How to Stay Resilient When Rejection From Friends, Family, or Relationships Is Hurting Your Self-Esteem

Finding New Ways to Be Fulfilled

When you feel rejected by people you care about, your self-esteem can take a big hit, especially if it’s a pattern in your life. Over the years, I’ve noticed people reach out to me again and again about some of the most painful types of rejection:

  • Rejection from Friends: Being rejected by friends is so tough. Friendship is a chosen bond, and you share a lot of things with them you may not share with anyone else. 
  • Rejection from Family: Family relationships, especially parent relationships, can be complicated and messy. If you’re feeling rejected by family members, I know that can be so disorienting. Many of us are raised to believe family comes first. Sadly, it doesn’t always turn out that way.
  • Rejection in Relationships: Being rejected in a romantic relationship is one of the toughest things we can go through. If you’ve been rejected by your partner, you have a lot of questions and are probably feeling very fearful and uncertain about the future.

Whatever kind of rejection you’re dealing with right now, I’m here to do my best to encourage you. You can find hope and support. You can find a way forward that is happier than the place you’re in now. 

Get Clear on What Rejection Means to You

Rejection seems pretty straightforward on the surface. But it can happen in a lot of ways, big and small. Getting clear on what rejection means to you is difficult. It brings up tough feelings and often reminds us of difficult situations. But it can be a valuable way to understand where you’re starting on this journey toward healing your broken heart and feeling better.

  • What does it mean to you to be rejected?
  • What has happened in order for you to feel rejected? 
    • Did a friend turn you down in favor or spending time with someone else? 
    • Did your boyfriend or girlfriend break up with you? 
    • Did a parent or family member express disapproval or disappointment? 
  • Is the pain you’re dealing with now from one big rejection, or a bunch of small ones?
  • Is this the first time you’ve ever dealt with these feelings? 
    • If so, what do you think will help you heal?
    • If not, how did you get beyond such difficult feelings in the past?

Acknowledge What Hurts

It can be tempting to stuff our painful feelings of being rejected down inside ourselves. We might try to ignore them, so we can get back to feeling happy as soon as possible. Or we might try numbing them out with TV, food, drinking, or other things we do to self-soothe.
But the truth of the matter is, we have to acknowledge what hurts. Otherwise, it will just fester, turning into bitterness and resentment over time.
Beyond noticing you feel rejected, perhaps you’ve also struggled with feeling some of these things:

  • Fear: You might be afraid that, since you’ve experienced this rejection, you will only ever experience rejection from here on out.
  • Abandonment: You might feel abandoned by the person you used to consider yourself close to after they reject you.
  • Betrayal: Rejection often brings feelings of betrayal, especially when it comes as a shock or is from someone particularly close to us.

I’m not bringing this up to make you feel worse. But mentioning and understanding our feelings makes them easier to manage, because we can ask for specific support, and we can move forward in a way that makes sense for our feelings and our situation.

Realize Things Will Be Different 

Things are going to be very different in the aftermath of rejection. Whether or not you decide to patch things up, your relationship with the person who hurt you will now feel much more distant. 

Knowing things will shift and change can help you adjust your expectations. You may not be able to go to that same person, or people close to that person, for the quality time and affirmation you need. That does not mean all hope is lost, but you’ll need a different approach.

Things never change only for the worst, though. There will be new growth and new joy in your life, even after a painful rejection from a friend, family member, or loved one. 

You may meet new people, build new relationships, make new friends, and get to know other family members better than you expected to. Any of those new experiences have the potential to bring lots of joy and fun to your life. 

Do Things You Enjoy

Your feelings of rejection might have been compounded by the feeling that this person took up a lot of space in your life and in your heart. Maybe in some ways, it seemed like your sense of happiness was connected to that person. 

Of course, nothing and no one can replace a unique relationship in your life. But there are ways to fill that “hole” the person who rejected you left behind.

Doing things, you enjoy and find meaningful is a great start. You can use this time to find what makes you happy and fulfilled, even when there’s no one around to share it with, Things like:

Have brought me a lot of fulfillments during solitary times of my life. Of course, I still love to be around people special to me. But learning to be happy on my own and focusing on my relationship with God who never will reject me meant there was less pressure on the relationships in my life to always fulfill me and never let me down. 

Find Things to Look Forward To

Does this experience of rejection have you feeling stuck in the past? 

Perhaps it's the immediate past, where you’re replaying your last conversations before the rejection in your head over and over and wondering what you could have done differently. 

Or maybe you’re thinking back over the whole course of the relationship and wishing you could be back in those happier places and times.

Either way, that kind of thinking will leave you feeling emptier and more frustrated after a while. Instead of dwelling in the past, what can you look forward to about the future?

  • Do you have anything exciting coming up at school or work?
  • Is there a new friend you’re enjoying getting to know?
  • Are you planning any road trips?
  • Are you working on a new craft or creative project?

Looking forward to even small things can help us shift our perspective away from the past and make our feelings of rejection easier to manage.

Ground Yourself 

Finding ways to ground yourself can help keep you from getting carried away by painful feelings. You can do this in many different ways, either by yourself or with guidance from someone you trust. Here are some things that might help:

  • Breathing Exercises: In moments when you are overwhelmed by the pain of rejection, take a few seconds to breathe in, hold your breath, and breathe out. This can help you calm the physical feelings of stress that come along with difficult feelings.
  • Focusing on Gratitude: Remembering what and who you are grateful for, even if it’s just a few things, makes a big difference when you are trying to heal during a tough time. 
  • Write down 5-10 things or people you’re grateful for on a notecard. Carry that card with you or put it somewhere you look every day. You may find that, with time, focusing on a few things that make us thankful every day makes the harder things in our lives easier to bear.
  • Meditation or Prayer: Just taking time to think can be very helpful when processing feelings of rejection. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about God, but it helps me to think about how He loves me unconditionally. If you feel open to thinking about that, it could be a source of great comfort to you. 

Get Encouragement When and Where You Need It

I’ve learned a difficult truth from my years of working as a counselor. Not all parents, childhood friends, and partners are as supportive as we think they should be. Just because someone is family, or is dating you, or has been your friend for years, doesn’t mean they’re who you need to listen to for your self-worth, especially if they’ve hurt you this way.

If friends are constantly rejecting or bringing you down, then they aren’t being true friends. If a romantic relationship is negatively impacting you to this extent, then maybe it’s time to break up. And if some of your family relationships are becoming stressful, you don’t have to rely on them for affirmation or trust them to help you through a difficult time.

Who is someone you can still ask for support? Call them or send them a message to let them know you could use some encouragement. If you see a counselor, make an appointment to meet with them and talk things over.

You can also find affirmation by finding out what God says about you. You are beautiful, dearly loved, and created for a purpose.
Talking to a Hope Coach at TheHopeLine can be a great way to share your feelings with someone who will listen without judgment and give you suggestions for how to move forward. Whatever you decide to do, I hope you know I believe in you, and I believe things will get better.

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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