How to Deal With Rejection

NO! How can this small, two lettered word cause so much emotional turmoil in our lives? From an early age, we’ve grown to detest this word.

Incredibly elaborate plans will be devised just to have a chance at avoiding hearing it. But what is it about the word we hate so much? It’s the feeling we get as a result of the rejection that causes a lasting impression on our minds.

How Rejection Holds Us Back

It’s clear to us from the beginning that rejection is a big part of life. Some of our earliest memories might be from a parent saying no to a request.

I can remember being told no on numerous occasions. At the grocery store, I would always ask my mom for some treats and be immediately rejected. Or when asking to go hang out at a friend’s house or go to a party I was met with a firm, “not gonna happen.”

As we grow older, the rejections become more serious and impactful. A crush rejects an invitation to go on a date, schools do not accept us, and job interviews do not end on a positive note.

Obviously, the early rejections are for our benefit, since our parents know what’s best for us in terms of health and safety. Being told no to those sorts of things are necessary, though they still have an impact on our fear to ask for what we want.

Not only does continuous rejection paralyze us with fear, but it leads to anxiety and other negative consequences. Let’s take a look at some of these in more detail.


One of the main ways rejection holds us back in life is the fear that it causes. Once we are told no, we become fearful of it happening again. The result is an avoidance behavior in which we do not take as many chances.

Fear takes hold even more when the situation you were rejected from has a lot of emotion tied to it. For example, if you finally muster up the courage to go ask out your crush and they tell you to get lost, then you will likely become fearful of ever asking someone out again.


When rejection happens, anxiety can begin to overcome us. This is due to the worry associated with having to feel the devastation of it happening again.

As with fear, anxiety keeps us from taking risks in life. There is a constant concern that someone is going to turn us down. If you are anxious about being rejected, it’s as if you are going through life tiptoeing.

Success happens on the other side of risk. By always being nervous about the possibility of rejection, you’ll be destined to fall short of almost all your goals.

"As with fear, anxiety keeps us from taking risks in life. There is a constant concern that someone is going to turn us down. If you are anxious about being rejected, it’s as if you are going through life tiptoeing."

People Pleasing

Once rejection is felt, a person will make many attempts to avoid feeling it once more. This results in people-pleasing behavior, in which we aim to make everyone around us happy.

The belief is that the more we please those around us, the less likely we are to be rejected. However, exhibiting this behavior is not sustainable in the long run.

You will become exhausted from constantly worrying about how to appease those around you. Frustration will ensue as a result of having to always focus on others and never on yourself. Instead of being concerned with our own values and desires, we are obsessed with pleasing others, all to avoid the possibility of rejection.


Avoidance behavior is the culmination of living with fear and anxiety. We desperately cling to the idea of keeping ourselves safe. In reality, if all risky and challenging situations that could result in rejection were avoided, then we would never have to feel that hurt again.

Living this way is not fulfilling and will lead to the regret of never chasing our dreams. Avoidance behavior may seem to be an acceptable solution in the short term for dealing with rejection, but in the long run, it will do more harm than good.  

Five Ways to Deal with Rejection

The ways in which rejection holds us back are debilitating and can lead to a life of regret and unfulfilled dreams. It is a fruitless effort, however, to try and eliminate all rejection, since this type of avoidance pattern is one of the main ways it can hold us back.

So how do we go about accepting rejection as a necessary part of life, but at the same time set ourselves up for handling it in a proper manner?

I have comprised five ways that we can better deal with rejection. Each of these will be of great help individually but put together will really aid in turning a normally negative experience into a more positive one.

#1 Take a Step Back

Many times when we are rejected, whether it be from a team we’ve tried out for, a job we’ve interviewed for, or anything else, our response is quick.

Likely, it will be an emotional reaction to the feeling we have of being told no. Sometimes this can manifest in the form of anger, or other times it will result in a deep feeling of sadness and inferiority within ourselves.

In thinking about how to handle rejection in a better way, allowing ourselves to immediately fall into reactionary mode is not what we want to do. Instead, it is best to allow some time to think about and examine the situation.

Upon finding yourself in a situation where you’ve been rejected, you want to first remove yourself as soon as possible. Do not linger, because that gives the emotions boiling up inside of you time to surface.

I believe that no matter what has happened or how badly we feel, there is something positive that can be gained. After stepping back and giving yourself some time, ask yourself these questions:

"In thinking about how to handle rejection in a better way, allowing ourselves to immediately fall into reactionary mode is not what we want to do. Instead, it is best to allow some time to think about and examine the situation."

  1. Was I the right fit for this position/team/opportunity?
  2. Did I prepare myself the best I could?
  3. Did I really want what I was rejected from?
  4. What could I have done differently?
  5. Is there another opportunity similar to this one?
  6. What lesson can I learn from this experience?

After asking yourself these questions, a situation that normally would have been met with a rash emotional reaction can be turned into an opportunity to grow and improve yourself.

