Categorized | Rejection

Rejection Sensitivity: Three Ways to Beat It!

“Do not waste yourself in rejection; do not bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rejection doesn’t feel good to any of us. But, some of you respond better to being refused than others do. It’s easier for you to separate out who you are, personally, from the rejecting person or circumstance, as you are secure. Because, no only means no, you don’t feel unlovable, unaccepted, or disrespected. Of course, you may hurt temporarily, but you do not waste yourself in barking against the bad.

In contrast, some of you respond to rejection more deeply than the average person. You anxiously expect, readily perceive, and intensely respond to rejection as a total dislike of you. To you, rejection is saying that everything about you is wrong.

If you experience rejection in this powerful way, you may have a clinical syndrome called Rejection Sensitivity (RS) that can undermine your well being. To you, being refused in love, career, or friendship means something is wrong with you. You have difficulty separating out self-worth and lovability from having a desire or need unreturned. In your mind, if you were only better looking, more agreeable, powerful, wittier, smarter, or thinner, you would have what you want.

Undeniably, it’s hard to be you, as you turn rejection against yourself, which makes you prone to long stretches of self-hatred, depression, and physical and emotional fatigue. To protect yourself, you have learned to avoid people and situations that put you at risk of refusal. This may work in the short-term. But, you are avoiding the exact experiences that you need to learn how to relate healthily.

Rejection Sensitivity

Sensitivity to rejection isn’t just a passing fancy of the self-help movement. It’s a serious symptom of the mood and personality disorders that results in an inability to regulate emotions, exert self-control, and the tendency to give too much personal meaning to life happenings that it undermines the ability to cope with frustrating experiences.

RS often accompanies disorders of mood, like Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and the Bipolar Disorders (I & II), because, here, the operations of the ego are comprised. Together, medication and psychotherapy strengthen the biology so that the brain’s higher processes (the ego’s secondary brain processes) can be accessed. However, the effectiveness of treatment depends upon the strength of one’s identity and ego prior to the onset of the mood condition. If a personality disorder (Avoidant, Narcissistic, or Borderline) accompanies the mood condition, and has rejection sensitivity as a main symptom component, then, treatment effectiveness may be lessened.

eucalyptus tree falling over deborah khoshaba

Shallow-rooted Eucalyptus Tree

Avoidant, Narcissistic, and Borderline persons take rejection very hard. It’s a life and death situation, for them, and, sadly, sometimes literally. For example, having a romantic interest reject them, or being turned down for a job is taken so badly that they feel their lives are over, and that they have nothing for which to live. You hear all or nothing type statements, like “I can’t live without this person.” Or, “Now, I have nothing to live for.”  You may call them drama queens, as their emotional turmoil can feel like a Shakespearean tragedy. But, their upsets have less to do with creating drama for the sake of drama than it does a lowering of their fragile self-esteem. The shallow-rooted eucalyptus tree personifies their sense of self. Every look and communication has the ability to overwhelm and knock them down. If you find yourself in this description, let’s toughen you up, so that no amount of rejection can uproot you.

Chant the Beauty of Your Good

Learn how to stand firm in the face of rejection. You have to know three realities of rejection that will free you of its control and let you chant the beauty of your good, no matter the ill winds that come your way.

  1. Rejection is state of meaning. It’s true, you can be denied by a person or a situation. But, you decide what rejection means to you, by the way you explain the situation to yourself. Many of you tell me that you are “destroyed” and “can’t go on living” because your affection was unreturned or you didn’t get into the school or job of choice. When you assign life and death meaning to being refused, you have nowhere to go but broken and down. You’ve hemmed yourself into a trap by meanings that uproot you completely. Here, I’m talking less about being falsely happy or positive and more about changing the way that you speak about a situation, by the meaning you assign to it. You will be able to handle rejection, when you start to describe it in ways that don’t destroy your self-esteem. Turn a statement like, “I am destroyed and can’t go on living” into “I’m hurting, but not broken or down”. Your whole demeanor changes just by the meaning you give to the experience. Test it out for yourself.
  2. Rejection is a state of bodyResearch shows that a nervous system that is braced on threat is also fixed on perceiving rejection. You perceive rejection like a ferocious tiger was running toward you. But, instead of fighting the situation you fear, you have learned to avoid people and situations that put you at risk of rejection. You may feel safe in the short-term. But, in the long-term, you are avoiding the exact experiences that you need to reduce your fear and grow in the process (Science Daily, Pain Sensitivity and Social Rejection). To be resilient in the face of rejection, you need to lower your brain and body response to perceived threat. Deep breathing and relaxation exercises are vital to achieving this goal. Learning how to deep breathe through the Alternate Nostril Breathing exercise is an excellent way to lower your response to threat.
  3. Rejection informs you as to what you need to grow. Everything that happens to you is grist for personal development, including rejecting experiences. Perhaps, the toughest and also best learning experiences are those in which needs and desires are frustrated. If everything went your way, you’d have little to make you stop and think about what you really need to learn and grow. What a shallow person you’d be, indeed. Thus, carpe diem! Seize the moments of rejection to learn about yourself. Ask yourself, “How might this experience benefit me?” rather than crying over how it has ruined your life. So many of you let the details of the rejecting experience fill up your mind and heart so that there’s no space for you to self-reflect. Why this occurred dominates your reasoning process, rather than what can I learn from this experience. And, sadly, you do this to the point of depression and exhaustion. Know that we’ve all been there and understand your pain. But, to move beyond rejection, you have to stop asking why and start asking how you can benefit psychologically and spiritually from being denied.

