Reframing Rejection: Getting Rejected Doesn’t Always Have to Hurt


“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~Dalai Lama

When I entered college, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I was going to be an actuary, just like my sister.

Judy had just graduated, and she loved her job. My sister and I are very similar (both of us are math nerds, for example), so I knew I would love it too.

While my school didn’t have an Actuarial Science major or any formal preparation for the career, I was able to get ahead, passing the qualifying exams at a rapid clip. And just as I was supposed to, I got a prestigious internship at a big consulting firm the summer after my junior year.

Life was good. I loved my internship. I was being paid handsomely. And I was doing well, as indicated by my performance review.

When the summer was over, all I had to do was wait for the call, the job offer, and I’d be set for life.

That was the plan, at least.

Of course, things never quite work out as planned. So when the phone call eventually came, it wasn’t with a job offer, but rather the only rejection out of our six-person internship class.

While it was disappointing, I knew that with my great qualifications I would get an offer from another big company. In fact, I had connections at some competing firms, which I was sure would lead to another comparable job.

I did everything I had to do. I interviewed perfectly, and no one else who was interviewing for the same positions had passed as many exams as I had.

Yet somehow, it wasn’t good enough. By Christmas, I had gotten rejected from every single company I had applied to.

I wasn’t sure how to feel. Of course, I felt pretty bad. But then, I kind of didn’t.

You see, I was never able to study abroad in college. My roommate spent five months living in Jerusalem, and I was jealous. Suddenly, I was presented with the opportunity to remedy my #1 regret.

And now, nearly a year later, I am living in Netanya, Israel, teaching English and having a great time. Out of rejection came a wonderful opportunity for me.

Perhaps I’m just lucky. I certainly am grateful for the way things turned out. That being said, there is a mindset behind turning rejection into good fortune, and that mindset can be developed.

Does Rejection Always Have to Hurt?

Who says rejection always has to be painful?

You have probably been so concerned with avoiding rejection that it never occurred to you it can sometimes be a good thing.

Maybe you approached a girl and she didn’t give you her number. What if she would have been terrible for you and you saved yourself a lot of trouble by not talking to her again?

Maybe you applied for a job and didn’t get it. What if you would have hated that job, or would have been selling your life away?

As you can see, the idea of rejection is not as clear cut as you may have thought.

Here’s a novel idea: stop looking at everything as success versus failure, or acceptance versus rejection. Instead, see every situation as an opportunity to see what happens and get some feedback about the world. You’ll always get some feedback, so you can’t possibly get rejected!

What to Do If You’ve Been Rejected

You won’t always be able to reframe your rejections quickly and smoothly. The fact is, you are going to experience hurt feelings or negative emotions in these types of situations.

When this happens, you need a fast-acting toolkit of mindsets to adopt and actions to take in order to minimize these negative emotions and get back on your feet. So remember:

1. Don’t take it personally.

It’s not always about you. The girl who was rude to you this morning may have already had a boyfriend, or perhaps her dog died the night before. The company that didn’t give you an interview had hundreds of other applicants, and the budget for only one position.

The rejection might not reflect upon you in the slightest.

2. Remember that we all say no sometimes.

When you get rejected, the other party is simply declining a request. Surely you have denied somebody else’s request before. It’s simply a fact of life that you can’t say yes to everyone all the time.

Just as you have the right to say no to someone else, other people have the right to say no to you. Acknowledge that the other party is at liberty to make this choice.

3. Forgive the other person.

Understand that their saying no may be just as difficult for them as it is for you. Maybe they hate to turn down your job application because they know you would be a great fit, but they needed to hire the boss’ son instead.

4. Try again.

Don’t let a rejection scare you off of future attempts. You are more likely to succeed on your second or third try. And even if you don’t get the result you want, you’ll get feedback so you can keep improving.

5. Realize you don’t need external validation for happiness.

Everything you need to be happy is already within you. External validation feels good, but it’s nothing compared to the happiness you can achieve when you realize you don’t need it.

The feeling of rejection is such a common complaint that it is a wonder that people don’t stop to think of how meaningless it is.

If you can learn to reframe it, you’ll never have to feel the sting of rejection or the paralyzing fear it can cause again.

Your turn: Have you ever successfully reframed a rejection situation? How did you do it?

Photo by jinterwas

About Michael Davidson

Michael Davidson has written for over a year about finding happiness and health. The keys to his heart are dark chocolate and an encyclopedic knowledge of Simpsons quotes. Get his free 8 day e-course on how to create a healthy lifestyle that makes you happy and follow him on Twitter.

