Coping with rejection


In this month’s ‘Mindfulness and wellbeing’ updates, we’ll be talking about a situation that many of us will be familiar with: rejection. Read on for some tips on how to use setbacks as a learning experience and a chance to see things differently. 


  1. Take some time to let the rejection sink in, but try not to dwell on it. 


It’s never nice to find out that we’ve been turned down for a promotion, or overlooked from a project, or excluded from a social event. At the same, once you’ve recovered from the initial shock, aim to focus on what your immediate next steps are. If you’re experiencing a rejection that has financial repercussions, such as being turned down for a job or a project, do everything you can to tide yourself over until the next opportunity comes along. If you’ve been slighted by colleagues or acquaintances but you still have to regularly see them, be brave and keep facing up to the situation anyway.


  1. As far as possible, try to remove your sense of ego from the equation. 


This can be remarkably difficult, as Spanish psychologist Buenaventura del Charco Olea argues in his memorably-titled 2023 self-help book, since humans have evolved to be herd animals and to band together to ensure survival, meaning that we are hard-wired to fear rejection because in pre-industrial times being banished from the group would have meant almost certain death. Whether you subscribe to this idea or not, it seems reasonable to believe that years of social conditioning would tend to lead us to seek out the approval of other people and fear being sidelined, particularly in personal as opposed to professional scenarios. But unless you feel that you’ve been deliberately singled out or bullied, try to take a step back from the situation and remember that in most cases it’s not you as a person that has been rejected. 


  1. Try to see rejection as a learning experience and a means of looking at a situation differently.


Was there anything you could have done better, or in another way? If yes, then try to apply your learning to the next scenario, since there might be more than one way of accomplishing your goal. Equally well, it might be the case that in order to achieve your objectives you need to overcome some other obstacles first, in which case rejection might be the impetus you need to think about ways in which you can come back better. For example, if you’ve been rejected from a job application, you could look for ways of building on your experience in order to be stronger in other applications. Sometimes it can also be helpful for us to change our focus a bit and look at more realistic or practical ways of approaching a situation, even if that means compromising our original goal to some extent, at least in the short term. 


  1. Lastly, don’t let rejection dissuade you from trying again. 


It’s easy to get disheartened when we face setbacks, or to lose confidence in our abilities, but try to focus on all of the times that you’ve triumphed, and do your best to believe that you can continue to do so in the future. Some of the greatest minds have faced rejection multiple times before succeeding. ‘Lord of the Flies’ was rejected twenty-one times by publishers before becoming one of the best-known works of modern literature in English. Thomas Edison became one of the most prolific inventors ever to have lived after being told by schoolteachers that he was ‘too stupid to learn anything’. What we’re ultimately associated with and remembered for is our successes rather than our failures, even if the former are greatly outnumbered by the latter (and for many of us they are, and that’s totally normal). 


At the end of the day, you can only be who you are. Focus on what you can try to fix, fix it, then keep going until you’re closer to where you wanted to be. And never stop trying.


Until the next time! 




Buenaventura del Charco Olea, Te estás jodiendo la vida: Olvídate de tu mejor versión y sé tú mismo, Ediciones Martínez Roca, 2023


Life Hack, Sebastian Kipman, 15 Highly Successful People Who Failed Before Succeeding



Lit Hub, Emily Temple, The Most-Rejected Books of All Time