First published in The Hindu, 5 August 2023 

Whether it’s a university declining admission, a company not getting back after an interview, or a romantic break-up, rejection stings. Be it a professional or personal issue, a rejection implies that you are not wanted. Knowing that can hurt. Though you may plod on with your routine, deep down a hollowness may fester. As practically everyone is bound to experience rejection in life, it’s worthwhile to learn to deal with this psychological wound in a balanced way.

One of the most harmful conclusions to draw from rejection is that you never want to face another rejection. As the pain eats into you, you vow that you will never put yourself through this again. Psychologist, Thomas Smithyman, advises in Psyche, “Your goal is not to avoid rejection. Your goal is to learn how to handle it in the healthiest way possible.” Avoiding rejection, at all costs, according to Smithyman, may make you forego the “pursuit of the things that matter most”.

In his book, Emotional First Aid, psychologist, Guy Winch, writes that rejection can cause “four distinct emotional wounds.” When people describe their experiences of rejection, they often allude to ‘pain.’Rejection causes us to experience both psychological and visceral pain. It can also evoke angry or hostiles responses, impair our self-esteem and make us feel excluded.

However, the manner in which we respond to these hurts can impact the quality of our lives. Suppose a friend doesn’t reply to your messages, you may not answer his calls for a few days. If you don’t get into a Master’s program, you may fret that life is unfair. When a romantic partner breaks up, you conclude that intimate relationships are bound to end in despair.

Turning hostile, ruminating, or withdrawing are negative forms of coping. Fortunately, Smithyman and Winch give us more effective ways to handle this. One of the best balms is to seek solace amongst trusted family and friends. Being listened to and feeling understood can prove cathartic, but make sure you confide in a person who is likely to be non-judgmental. If you don’t have such a person, being around supportive people can mitigate the initial sting of rejection. When you are with others, you are less likely to ruminate, which can be pernicious to your well-being.

Once the barb of rejection has abated, you may observe yourself, like an outsider. This practice of stepping outside yourself and viewing your own thoughts and feelings is one of the cornerstones of mindfulness practices. Smithyman recommends trying to discern the specific emotions you are feeling and labeling them. Then, you might figure out the thoughts that accompany those particular emotions. Winch also suggests that you ‘evaluate’ whether the friend, job, or romantic partner melds with your core values, worldview, personality, and proclivities. If the fit isn’t optimal, perhaps, you are better off looking for whatever you’re seeking elsewhere.

To repair your damaged self-worth, Winch recommends writing down five valuable traits you possess. Never mind if the person who rejected you didn’t notice or value them. Then write a few paragraphs explaining why one or two characteristics on your list are important to you and how they manifest.

Smithyman also exhorts you to be compassionate towards yourself. He recommends writing a letter to yourself, pretending you are a “wise, compassionate person.” What advice would you give another person who is in a similar position as yourself? Writing from the perspective of a friend will give you sufficient emotional distance to provide sage counsel.

Always remember that a rejection is never the end of the road. You will find many paths opening up if you maintain a sense of balance and composure.

(The writer is the author of Zero Limits: Things Every 20-Something Should Know. She blogs at