Remember, it is less important that you may have started out vulnerable to rejection than knowing how to be resilient in spite of it. Thus, the next time you are denied, chant the beauty of your good, by letting these three truths of rejection guide your thinking and actions. Even if you have to fake it at the start, if you let these truths guide you, you’ll grow more secure and resist being knocked down.

If you liked my post today, please let me know by selecting the Like icon that immediately follows. You can also Tweet or Google+1 it to let your friends know about the ideas in today’s articles. Warmly Deborah.

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70 Responses to “Rejection Sensitivity: Three Ways to Beat It!”

  1. avatar Zaheer Ud Din says:

    Excellant article

  2. avatar hiwa says:

    hi i want know anything about your academic can you tell me please.

  3. avatar Usman says:

    yes i hv this RS … i feel too depressed whn something like this happens to me … what should i do ??

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Usman, rejection can be very depressing. You are not alone. Even though some people take it harder than others, I can’t think of any person who isn’t affected by it some. Usman, if you find that rejection gets you down for weeks or months, you may have a clinical syndrome that is making you more sensitive, like a clinical depression. First consider if your sensitive to rejection is related to a clinical depression. If you think it is, please see some of my articles on depression. I recommend several things that you can do. I think it’s very important when you feel down like this to exercise and eat well, which has been shown to affect mood positively. Also, remember, the three aspects of rejection that I mention here. If you remind yourself daily of them when you are down, believe me, you will get better, even if slowly. I hope this helps for now Usman. Warmly Deborah.

  4. avatar dr1 sajidashraf says:

    very nice and informable article, it will help me in future a lot.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Dr. Sajidashraf. Thank you. There’s nothing that pleases me more than that these articles are helpful to people. See you again here soon. Warmly Deborah.

  5. As usual, Debbie, you are right on. Needless to say, rejection is a stressful phenomenon. But, the important thing is to see it for what it is, and learn from the situation. This emphasis on analyzing the stress, learning from it, and letting what you learn influence how you think, feel, and act is extremely important. Your article helps us understand all this.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Sal, I love that you emphasize rejection as a stressor to be learned from. Thank you again for your support and friendship. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Ruth says:

        Hello Dr. Khoshaba,

        Thank you for this article! I am also encouraged by seeing all your thoughtful responses to people’s questions in the comments. I am hoping you might be able to provide some examples of mantras that might help when the fear that you so aptly described as a “tiger running toward you” kicks in. Additionally, do you have any additional advice about what questions you should ask yourself in order to learn from these kinds of moments? Especially for those that see rejection as a reflection of their self-worth.

        I thank you in advance for your time.

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          Hello Ruth, sorry for the long delay in getting back to you. Good questions. Ruth, you might try this very simple mantra: When that tiger’s running toward you: You say:
          “Breathe in calm” as you take a deep, slow breath and then upon exhale say
          “Breathe out confidence”. Of course, the more you practice this, it will become yours. Sensitivity to rejection is often biologically based, as you know. Sometimes people inadvertently increase their sensitivity to feared situations through too much stimulating food and drink during the day. Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation and diet are excellent ways to reduce your rejection sensitivity.

          Also, challenge any negative ideas that you have about yourself socially, as these are the ideas that stimulate anxiety and fear. I have an article called Compassionate Self Talk; here’s the link for you If you haven’t read it already, please do. As you know too well, sensitivity to rejection can lower our self esteem and self love.

