Why does rejection hurt so much?

    Why Rejection Hurts

    Human beings are hardwired to seek belonging and crave connection. It’s precisely that feeling of protection that anchors us in safety, self-acceptance, and even validation and ultimately helps us overcome a fear of rejection.

    The opposite of that, rejection, can make us feel uneasy and doubt how to position ourselves in a hostile environment where we feel unwelcome and unnecessary.

    When rejection takes its toll on our self-esteem, it can negatively shape our demeanor. Rejection hurts because it reflects a lack of certainty and recognition.


    While the sense of isolation often springs from our minds, how we handle rejection is tied to our memories of the times we’ve been rejected and our bounce-back ability.

    In this article, we’re sharing everything you need to know about rejection so you can land on your feet, no matter how often you face rejection.

    Where Does the Feeling of Disconnection Come from?

    To better understand the meaning of rejection, we need to go back to prehistoric times.

    Being part of a tribe promised our ancestors a meaning of selfhood. Although they couldn’t survive independently, they found a sense of individuality as part of something bigger.

    Back then, it was all about survival.  A single individual couldn’t outsmart a pack of wolves. 

    As a result, they depended on the structure of a tribe. As a whole, our prehistoric ancestors knew that they were powerful as they lingered in more certainty. 

    Nowadays, the conviction of survival is guaranteed. After all, no other generation has experienced such an abundance of life choices. But belonging and certainty still play an important part.  

    We still go into survival mode when facing the possibility of being defeated by external factors we have no control over.

    While it was critical to belong to a tribe in the past, nowadays, we find delight in discovering a community and becoming part of it. It’s proof that we matter. It bolsters our identity, gives us direction, and provides a sense of unity.

    Types of Rejection

    Everyone experiences rejection differently. Understanding the various types of rejection can provide ease and empower you to learn from the experience rather than allowing it to define you.

    Being Ghosted

    Realizing that ghosting is not personal can be relieving. While it's difficult to attach a particular meaning to why it happened to you, it helps to see it as a faulty skill set to communicate their feelings candidly. Ghosting is the shortest route to avoid a difficult conversation, and it's unconsciously intended as a self-protection method.

    Rejection hurts less when you understand that not everyone speaks the same dialect in terms of emotional intelligence. To avoid ending up in a loop of self-pity, don't question your qualities. Not blaming yourself is key to moving on. So is focusing on self-care. It's important to make sure that you don't over-obsess about getting closure.

    Why rejection hurts


    Relationship Breakup

    Love rejection stings a lot. Not all relationships last forever. Some people’s purpose is to teach us some lessons and then vanish from our lives. Others hold our hands while learning together.

    It’s important to catch your coping mechanism when this happens so you can learn how to handle love rejection. Are you neglecting what happened or wallowing in sadness? While there’s no one-size-fits-all, both mechanisms are counterproductive. The heart-mending process should focus on assessing your feelings. Playing in the solo team for a while without rushing into the next relationship will help you come to terms with the fact that it’s over.

    Employment Rejection 

    Be aware of the odds, and don’t idealize self-imposed outcomes. The traditional paradigm implies that you’re lucky to get a job. Shifting it to ¨the company is lucky to get me¨ can improve your job interview performance.

    Keeping an open mind will also help, as companies that have previously rejected you may still resort to you in the future.

    Use job rejection to mentally go through the interview steps and be transparent about your limitations. Not only the insights you’ll extract can be eye-opening, but they can serve as a backbone to prepare you for your next interview.

    Social Rejection

    Everyone dreams of being appreciated and liked by everyone, mainly because our brains thrive on interaction and connection. But in reality, it’s impossible to appeal to everyone. This is because we all respond to life - and rejection -  differently.

    The lack or misuse of social skills makes people vulnerable to social rejection. While many piggyback on people-pleasing or socializing crutches, such as alcohol consumption, to make themselves more riveting, social rejection strikes harshly at our self-esteem. It can hit even harder if the self-image backdrop is already fragile.

    It’s essential to rely on a few close friends, who are genuine, rather than on dreamy groups just for their status. Values play an important role here as they contribute to attracting the right people.

    Social Media Rejection

    Although it happens in the digital space, it feels just as permeating in ordinary life. Tethering our identity to social media platforms and comparing ourselves to others without real accountability is futile. It’s a Herculean effort to try to foster a persona that doesn’t resonate with who you are. Waiting for confirmation that we’re worthy of being liked is wrong, especially if it’s based on clicks.

    Many resort to hiding behind a screen as a safety net to avoid rejection. It gets even harder once you’ve established your identity online and your day-to-day life doesn’t echo that. Be willing to be vulnerable. People prefer vulnerability and authenticity over unrealistic perfection.


    This is the most common - yet the most overlooked - type of rejection. We’re used to rejecting ourselves all the time, and many times, we don’t have the agency to recognize that we’re the only ones standing in our way. 

    We tend to create our disempowering mental soundtrack and listen to it on repeat. Living in the space of supposition is painful. It means fabricating and owning self-hypotheses without evidence that they’re real. Living stuck in that assumption is similar to reiterating the same past mistakes just because they happened at a certain point; therefore, there’s a record of them.

    Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria

    It appears when people set gargantuan standards for themselves that they can’t achieve. People who have experienced rejection, excessive criticism, or exclusion early in life are more prone to it. They’re used to creating disproportional negative scenarios. 

    It’s vital to shift your perspective from self-inflicted pain to your qualities and deepen them. Thin skin can be reframed into resilience over time by gathering the courage to fend off self-criticism and developing a more clear-sighted approach.

    The Anatomy of Rejection

    The typical process consists of five stages of rejection.

    Understanding them will show how to better deal with rejection and give you an edge over its ebbs and flows.

    1. Denial

    Denial is a natural reaction when we experience a threat to our status quo. Whether turning a blind eye to unjust situations or simply minimizing the gravity of an existing matter, denial - although harmless in the first place - can take its toll on us if we live in that space for too long.  

    When our emotional spectrum is shaken, we fear that being frank about the current reality will only worsen our existence. If this unhealthy pattern continues, it will keep us on the fence, in our bubble, instead of on the front line of making decisions. Being in the right headspace to make choices is a capacity we need first and foremost, especially when dealing with rejection.


    Denial is a natural reaction when you feel you have been rejected

    2. Anger

    Often, anger can erupt off the cuff as a side effect of us stifling our emotions. Being sensitive to rejection and not handling it well can manifest in an altered perception of reality. The deprivation of control defies our intrinsic need for certainty. When someone knocks off the possibility of turning to a plan B in case plan A fails, we feel like we’re left out of choice. And this is when things get complicated, and we lose our temper, feeling that our freedom of choice has been disregarded. 

    Although control and choice are two different concepts, you may unconsciously respond with anger when you try to mix them. It’s like being stuck in a rut. Each choice you make bolsters your need for control. Each time you desperately try to control a situation, you limit your power of choice, and rejection hurts more.

    3. Bargaining

    The anger starts to diminish at this stage and we plea for a negotiation process. We're often willing to sell ourselves too short. Being available to lower our standards and accepting detrimental conditions because we're not ready to loosen our grip on what we know as reality is wrong. To avoid receiving a counteroffer that doesn't do our self-worth any justice, it's better to postpone bargaining until we feel we're in the right place to negotiate. 

    Make sure you deal with someone who accepts that both parties involved have to win. Being clear about your values and priorities can set you up for success. Always be willing to walk away if you feel like you've reached a deadlock.

    4. Depression

    The cobweb of rejection can be misleading. The frustration and powerlessness that come with exclusion can sometimes morph into depression. Assuming we’re worthless, jumping to conclusions and disqualifying positive scenarios will allow cognitive distortion - a one-sided translation of events that attaches a negative meaning to how others perceive and treat us - to become a habit. 

    Reframing your thoughts and shying away from gloomy definitions will allow you to take a step back and see rejection through a more positive lens.

    5. Acceptance

    The brain may initially resist accepting rejection as it may perceive it as approval. Acceptance comes at a point where you become familiar with how events unfold. You understand that digging into the past and trying to deny what's obvious will not provide positive results. You no longer try to find reasons to blame or justifications for self-pity. 

    Moving on doesn't imply that you endorse a specific behavior. Instead, it means that you have the agency to sift through positive and negative events and stick to those that serve your well-being. Acceptance helps you move on and makes strides toward your mental freedom.

    How to Overcome the Fear of Rejection

    Rejection hurts just as much as physical pain.

    However, the fear of rejection shouldn’t clog your plans. It’s essential not to take rejection seriously, as you’ll face it at different times in many areas of your life.

    Painful flashbacks can reinforce rejection. The memories of the times we’ve been rejected can cause the same pain as the actual event. We can dramatically alter past events by choosing to give them a less sour meaning.

    Rejection is always a possibility, and it shouldn’t be a vehicle for defining our value. Toning the rejection muscle will often mean you have to challenge yourself. But at the same time, your bounce-back factor will also increase.

    Being mindful of how you use overgeneralization and labeling can be a stepping stone in establishing the course of your future relationships.


    how to overcome the fear of rejection

    We identify ourselves with others’ benchmarks because we like the idea of feeling significant in their eyes. In return, we hope they will validate our self-identity with their attention.

    Those who accept you unconditionally don’t operate this way. You don’t ¨need¨ anything from them because their feelings are unrestrained, and they have no difficulties offering their love.

    A Rejection-Free Journey

    The interpretation of rejection hurts more than the actual event. Give yourself time to process your feelings, and don’t bottle them up. Be willing to admit that you’re the most significant person in your life. 

    To help you better understand your worth and cement the habit of rooting for yourself, we’ve created an empowering audio called Be Your Biggest Fan. This hypnotic audio will help you build up the rejection muscle and open the floodgates for self-acceptance, self-worth, and self-love.


    I’ve made it my life’s mission to make peace of mind and the ability to reach your potential available to everyone
    - and that includes you!


    Here’s to true freedom, happiness and health! - Jamie Clarke

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