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  • Isara Moriya

Mindfull X Shield - How to Deal with Rejection

Imagine: you sit in front of your computer, 13 hours a day, typing about your childhood memories and significant achievements. Your body and brain are tired, your fingers cramped, and you cannot spit out another synonym for “passionate,” but this is your dream school. You’ve been yearning to attend this school since you were 12. You wait apprehensively for 3 months and the results come in your email: rejected

Many students, including myself, have been experiencing what all students dread: rejections. You may be able to anticipate it, but when it comes, it leaves a scratch in your heart that does not easily go away. Unfortunately, everyone is rejected more than once in their life. Even the globally acclaimed author of the Harry Potter series J.K. Rowlings was rejected by 12 publishers! 

The Science Behind Rejection

Rejection is painful in the physical sense. Over a dozen languages describe a rejected person as “crushed” or “broken-hearted,” using other words and phrases that point to physical pain. Additionally, fMRI studies found that parts of the brain that were associated with processing physical pain also activated when the subject experienced rejection. One of the studies was conducted by Naomi Eisenberger, PhD, at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kipling Williams, PhD, at Purdue University, and colleagues. They simulated rejection using Cyberball, which they described as an online game of catch with three players. At first, the subject and two other players play together, but eventually, the subject gets excluded from the game of online catch.

The researchers observed the brain activity of the rejected subject compared to an included subject. The fMRI showed that the dorsal anterior cingulate and the anterior insula—two of the regions that show increased activity in response to physical pain—were more active in those who were rejected.

Some behavioral psychologists believe this behavior developed during prehistoric times when people lived in small clans and relied on everyone they knew for survival. They predict that rejection meant threats to the human’s safety, thus evolved to take rejection as pain.

How To Cope: The Other Party

Before you get depressed by the rejection, consider the other party, the person rejecting you. Are they a close acquaintance or a mere stranger? Are they your close friend or an online gaming buddy? In other words, does this rejection really matter? While still painful, it is most likely easier to brush off the words of a stranger compared to those of a close person. Considering who the other party is can help to make amends with rejection. 

Often, it is not your fault. The other party wanted something different, which could have been unreasonable ideals, biased views, or something you don’t have to give. Whether it be a rejection from a love interest or a college, they were seeking something different. It is not your fault you did not fit that image they had in mind. Rather, putting your mind towards seeking a person or party that accepts you as you are will be more productive because one rejection is not representative of the whole world’s perception of you.

How to Cope: Self VS Self

Rejection from someone you know personally or a total stranger is still hard when how you perceive yourself also comes into play. For example, if a stranger calls you fat and your grandma calls you fat, it may hurt just the same because you may be sensitive to such topics. Contrarily, if comments about your body were not an issue, you may feel indifferent towards words from both parties. 

Engaging in acts of self-care can help in these scenarios. Whether it be treating yourself to a day off, reading a calming book, or taking a walk, using coping skills that you know will feel better can ease the feelings of rejection. This is not to say that you cannot feel those intense emotions, however. Bottling up emotions can come to bite you in the back later on. Therefore, honoring the intense emotions is also productive in the long run. 

Pain that comes from how you perceive yourself may also take longer to heal. Life experiences stack on top of one another and formulate the image you have of yourself, both positive and negative. When someone breaks the positive image you have of yourself or confirms the negative one, it can weigh you down even more. In these cases, seeking a support system or a therapist may help. 


Rejection is not proof that something is wrong with you. Each relationship is convoluted, nuanced, and unique, so each rejection may create pain differently. However, what’s always true is that you are never alone in this. All people, from the most powerful and successful people to babies, have experienced rejection in all stages of life. Rejection is a universal experience that you do not have to feel ashamed about. 

Not all rejections may lead to this, but you can make rejections a learning experience. Humans are ever-changing individuals; if the rejection was due to a mistake or something you were unprepared for, you can learn from it and evolve. And if rejection makes you fall and hurts you, lean on those who already accept you.  

Writer: Isara Moriya




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