          I hope this helps for now Ruth. Thank you again. Good luck and Warm regards Deborah.

  6. avatar arslan says:

    Dr Deborah its a very good….how we release our thinking from One person..?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Arsian, thank you. It is hard, I know. But, remember two things, one is time heals much. I am going to use a computer analogy, here, to help you to see how getting over someone works. When we attach our heart and mind to a person, it’s like we created a folder in our mind and we stored a lot of images, fantasy, memories, and feelings in that folder, to the point where it took up much space in us. This folder, right now, is in easy random access memory–so that anything during your day can easily activate this folder of everything that draws you into thinking about the person. Now, you can think of each day as deleting what is contained in that folder, but because feelings are attached, the delete process is a little slow (3, 6 months). But, believe me, each day is deleting what’s in this folder so that eventually everything that was in it has less and less ability to consume you.

      Now, you can help the process go a little faster and less painfully, if you don’t give yourself over to it by letting the three aspects of rejection guide you from day to day until you heal.

      I hope this explanation helps you. You will release yourself eventually my friend. Warm regards Deborah.

  7. avatar Hania Ali says:

    very enlightening article, very useful for us.. thnx Dr. Deborah Khoshaba..:)

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you Hania, I’m so glad it is useful to you and to others. Good to see you here again. Warmly Deborah.

  8. avatar Nadeem says:

    This all is matter of mind and may not drive mechanically, so need is to engage your self in healthy activity, live with peoples like each other and have fun around boldly.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Nadeem, how to deal with rejection is a lot of managing one’s thinking process. You are right. Warmly Deborah.

  9. avatar Tasnuva Sultana (Moon) says:

    I would like to know about love complications from You. I never understand what is it all about.

  10. avatar Rajib H says:

    Sometimes it’s really hard to forget and get over certain experiences of rejection. I know what you say in this article is true and a surefire way to get rid of RS. But the memories of the person involved remains. And it’s almost impossible to accept that people can change so drastically. One minute you think you know this person and s/he is trustworthy, and the very next minute that same person stabs you in the heart. Trust goes out the window when you experience something like that.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Rajib, it is hard to forget some rejecting experiences. You are right and sometimes, even though we have moved on, the pain of them, and, the memory of the experience, can stay with us, reappearing when we are physically tired and emotionally down. Rejection in love can be one of the hardest, because we give so much of ourselves when we love. But, don’t let the rejection stop you from trying once again. You will try again someday and it will work out. Then, the pain of this experience will lessen even more. Take good care. Warmly Deborah.

  11. avatar mina says:

    Dr Debora yiur article is excellent. RS Is a kind of experience which all of us experienced in our life. it is up to us whether learned from it and be strong or destroy our life. your article is helpful for me bcz i am very sensitive towards rejection.. but i also want to cope with this kind of feeling. know your article is clear guideline for me. thanks alot

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mina. Thank you. You are so supportive and thoughtful. You are right, each of us has experienced the pain of rejection. And, it can teach us and make us stronger if we use the experience to our growth. Mina, many times, people sensitive to being hurt are also very intuitive and capable of sensing other’s feelings and needs. I bet your sensitivity is also your strength. I value your comments much Mina. Warmly Deborah.

  12. avatar mariam says:

    wonderful article……it helped me alot

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mariam, well, as you know, this makes me happy. I”m sure glad you find the information helpful. Thank you so much for your support and for taking time to comment today. Warmly Deborah.

  13. avatar why all muslims are depressed? says:

    Why all muslims are depressed?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Sobi, I wish I had an answer for you, but because I haven’t done research, I cannot offer you scientific information with regard to your observation. It seems that you are asking about the rate of depression amongst various religious groups and persons and if this rate differs from populations of people who are not religious. I’m sure there are studies with regard to your question Sobi, but I haven’t researched this topic. If you haven’t already, you may want to ask friends, family members and other muslims who may have knowledge of this issue or who will explore the question with you. Warm regards to you Sobi. Thank you for stopping by today. Deborah.

  14. avatar Dr Munir says:

    v nyc article.. v deal with psychitrc patients, ths article has added to my knowldge

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Dr. Munir, thank you very much. Rejection can really get in the way of our patients getting better. I’m honored that you find the information helpful to your work. Looking forward to seeing you here again. Warmly Deborah.