#2 Pay Attention to Your Self-Talk

As soon as a rejection happens, it is easy for our self-talk to turn sour, especially if you are someone who already has a negative internal dialogue.

If you are unfamiliar with what self-talk is, it simply is the way we speak to ourselves on a daily basis. Most people have a pattern of dialogue that goes on, either negative or positive.

Negative self-talk is proven to have a terrible effect on our mental health, including an increase in anxiety and depressive thoughts. However, positive self-talk boosts our mood, improves confidence, and adds to our overall sense of self-worth.

As you can imagine, whenever we are rejected from something we really wanted, it’s easy for our self-talk to become hurtful.

Some common phrases that I have found myself repeating in such a situation include:

  • “I knew I wasn’t good enough.”
  • “Why would I think I could get that?”
  • “I’m a failure.”
  • “Of course I didn’t get it.”
  • “It was stupid for me to try.”

Speaking this way to ourselves aids in the process of grief and adds to the already negative feelings we are having. This becomes an addictive cycle of self-pity, that unless met head on will continue to repeat itself.

Instead, what we can do is be prepared for this form of internal dialogue and work to counteract it. As soon as we begin to feel negative self-talk take place, we must immediately cancel it out with a positive statement.

This is not an easy feat, especially with how easy it can be to feel sorry for ourselves. But, if you want to deal with rejection in the best possible manner, paying attention to negative self-talk and turning it positive is an important step.  

#3 Avoid the Victim Mentality

After being rejected, it is very easy to develop what is referred to as the victim mentality. This is where you feel as if everyone else is to blame for your misfortune, and there is no point in trying to fix anything since all effort for change will fail.

One of the main reasons for adopting this mindset lies in not wanting to take responsibility for the results in our life.

It’s not easy to be the one responsible for a mishap or negative experience. It’s much easier to just blame other people, protecting our own sense of pride.

When we think like a victim, everything that happens to us is the result of something external, never by our own happening.

If you wish to deal with rejection in a better way, the victim mentality must be avoided at all costs. Once we slip into this pattern of thinking, it can be very difficult to get out of.

By taking responsibility for our lives, we gain the ability to change our circumstances. As long as we hold onto the idea that nothing is our fault, making positive progress in our lives will be incredibly difficult.

Even if you feel that the rejection was not of your doing, take responsibility as if it were. This will put you in the position of power to decide on what your next steps will be, no more wasting time blaming and pointing fingers.

"By taking responsibility for our lives, we gain the ability to change our circumstances. As long as we hold onto the idea that nothing is our fault, making positive progress in our lives will be incredibly difficult."

#4 Find Some Positives in Your Life

After being rejected, no matter how strong your mindset is, there will be thoughts of sadness, anger, inferiority, and frustration. These are natural, especially if what you were rejected from meant a lot to you.

But while these feelings are natural, they do not have to last. When we allow these negative emotions to stick around, that is where the victim mentality begins to set in.

What we want to do is work to find some positives in our life.

You’ll want to do this during the time when you are taking a step back from the situation. That is why removing yourself as soon as possible from the environment in which you felt the rejection is vital.

Before you say that you can’t find anything positive about your life, I want you to really think carefully about it.

Everyone can find something positive about their life, no matter how dire their situation appears.

You can write down a list of positives, or just think about them in your head. But it is important you get your mind flooded with positive thoughts in order to counteract the natural negative reaction to being rejected.

#5 Decide Whether to be Tenacious or Let Go

At this point in dealing with a rejection experience, if you’ve adhered to the previous four steps you should be in a good mind frame to decide on your next move.

No matter what the situation was that you got rejected from there are only two options to choose from as to what you will do moving forward; be tenacious or let go.

This can be a difficult call since you do not want to give up too soon on something you want, but also do not want to waste time on a fruitless endeavor.

An example would be a high school athlete who was cut from the varsity team. This person has the choice to work harder over the offseason and try again the following year or decide to let go of wanting to play that sport.

There really isn’t a right or wrong answer here, it all depends on what you want.

If what you were rejected from is really important to you, then keep on pushing. On the other hand, if it isn’t worth the possibility of further disappointment and you wish to move onto other things, then let go.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with rejection is something we all must face, especially if we are working towards any kind of progress. It is a natural part of the pathway to success, and those who handle it well have a huge advantage.

If we allow our natural reactions to take control when rejected, it is easy to feel all sorts of negative emotions.

However, by applying the five principles of taking a step back, paying attention to self-talk, avoid the victim mentality, find positives in your life, and decide whether to be tenacious or let go you will put yourself in a great position to turn a negative experience into one of growth and improvement.

How do you normally handle rejection? Do you fall into the victim mentality or do you try and turn it into a learning experience? Please leave a comment below.

I hope this article was helpful and will guide you in dealing with rejection in the future.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you have regarding dealing with rejection or any other performance psychology topics.

Thank you for reading, and I wish you the best of success in all you do.

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