How To Deal With Rejection In A Healthy Way

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

At one time or another, almost everyone experiences rejection in some form. Whether a romantic interest turns us down, a friend leaves us, or a professional opportunity passes us by, rejection can happen in many different parts of life, and there can be healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with it. Knowing how to handle rejection in a healthy way can be the difference between letting it harm our self-esteem and becoming stronger because of it. Below, we’ll explore some tips for handling rejection in ways that can lead to personal growth and healing. 

Rejection can be painful

Allow yourself to feel your emotions

Before you can move on from any rejection, it may help to first allow yourself to feel the emotions that arise with it. Some people may react to rejection with anger or sadness, but many other emotions can surface as well. Whatever emotions come up for you, you might allow yourself to experience them and sit with them. 

There can be different ways to process negative emotions, and what works for some may not work as well for others. For some, journaling about their thoughts and feelings helps, others turn to exercise or art, and some vent to a person they trust. 

While you work through your emotions after rejection, it can also be helpful to try to identify why the rejection has brought up those specific emotions. If what you are feeling is intense, it might help to explore why that might be the case.

For example, if your long-term partner leaves you, the rejection may hurt because you felt very compatible with this person and envisioned a life with them. If a potential employer chooses another candidate for a position you were eyeing, you might feel hurt because you considered it your dream job. Identifying the why behind the hurt may allow you to mourn what you lost when that rejection happened, and it may also give you some useful insight into what you care about and are looking for in the future. 

Determine if the reason for the rejection has any validity

Once you have processed the emotions associated with rejection, you may find that you can look at it more objectively. In some cases, we may have a general understanding of why someone rejected us. Perhaps the long-term partner had expressed that they weren’t feeling heard in the relationship. Maybe the potential employer explained that they went with a different candidate who had more experience in a particular area. 

A woman in a teal top and dark hair in a ponytail holds a plank pose among a group of people doing yoga on mats in a brightly lit room.

As you consider the reasons for the rejection, you can consider if you think that the reasons have any validity. This step may require considerable insight and self-awareness to do accurately. 

It may help to list out some of your relevant traits on a piece of paper to see if you can create an argument for or against the reason for rejection. You can list the strengths and weaknesses of your personality, professional experience, education, or anything else you feel is relevant to the issue. 

Once you create a list of these traits, you might try to evaluate it carefully to see if there may be a truthful reason for your rejection. For example, in the case of a romantic partner who expressed challenges in a relationship with you, you may find that there are several traits about yourself that seem to validate that concern. If a potential employer passed you up for a position because they needed someone with strong communication skills and extensive experience in public speaking, you may see that some of your skills and experiences do not exactly align with their vision.

How you experience rejection can vary depending on whether you think there is any validity to the reason. While it can be difficult to accept that someone's reasoning for rejecting you was valid, you might try thinking of it as an opportunity for self-improvement. Whether their reasons are valid or not, there is a lot you can do to rebuild your self-confidence and inner strength.

If the reason for rejection is true and you want to change

If you find that the person who rejected you had a good reason for doing so, it does not mean you are a bad person. We all have things we can improve on. Being able to understand their perspective and use it to make a change, if needed, can be a courageous step. 

However, you do not have to change just because someone else has criticized you. It may be better for the desire to change to come from wanting to better yourself and show up for yourself more reliably and confidently in the future. If you do want to make a change that would improve your future self, you might keep the following steps in mind. Once you accomplish them, you can move on to the healing phase.

1. Create goals

Set simple and achievable goals that help you work toward becoming the person you want to be. For example, if you want to improve your communication skills or become more qualified for the jobs you are seeking, you can research what you would need to do to make that happen.

2. Appreciate the process

Even if the first step toward what you want is small, it is still progress. If possible, embrace opportunities that allow you to use your new skills. For example, someone wanting to improve communication skills could place themselves in more situations where they must rely on these skills.

3. Celebrate accomplishments

Every time you do something that gets you closer to your goal, you can celebrate it. Change can be challenging, and it often requires hard work and courage. You can acknowledge what you have done to work toward your goal and try to be proud of yourself for your progress.

Rejection can be painful

If the reason for rejection is true and you do not want to change

Even if someone's reason for rejecting you is true, that does not mean you have to do anything different unless you want to. You don’t have to feel pressured to change for someone else if you are happy with who you are. If you do not want to change things about yourself, you can move on to the healing process (below).

If the reason for rejection is not true (or you do not know the reason)

Sometimes we do not know why someone rejected us, or we know why and believe that their reasoning is not valid. Getting over rejection when we do not have all the answers or when the answers do not make sense can be difficult, but it can be done. If you are experiencing this type of rejection, you might move right on to the healing process.

The healing process: Tips for handling the pain of rejection

The healing process for rejection sometimes takes time, but there are steps you can take to try to move forward. Healing from rejection might boost your self-confidence and create a solid foundation to help you navigate difficult emotional experiences in the future. Below are some tips for healing from rejection:

1. Accept that it happened

Accepting that rejection happened, no matter if the reason is known, unknown, true, or untrue, is often an important first step to closing the door on the experience and moving on. When we experience rejection, it can be understandable to want to reject the rejection or pretend it didn’t happen. However, in order to move forward and heal from rejection, it is often important to first acknowledge and accept that it happened. 

2. Think about all the great qualities you have

When overcoming rejection, it can be easy to think that there is something "wrong" with you. Instead of focusing on your shortcomings, you might try to see all the good things you bring to the table. The more positive you can see in yourself, the less important and painful the rejection may seem over time.

3. Create boundaries for yourself

After experiencing rejection, it may be helpful to try to limit any additional, unnecessary pain that might arise through returning to the source of the rejection. You can create physical, mental, and emotional distance between yourself and the person or situation that hurt you, even if it is temporary. If this feels difficult to do, a mental health professional may be able to help you learn how to create healthy boundaries that serve you.

4. Practice self-love

Another common part of healing from rejection is being compassionate with yourself. No one is perfect, everyone has weaknesses, and almost everyone experiences rejection at some point. Rejection does not mean that you are unworthy of love and acceptance. You might try to focus on loving yourself and being compassionate with yourself so that you can build a strong sense of self-confidence that is not dependent on external feedback. 

How online therapy can help

Dealing with rejection, processing difficult emotions, and practicing self-love can all be challenging to accomplish on your own. If you would like additional support in this process, you might consider online therapy, which research has shown to be just as effective as in-office therapy.

Rejection can sting, and the pain of it can sometimes make it feel difficult to take the steps needed to move forward. For some in this situation, commuting to an in-person therapy appointment may feel exhausting, but meeting with an online therapist from the comfort of home may feel a bit easier. 

With BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist via audio or video chat from anywhere with an internet connection. You can also contact your therapist with concerns in between sessions via in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.


Rejection can be painful, but it is something almost everyone experiences at one point or another. Handling rejection in a healthy way can help you move forward feeling stronger than before. If you have recently experienced rejection, you don’t have to face it alone. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist with experience helping people navigate the emotions that often come with rejection. Take the first step toward healing and reach out to BetterHelp.
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