  15. avatar arzoo says:

    thanku mam its realy informative for me .and also helpfull information

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Arzoo, I’m glad you find the information in the article helpful. This makes me very happy. Thank you for letting me know Arzoo. Warmly Deborah.

  16. avatar Abdul Wajid says:

    Its Superb, Nice Work, I Would Lov To Apreciate.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Abdul. Thank you. I appreciation your kind words and taking time to comment. Look forward to seeing you here again soon.Warmly Deborah.

  17. avatar Laura says:

    Thank you for your helpful article. How would you deal with the physical reaction to “harmless” rejection? How do you stop yourself from crying uncontrollably for what you know it should be a little thing and making people around you feel bad?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      You are so welcome Laura. You are right to call it “harmless rejection”. Laura most sensitivity has to do with over personalizing what people say or do. You have to learn how to listen to what others say without always attributing it to something back about you. You have to learn to see that it is harmless–because what people say or do says more about who they are than something about you. You see, we can only get hurt when we believe, to some degree, that what a person says or feels about us is true. If you really know something is not true or right about you, then it doesn’t bother you right? So, the best way to get beyond your sensitivity to rejection is to keep challenging your ideas that something said or done to you is something bad about you.

      The next time you feel hurt and rejected, I want you to say, STOP, to yourself, THIS IS MORE ABOUT THEM THAN ME. Then, do not permit yourself to think about the situation again, until it comes into your mind. You repeat this statement as often as the idea about your hurt comes back into your mind. I know, this sounds to easy to be true. But, if you keep doing it, you break the habit of allowing yourself to dwell on the hurtful idea or feeling. You are basically telling your mind–I’m in control, not you. You take good care Laura. Warmly Deborah.

  18. avatar Adrian says:

    These are the best advises on can give from philosophical and psychological point of view. Unfortunately, they are like mild pain relief or band-aids at best. Reaction to rejection is first and foremost a physiological reaction in the brain. MRI studies show that social rejection activates same zones in the brain as those responsible for physical pain. Its evolutionary ingrained because in the past solitary humans simply did not survive, human depend on the group for survival. Its an involuntary reaction, just like you will scream if someone cuts off your arm. No amount of rationalization or positive thinking will numb that pain. People who are hyper-sensitive to rejection are not so because their have the “wrong outlook” – they have an unfortunate physiology. Taking dating. I know men and women who have low sensitivity, they don’t think much about being rejected, brush it off and very quickly move on. I know others who become devastated and it very negatively effects their life. Emotional state dictate thought patterns that legitimize that emotional state, not thoughts alter emotional patterns. It would be more useful to provide information on how one can train one’s brain not to be sensitive, how to numb your reactions so they don’t cripple your life. You can build callouses on the limbs against physical pain (professional martial artists do precisely that through years of practice). Some allege that you can numb physical pain through deep states of hypnosis (an alternative to anesthesia). What would be really helpful to know if similar steps can be taken with respect to social rejection.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Adrian, thank you. Adrian, it’s true that the biology is very related to being very sensitive. And, it is not the right understanding to assume that the person just needs a positive attitude. You make a good point that treatment of rejection sensitivity requires a treatment of the biology. And, also you are right that emotional state dictates thinking and vice versa. It sound like you have a lot of understanding of being sensitive to rejection. Adrian, in our psychology, I think the way you use callouses here would only be a defensive operation against a sensitivity to rejection. Yes, we could become indifferent as a defense. But, we lose joy through indifference.

      Rejection sensitivity is a burden, in that it takes a lot of work to desensitize the nervous system. But, through mindfulness meditation, relaxation of the body, the proper diet, and also medication (if needed), the person can develop a biology and understandings that make him or her less reactive to feeling rejected. Thank you very much for your contributions here to our understanding. Warmly Deborah.

  19. avatar Geraldine says:

    Great article Deborah, has helped me knowing that I am not alone. Having read your article I believe I am definitely Rejection Sensitive – I think depending on how my mood is it can catch me at different sensitivity levels. One thing I’m sure of is that it has reoccurred throughout my life, and has caused me to make bad negative choices, instead of taking rejection.
    I am keen to know what you recommend as ‘treatment’ in the long term, your article is great but I think I would benefit from some kind of therapy. What type of person would I need to see: my doctor, CBT, counselling etc?

