Rejection can be such a conundrum because it seems as though no matter how early you experience it, it can still really sting. When it comes to understanding how to deal with dating rejection, normalizing the idea that it has no reflection on your worth is a great place to start. Additionally, according to a 2011 study of rejection published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, it's also important to understand that rejection stings for a reason, and it's not because you're overly sensitive or weak.
In this study, MRI scans of 40 of subjects showed that physical pain and social rejection stimulate the same areas of the brain. "These results give new meaning to the idea that rejection 'hurts.' They demonstrate that rejection and physical pain are similar not only in that they are both distressing — they share a common somatosensory representation as well," the study concludes.
So there's a reason why being rejected can cause that pang deep in the your chest, and it's an experience many are familiar with. Whether you get dumped, ghosted, or turned down after asking someone out, rejection can come in many forms and it's OK to be hurt by it. Understanding how it impacts you can help you process the shame surrounding an experience that's unfortunately integral when searching for companionship, sex, love, and relationships.
Relationship therapist Dr. Gary Brown recommends that you interrogate the feelings you have around rejection. “"What can you learn from it?" he asks. "Are there things about yourself that you need to look at? You have an opportunity to learn and grow from this knowledge. It takes courage to look inside and sometimes we don't always like what we see. But if we can embrace self-awareness then we can improve our chances that the next scenario may have a better outcome.”
When it comes to being rejected, it can be easy to hone in on the fact that you were turned down. Having tunnel vision about this specific experience can be complicated because it could help to zoom out and look at the whole picture. Was the person that rejected you going through their own struggles? Was the timing not right? Were they thinking of the situation the way you were? Having this perspective can help you keep make sense of why this specific rejection happened and remind you that it's not solely because of something you did or said.
The great thing about talking through a rejection with people that love you is that they can remind you of the acceptance you have in your life outside of this isolated event. "What may be a minor event to everyone else may feel like a major event to you," says Klapow. "Communicate your feelings and get things off of your chest. Talking to friends, family members, clergy, and/or your therapist will help not only vent the feelings but also begin to help you process the situation. Telling your story helps your brain put closure on the event."
Getting rejected has a surprisingly good side to it, and that's the fact that you're putting yourself out there. Trying and failing is the best sign that you're attempting new things and getting out of your comfort zone.
It's also important to remember that you can keep trying, despite this particular rejection that has slowed you down a little bit. Klapow suggests, "Give it a little time. But getting back and trying dating again will not only give you a chance to experience success vs. rejection. But you will become slightly better able to handle the feelings should they occur again."
Have you ever had a computer glitch where you turn on your computer and a million tabs reopen? That's kind of what rejection can feel like in the heat of the moment — overwhelming, confusing, shocking. You may get turned down after asking someone on a date or left on read, and that can call forth a bunch of past experiences with rejection that can all sting. The thing is, rejection is something everyone has to deal with and process at some point or other. Allowing yourself to look this rejection head on and believing that you're still worthy of love is a great start to healing. And you don't have to process it all in one day, so, if all else fails, you can take today to recover and try again tomorrow.