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10 Ways Grounded People Handle Rejection

Rejection hurts. Sometimes so badly it feels like your bruised ego may never recover. But here's the thing: Rejection is normal, and it happens to all of us. Here's how grounded, successful people deal with rejection gracefully—and you can too.

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They recognize rejection for what it is

“Rejection can be sneaky. For example, sometimes we disagree with a partner, friend or family member and we might think what’s upsetting us is that the situation is ‘unfair,’ but what we’re actually upset about is that the person is rejecting us or a part of us,” says Sara Stanizai, a licensed psychotherapist and the owner of Prospect Therapy. “Rejection can cause you to question a part of yourself, which is uncomfortable. The feeling underneath rejection is frequently shame. If you are feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or you feel like you ‘don’t want people to know’ about the situation, maybe it’s because you are feeling rejected.” Learn how to bounce back stronger from failure.

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They accept that it happened

Good or bad, rejection happens. “If you take the resistance out of wishing there was another outcome you can see the opportunity from the experience,” says Megan Fleming, PhD, a psychotherapist in New York City. “It’s important to acknowledge emotions, ‘name it to tame it.'” Allowing ourselves to notice and name our experiences helps us to deal with the rejection, process the emotions, and let them go, rather than getting stuck in them. Find out what successful people do every weekend.

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They reframe it

Whether you’ve been turned down by a potential boss or lover, it’s painful to want someone’s approval and not get it. But have you considered whether you actually approved of or wanted them? “Instead of telling yourself someone didn’t like you or that you’re not good enough, reframe it as a signal that you both weren’t a good match for each other,” writes John Kim, LMFT, psychotherapist. “Instead of seeing the ‘no’ as rejection, see it as you dodging a bullet.”

Whether a relationship is business or personal, it requires investment—and a lopsided relationship in which you are the one doing most of the wanting, work, and investment isn’t worth it. Fleming agrees, “A ‘no’ may feel bad and ultimately be the best thing for us.”

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They know they’re not the only ones

Rejection is a universal experience—there is no one in the world who hasn’t experienced it. “The woman who seems to have all the confidence in the world, the best athlete on the field, the businessperson who’s made billions—I don’t care who they are, every single person is afraid of rejection,” Phillip C. McGraw (aka Dr. Phil) wrote in O, the Oprah magazine. “The next time you feel unsure of yourself and wonder whether something is wrong with you, I’ve got your answer: absolutely not.” Knowing you’re not alone in fearing and suffering rejection can take some of the shame out of it and help you realize that just because someone said “no” to you doesn’t mean everyone will.

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They acknowledge how much rejection hurts

Negative emotions are unpleasant and it takes strength to face them. “For many people, negative emotions are like hot potatoes they want to get rid of,” says Fleming. “Most people try to shut down or cut off negative emotional experiences and don’t realize in doing so they are also cutting off the positives like joy, contentment, vigor. We call this constricted range of affect, you can’t cut off only one side. Living life fully means showing up fully and taking risks.” Check out these other secrets of happy, successful people.

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They grow from it

Discomfort helps us grow more than just about anything else. “We all like to avoid negative feelings, especially rejection and abandonment. Those emotions are hardwired in all of us—the mammals that we are—to feel bad,” says Fleming. But successful people go out into the world anyhow, asking for what they want and being prepared to sometimes hear no. “We’ll get what we want or we will learn from the experience.”

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They know that sometimes rejection is about the other person

Sometimes a friend, lover, or employer may reject you for reasons that have nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. “Their ‘no’ may be coming from something else, maybe their own fears, insecurities, triggers, or maybe you remind them of someone they don’t like, like an ex perhaps, and they don’t even know it,” says Kim. “Or maybe they’re saying no to you because you make them feel less than. There’s a lot that happens underneath that we’re not aware of.”

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They treat themselves with compassion

“Sometimes people think tough love will help them learn,” says Stanizai. “This is especially true if that’s how caregivers tried to teach you when you were growing up. You may not even realize that you’re being tough on yourself. You might think that cutting yourself some slack will just perpetuate the issue when in fact, once you let go of those expectations, you’re more likely to learn from the situation.”

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They’re smart about social media

Dating apps and social media platforms give us more opportunities to feel rejected than we’ve ever had before. “You can feel really bad about yourself without ever leaving the house. From left swipes to unanswered DMs to unfollows, rejection is everywhere,” says Kim. Yes, social media “likes” and follows can be important for business, but grounded people remember that what they’re presenting on social media isn’t them as people. When someone unfollows a Twitter feed or doesn’t hit “love” on a photo, they’re generally not rejecting the person—they just don’t need or want the information.

10 Ways Grounded People Handle Rejection

They keep trying

It’s easy to get caught up in all-or-nothing or black-and-white thinking when you’re trying to deal with rejection—for example, thinking “I’ll never get hired” or “I’m unlovable” rather than “I didn’t get hired this time” or “this relationship didn’t work out.” But successful, grounded people don’t stay in that space for very long.

“Each instance is unique and different,” writes psychotherapist Jeremy Nicholson, Ph.D. “Whether one or several people have demonstrated rejecting behaviors towards your request, you cannot logically generalize to ‘everyone’ or ‘always.’ Each time, place, and person is distinctive. What is true for one is not true for all. The next person could be different. So, try not to overgeneralize. Stay hopeful. Keep an open mind.” Next, find out the winning attributes of successful people.

Sunny Sea Gold
Sunny is a veteran health science and wellness journalist with more than 20 years of experience. Her work has appeared in O: The Oprah Magazine, Health, Eating Well, Parents, Fast Company, WebMD, TeenVogue, Redbook, Glamour, Seventeen and Men's Fitness.
She's held staff editor positions at Glamour, Seventeen and Redbook, been a contributing editor for Parents and earned three prestigious National Magazine Award nominations.
Her book Food: The Good Girl's Drug is about binge-eating disorder in young women.