Overcoming Social Rejection

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Experiencing social rejection can be a painful and disheartening ordeal. In some cases, rejection can even cause human beings to feel physical pain. The impact on your self-esteem and self-worth can be profound, with the resulting hurt feelings leaving you questioning your value and struggling to regain confidence. Below, we’ll explore some tips and psychological science insights for those seeking to rebuild their self-esteem after being socially rejected. By exploring different strategies and perspectives, you might begin to see social rejection through different lenses and come away more resilient than before.

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Effects of social rejection

Rejection affects us in a variety of ways, and It’s possible to experience a range of emotions when facing social exclusion, some of which may be considered negative emotions. The dorsal anterior cingulate region of the brain has been linked to processing feelings of social rejection, which is why some individuals may also experience a sense of physical pain. 

For many people, the emotions that come with the pain of rejection can include:

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Confusion

Behind these emotions often lies the deep-rooted pain of rejection and a fractured sense of belonging. When one's place in social circles becomes uncertain, it can amplify these feelings and create a cycle of self-doubt and isolation.

If you are experiencing some of these emotional responses, it might be best to try to acknowledge these emotions and allow yourself to experience them without judgment. They could be a natural part of the healing process. By going through this experience and feelings of rejection, you might find that you come out the other side with a renewed sense of self-worth.

Effects on self-esteem

According to research in the field of social psychology, the impact of social rejection on self-esteem can be significant, but it doesn’t have to be long-lasting. When facing rejection, some people internalize these negative peer group experiences and develop unhealthy beliefs about themselves. This might manifest in various ways, including:

  • Self-Doubt: Repeated social rejection may lead to persistent self-doubt that may cause you to question your abilities, decisions, and worthiness in various aspects of life.
  • Self-Blame: Some people who experience peer rejection internalize blame, believing that they might be solely responsible for the rejection and must be flawed or inadequate in some way.
  • Fear Of Further Rejection: As self-esteem decreases, you may become increasingly fearful of further rejection experiences, leading you to avoid social interactions, experience increased anxiety, and be reluctant to form new connections or find new peer groups.
  • Negative Self-Talk: A decrease in self-esteem could increase internalized aggressive behavior like negative self-talk. Negative self-talk often involves criticizing yourself harshly for perceived failures or shortcomings.
  • Decreased Motivation: When self-esteem is negatively affected, it might be possible for you to experience a decline in motivation, making it difficult for you to pursue personal goals or engage in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Poor Impulse Control: Rejection may also cause you to experience poor impulse control, often in an effort to cope with overwhelming emotions. This can mean using unhealthy coping mechanisms that may have a negative effect on your physical health. 
  • Impaired Mental Well-Being: The ongoing effects of social rejection in the long term and the resulting decrease in self-esteem could contribute to mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, rejection can also lead to other mental health challenges. One experimental social psychology study found that participants who were told that no one in the group wanted to work with them or were excluded in various ways experienced various impairments, including self-regulation. 
It might be helpful to recognize these potential effects on self-esteem and take proactive steps to counteract them. This might enable you to regain a sense of self-worth and move forward with confidence and a greater resilience to social pain.
A woman is standing in a hallway and looking to the side; she is holding a laptop and smiling.
Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Acknowledge your worth

One of the first steps in trying to rebuild self-esteem after interpersonal rejection might be to recognize your inherent value as a person. This might seem complicated, especially when you're feeling low, but you might try to remind yourself of the following:

  • You deserve love and respect
  • The opinions of others and the number of social relationships you have do not determine your worth
  • You have unique strengths and qualities that make you special

Practice self-compassion

You may find that being kind to yourself is a crucial part of rebuilding self-esteem. You can treat yourself with the same care and understanding you would offer a friend in a similar situation. The following are some ways to practice self-compassion:

  • Speak kindly to yourself
  • Forgive yourself for past mistakes
  • Focus on your strengths and accomplishments
  • Develop healthy coping strategies (including those relating to your physical health)
  • Connect with supportive people

Surrounding yourself with people who uplift and provide social support can be a vital component of rebuilding self-esteem.

