The general rule for applying emotional first aid to psychological wounds is to try all the treatments and see which of them works best for you and your circumstances. Some of them take some time to complete and some of them take some practice-but all of them require you to make a decision that you will take action to heal your emotional wound.
Now that’s you’ve decided to treat your wounds rather than ignore them, or drown them in alcohol or food, or withdraw to your room and stare at the ceiling-let’s get to it:
The first thing you have to do when you’re experiencing a painful rejection is to stop the emotional ‘bleeding’. Here’s how:
Develop a Zero Tolerance Attitude for Self-Criticism:
Although it is natural to become self-critical after you get rejected, doing so will only deepens your psychological wound and makes it hurt more. It is very tempting to want to examine all your faults, your shortcomings, and your inadequacies, to call yourself names and to go through everything you’ve done ‘wrong’, to ignore all the good and focus on the bad. However, kicking yourself when you’re already down achieves no purpose whatsoever.
It’s Not You, It’s Them:
The truth is that when dates don’t work out, when employers don’t hire you, when acquaintances don’t want to become friends, it’s almost always a matter of chemistry or match. In other words, it’s because you weren’t a good ‘fit’. You just didn’t have the skill set the employer wanted, or the right experience, or someone on the inside pulling strings for you. And if someone didn’t want to date you it was probably because you didn’t have the hair color they prefer, or the temperament, or the height, or the extracurricular interests, or the religion or political views, or like the same movies, and the list goes on.
In other words, it wasn’t your fault-it just wasn’t the right match. In addition, you might have been so focused on whether you are right for them (the person or the company, or the friend) that you spend too little time exploring whether they were right for you. If the fit and the chemistry didn’t work for them, in the long term, it wouldn’t have worked for you either.
Revive Your Self-Worth:
Now that you’ve stopped the bleeding, you have to start to heal. We’ve already established that your mood and your self-esteem took a hit-you have to revive them. One of the best ways to do this is to use self-affirmations. Not positive affirmations, but self-affirmations. Here’s how:
Make a list of 5 attributes you have that are specific to the situation. For example if you were rejected by a dating partner-list qualities you have that you value and that you believe are important in relationships such as being loyal, caring, supportive, or considerate. If you were rejected by an employer, list qualities such as being responsible, reliable, punctual, or having a strong work ethic. Again, only list qualities you know you have and you yourself value.
Now, write a brief essay (a paragraph or two) about why the quality matters and how you would express it in the relevant situation (a relationship, friendship, or at work).
Feel free to write about other qualities as well, one essay is the minimum but write as many as you like.
Replenish Feelings of Social Connection:
Since rejections destabilizes your need to belong, it’s important to remind yourself of your connections to others, that you are loved and valued, and that your ‘core group’ accepts you and appreciates you.
Reach out to people who care about you, who make you feel good about being you when you speak to them, or to members of your family who accept you unconditionally. Bring up good times you’ve had together in the past, trips with close friends, holidays with your family, or visits you recall fondly.
I hope these tips help you ease your emotional pain. For many more tips about how to heal from rejection, as well as how to treat failure, guilt, loneliness, brooding and rumination, loss and trauma, and bouts of low self-esteem, check out my book Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries (Hudson Street Press, 2013), or go to my website
Guy Winch Ph.D.
Download the PDF Version here: 8:13:15 How to Treat the Psychological Wounds Rejection Inflicts – Guy Winch Ph.D