for perspective taking, consider that rejection is part of the human condition. It is really bound to happen from time to time. In fact, the more you step outside of your comfort zone and shoot for your big dreams, the more likely you are to experience rejection.

And so, what? What does it say about you if you experience rejection? That you took a chance! You lived life to the fullest! There is nothing bad about that.

Jia Jiang, author of “Rejection Proof,” wrote about his realization that his fear of rejection was a bigger obstacle than any single rejection would ever be, so he set out on an experiment to get rejected daily for 100 days. By opening himself up to and seeking out rejection, it completely took the sting out of it. It really does matter how you define rejection in your mind’s eye. Consider what you can take away from the rejection. What do you want to do differently next time? What have you learned about yourself in the process?

Consider doing your own experiment to seek out rejection. See if it can help reshape the way you view and experience rejection.  

- Dr. Siquilla Liebetrau, clinical director, Bowen Center