Learn to say no

Part of rebuilding self-esteem involves learning when to say no to others. This might mean

  • Declining invitations or requests that don't align with your values or priorities
  • Communicating your boundaries with others
  • Prioritizing your own needs and well-being
  • Advocating for yourself

It can help to stand up for yourself and assert your needs, especially when handling social situations. This might involve:

  • Expressing your feelings and opinions respectfully
  • Asking for what you need or want
  • Standing up for yourself when you feel disrespected or mistreated
  • Reflecting on and learning from your experiences

Journaling can be an effective way to process your thoughts and feelings related to rejection sensitivity. Writing about your experiences might help you:

  • Gain clarity and perspective
  • Identify patterns in your thinking or behavior
  • Track your progress and growth over time
  • Embrace imperfection
  • Accept your flaws
Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Take the next step toward rebuilding your self-esteem

Set realistic goals

Setting achievable goals for yourself can be an effective way to build confidence and foster a sense of accomplishment, particularly when you’re rebuilding self-esteem after social rejection. Thoughtful goal-setting might encourage personal growth and development while providing a roadmap for success.

When setting goals, consider the following strategies:

Break them down into smaller, manageable steps

You might find that you make progress without feeling overwhelmed by dividing larger goals into smaller, more achievable tasks. This approach might allow you to focus on one step at a time, making the overall goal more attainable and less daunting.

Be realistic with your expectations

Consider setting challenging yet achievable goals based on your current skills, resources, and circumstances. Setting unrealistic goals might lead to frustration and disappointment, which may negatively impact your self-esteem.

Prioritize your goals

Try to determine which goals are most important to you and focus your efforts on those. By prioritizing, you can devote your energy to what matters most and avoid spreading yourself too thin.

Create a timeline

Establishing a realistic timeline that considers potential obstacles and setbacks might help you achieve your goals. A well-planned timeline often helps maintain motivation and provides a clear path for progress.

Monitor your progress

Aim to regularly assess your progress toward your goals, noting successes and areas for improvement. Monitoring your progress allows you to adjust as needed and keeps you focused on your objectives.

Be patient with yourself and give yourself time to reach your goals

Recognize that change and growth might take time, and it can help to be patient with yourself during this process. Setbacks may occur, but you can view them as opportunities to learn and refine your approach.

Celebrate your progress along the way

Acknowledging and celebrating your accomplishments, both large and small, can boost your self-esteem and motivation. Consider taking the time to appreciate your hard work and recognize the progress you've made toward achieving your goals.

By incorporating these strategies into your goal-setting process, you can create a solid foundation for success and enhance your self-esteem as you work toward personal growth and development.

Build self-esteem in online therapy

One benefit of online therapy, as it relates to rebuilding self-esteem after social rejection, is the opportunity to work with a trained professional who can help you navigate the complexities of your emotions and thoughts. In many cases, emotions that are negative affect your ability to socialize and bounce back from rejection. A therapist can provide a safe space to express your feelings and explore the reasons behind your reactions to rejection, including conditions like rejection-sensitive dysphoria. A therapist may also be able to offer you social skills training tips and help you develop healthy coping strategies. By going to online therapy, you may gain great insights into your patterns of thinking and behavior, which can be instrumental in fostering self-compassion, setting realistic goals, and ultimately rebuilding your self-esteem.

Research has shown online therapy to be just as effective as in-office therapy, and it may be especially helpful if you’re experiencing low self-esteem at this time. With BetterHelp, you can talk to a therapist from the comfort of your own home with just a computer (or other internet-connected device.) Using audio chat, video chat, or in-app messaging, you can contact your therapist in between sessions via in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can. 

With the proper support and guidance of an online therapist, you may gain great insights into your patterns of thinking and behavior, which can be instrumental in fostering self-compassion and ultimately restoring your self-esteem.

Below are some reviews of people who have connected with BetterHelp counselors:

Counselor reviews

“Brett has been phenomenal in bringing me back up where I needed to be socially and mentally. I thought the world was against me for a while and slowly but surely I felt back in charge of my situation, and I used the methods he taught me to gain control of my life. I’m currently in the career path of Law Enforcement, and I would recommend anyone in this career field to use Brett!”

“Dr. Grumley is kind, compassionate, and understanding while still challenging my patterns in ways that help me to enact change. He provides incredible insights and applicable strategies for changing my behavior and creating more fulfilling relationships with others and myself. I feel so grateful to have found him through BetterHelp, because he totally gets me, and is extremely experienced in his field. He has a background both in counseling and spiritual leadership which is such a wonderful resource to have available. Find yourself a therapist who can do both!”


Rebuilding self-esteem after social rejection is entirely possible. By adopting effective strategies, such as taking the time to appreciate your progress, incorporating mindfulness into goal setting, and seeking professional help where needed, you can take steps toward fostering self-compassion and rebuilding your self-esteem. Ultimately, understanding how to cope with rejection healthily might be vital in helping you create a strong sense of personal worth that might enable you to move forward on your terms. Take the first step toward improvement and contact BetterHelp today.
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