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  • Alice

    A break up with a loved one was the worst thing that could have happened to me and yet it was an eye opener, life-changer, world turner, in every way, good and bad. After all, it is how we see things that changes the world for us. Since then I have always been wanting to make sure I always hope that things turn out right even when they feel wrong most of the times, that there is always something you can learn from and move forward with. Thank you for sharing this article.

  • The morale to your story was great.. Rejection does hurt but like you outlined things happen for a reason in life.. I always hold on to this thought : ).. Sunanda mumba

  • Mike Davidson

    Alice, you are so right when you say that the way we see things changes our world. Even events like rough break ups can be viewed in a positive way or at least things to learn from.

  • Bryan

    I got rejected from what seemed a very promising relationship just over a year ago. Looking back, it was bad timing. So I struggle now with moving forward and hoping she’ll return. There is no communication and the holidays have just served as a reminder that she’s gone. I’m hoping that perhaps by next week, with the new year in full motion, perhaps I’ll start moving forward. But the best thing I’m doing now is treating myself with loving kindness. I do hope that there is something better on the way. A peaceful and happy New Year to all of you!

  • timepass

    I found out that the most important thing in my life are my parents, and I still am lucky to have them with me, that cured almost everything! 🙂

  • pam

    thank you, this is so beautifully written

  • Sunny

    Im really sorry for all the pain you must be feeling right now. Life hurts at times. But the bad times really let you feel alive. What is waiting for you Bryan? It’s good to allow yourself to feel down and it’s good to be upset – it’s such a natural process of loss – these feelings always come to an end and then there’s always a new beginning x a peaceful and happy new year to you too xxx

  • Lea

    When I was younger rejection used to hurt. Maybe I was just taking it too personal. Now that I’m older I take it as a learning experience. Re-examining the situation to determine how I can improve.

  • jr dline

    I’ve been rejected so many times in the last few years that I no longer try. The universe was trying to tell me something and I needed to listen. I finally did.

  • Tasha

    Thank you for the words of wisdom. I always tell myself these things about everything happens for a reason and try to be positive. But its always better hearing it or reading it from someone else. Makes me feel much better about my experiences.

  • I know exactly how you feel now Bryan; I just got rejected a few days ago too. 🙁 Letting myself go through the yoyo emotions now, but it WILL get better I’m sure! Continue to treat yourself well- if we can’t love ourselves, then who will? All the best! 🙂

  • Lathi

    I am not rejected but going thru painful relationship. He hardly respond and when I ask him, he says thats his way. He will only respond when he wants to. I am confused with this relationship. I am not sure is he really with me.

  • catherine todd

    How to handle rejection from one’s own family? That’s really hard. There isn’t another chance to “interview for the position” if you know what I mean. Yes, “extended family” does help, but it’s not the same. And this kind of rejection can be permanent and hurts. And you are helpless to do anything about it.

  • Guest

    I wish I could share this article with my former friends. Rejection is part of life. It hurts but it happens. Taking that rejection personally and trying to get back at the other person is not healthy especially for the person who was rejected. We only hurt ourselves when we let rejection really get to us.

  • Joanne

    Yes I really understand. I am also having to deal with this. A friend put it to me this way which I found helpful. “Everyone has their cross to bear. Your cross is your sister. You may always feel hurt by her or thinking of her may stir up hurt by her rejection, but prepare yourself for it and look after yourself. After all, she is just one component in a full and happy life.” I think this was quite helpful and maybe to you too. I have to keep reframing , from “how can my sister be so hurtful” to “my sister doesn’t give a F, and her action/inaction or words are likely to be cruel and unkind. She doesn’t want a relationship with me, so just GET IT”. It’s like I have to continually reframe my idea of her. It’s hard to come to terms with. I think it will take me a while. It’s almost like I have to crush any sense of hope. How about you, any words of wisdom to share from your end ?

  • abby


  • nil

    Handling rejection is a bit different if you have no obligations, yet can afford to drop everything and move to Israel! It’s much harder if you are constantly rejected from every flat you apply to (can’t afford to live alone, no friends/family to live with) and risk becoming homeless (don’t qualify for govt help even though I can’t afford to live alone) if you continue to be rejected.

  • paulie

    I read this article because i deal with rejection daily, from my spouse…in my case all these points are moot, It is very personal, and reframing it only makes you feel better so many times, the fact that the problem is in his head doesn’t do it anymore either, what’s in his head is defining our relationship. I am trying to figure out how much of the problem is me, and how much I need to change me. Not needing external validation is one thing but we all need affection and to feel needed and appreciated by our other half. I feel invisible and I guess I should leave but we work together and own a house together…stupid maybe but I keep hoping things will improve. Any thoughts on my situation are encouraged, even if they are not just trying to make me feel better.