    Thank you

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you Geraldine. You are not alone. And, in fact, you probably have many gifts that come along with the sensitivity. You are so right. The downside is that the sensitivity can lead people to say or do things they later regret, because you feel hurt. I think it’s particularly important for sensitive types to learn to choose friends and lovers who have very good intentions. You make a good point about the therapy. Yes, I think CBT with counseling as part of it is great. Cognitive behavioral therapy really helps to challenge the negative perceptions and techniques, like Mindfulness therapies are excellent for learning how to stay present so that you don’t let your negative perceptions and ideas carry you away to the point where you start acting on them. I have some articles on the site on Mindfulness and Self talk therapies, just in case you haven’t seen them yet. Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment today. Hope to see you here again soon. Warm regards Deborah.

  20. avatar Cookie says:

    Thank you so much for your article! I’m so glad I’m not alone! For as long as I can remember, I’ve been struggling to cope – mentally, emotionally and physically – with rejection (even over something as simple as an acquaintance not wanting to accept my Facebook friend request) and over the years, I’ve learnt to avoid situations where I might get rejected. I thought there must have been something very, very wrong with me to always feel this way, especially when my friends and family tell me that I just “think too much”. I guess I’ve got a long way to go to build my resilience.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Cookie, I’m sorry for the delay in responding to you. No, you are most definitely not alone. Sensitive people are often emotionally gifted. There is a balance between avoiding people and situations that are poor fits for your emotional sensitivity while at the same time working on creating a healthy boundary between you and other people so you know what is your stuff and what is yours. It is a challenging job most certainly for sensitive, gifted people. Take good care. Warmly deborah.

  21. avatar VA says:

    Really! I just started researching items about me and I found your article. Very enlightening. I am over 50, I remember being rejected by my mother when I was 5 because I hugged her too tight. She called my father to get me off of her. I have 3 br. and sis. all born within 5 years, I’m the oldest. I grew up with cateye glasses and a wonderful overbite. None of it changed till I was 16. being called names and ostricised while young is a very hard thing to change. Now, I don’t go anywhere, and get stark raging mad if relatives tease me or are critical about me. I don’t ask people for anything, and if I do, it can take months to get. I very rarely speak-up anymore. I have bi-polor, inappropriate affect and and a few physical syndromes for which I was told I would not be able to handle. I was put on 5 psy. drugs at the same time. I have been off of everything, ex. 1 for physical syndromes, for 2 years. Now wonder if I should go back on them.

    thank you, take care

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello VA. Oh, I can see why this powerful memory stays with you. No matter if she didn’t feel well or was in a bad mood or stressed–it doesn’t matter. You were just a five year boy who wanted to hug his mom. We call her inappropriate emotional response, a lack of emotional attunement with a child. I’m sorry. I hope that this event did not characterize her emotional responsiveness to you. But, I fear it most likely did. You describe here well how sensitivity to rejection can cause one to socially withdraw. The problem as you know is that we can’t get our needs met and learn to bring people into our lives who show us that we are lovable and worthwhile.

      VA, a relationship with a good, supportive and emotionally responsive therapist can do much to heal this wound. I hope your treatment includes this. Thank you for saying hello today and sharing your experience with me. You take good care. I look forward to seeing you here again. Warmly deborah.

  22. avatar Denise Poyner says:

    Hello Deborah.
    Many thanks for your wonderful article. I too experience rejection sensitivity. After many years of therapy, I am learning about myself and how to cope with my sensitive emotional state, and how to reveiw my thinking. It is a very long and slow process for me. Your article helps me to put several pieces of this enormous puzzle together.
    I know life can be lived differently by understanding the rejection sensitivity, and by having a warm and caring therapist.

    I was particularly interested in how the rejection sensitivity highlighted gifts. That is something I will look for in myself, so I have an awareness of myself. Certainly, I think that musicianship and a high level of empathy are very good gifts I have.
    Kind regards

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Denise, you are very welcome. You sound very thoughtful – psychological. This is a great gift and a curse, only because it makes you sensitive. But, it sounds like you are using your intuitive sensitivity toward self understanding that will help you to get ahold of this issue. Have you tried mindfulness exercises? The more you can observe what you think and feel without getting lost in it, the more you’ll strengthen the boundary between you and other people — and without losing that great gift you have of being very empathic. I know your challenge well 🙂 and am here to tell you, you can get ahold of it.

      Be well Denise. Warmly Deborah.

  23. avatar mel says:

    Thank you for such a detailed and reassuring article – I can’t wait to apply these principles to a current life situation that has been plaguing me for years. I feel extreme pain when i feel rejected and feel under equipped to deal with such instances rationally. I seem to exit my body when this happens to me and just pretend like everything is okay. It’s so abnormal that it becomes impossible to admit it to others and just go along with their idea that “everything will be alright”.. 🙂

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mel, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I’m so glad that my post gave you the information you needed to deepen your understanding and to reassure you. Please let me know how it all goes for you. And, don’t hesitate to see a counselor if you need to. Thinking of you. I hope 2015 brings you less and less sensitivity to feeling rejected. Warm regards Deborah.

  24. avatar Anon says:

    I only found out I was rejection sensitive this year at the age of 28! I had previously reacted to rejection badly once, but it was years ago and was a particularly cruel form of breakup that occurred at the same time as me losing everything else in life I wanted, and being very excessively criticised by my family (one parent told me my ex had left just so they could be as far away from me as possible, while the other phoned me up to read out a list of my failures over the previous year). I was floored for 18 months and I was desperate and unable to cope with the incredible pain I experienced that I lost friends. I wasn’t being horrible to them in any way, it was just difficult for others to deal with such longstanding and gutwrenching pain – and yes, I think they probably did think I was being a drama queen, although I find it perfectly understandable looking at the circumstances.

    That was until earlier this year when I had a repeat of almost exactly the same level of pain over a much smaller rejection, this time from someone I’d just met, which led to a similar level of desperation and a lot of confusion for me (I didn’t know why I felt like I ‘needed’ to see the person again, it made no sense to me, as I had no feelings for them). This is what taught me that a huge part of that pain must be due to what I was telling myself. I then realised that I am rejection sensitive only in one circumstance – when someone who says they like me a lot, or even love me, never wants to see me again. The message is ‘you have done something so terrible – or you are something so terrible – that even though I like/love you I am totally ok with never seeing you again. The self-criticism that will barrel through my head makes this rejection all the worse, and now that I look at how my parents react to me, none of it is surprising. It can be difficult to garner the support of friends in this situation, where looking back I wonder if I seemed like I was looking for attention or something. I was saying out loud the things that came into my head because I just wanted someone to make it go away, I think, which included things like ‘I feel like I’m dying’ (I genuinely did) and ‘People like me can’t have nice things’. I think they probably thought I was being melodramatic, but those two things felt 100% true at the time.

    What is surprising, is that I’m not generally rejection sensitive. I don’t take offence when others don’t want to talk to me, or don’t think I’m physically attractive, for instance. I don’t even get upset if I ‘come on’ to someone and they’re not interested. I also work in a rejection-heavy environment and don’t have any problems there either.

    Due to the force my self-criticism, I have learned that it’s simply not possible to think my way out of the despair. I tried to be self-compassionate last time but now that I look back on my attempts, they’re still painfully critical (‘You’re not ready for a relationship right now because you’re not a well person, but don’t worry you can work on yourself’ – this reads as basically, you are unacceptable but can be fixed). Instead of trying to change my thoughts, which I’ve learned takes creativity I am simply incapable of if self-criticism is in full swing, I try to use mindfulness, which is to ask myself how thinking is helping me, realise it isn’t, and concentrate instead on what is happening at this very moment. The other thing I’m doing is building my resilience in other ways by recognising when my self esteem is hit in every day life and overcoming these small dents to practice. I’m thinking of also making a ‘break-up’ box for myself to be used in the case of any rejection that causes intolerable pain (not necessarily a break-up….), full of the balanced and self-compassionate thoughts I’ve had when not under the influence of that pain that I don’t think I’ll be able to muster at the time.

  25. avatar Shawn says:

    I took the rejection sensitivity questionnaire and just stopped in the middle because I realized how ridiculous I am. I can’t even imagine doing any of those things. I don’t ask for favors. In romantic relationships I NEVER try to “take it to the next level” unless I am 100% sure she wants to. I never ask for help unless I am 100% sure the person wants to.

    If I have even the slightest doubt, I don’t take the chance. I m terrified of asking a girl to dance or approaching a girl I find attractive to hit on her because of how damaging rejection is to my ego. My entire life I’ve only dated women who threw themselves at me, and ended all contact with them the second I perceived them as losing their admiration of me. I’m not a narcissist in any other aspect of my life, but my ego for romantic-related rejection is extremely extremely fragile. I hate being this way.

    I did not find this article helpful, no offense. I can’t CBT my way out of this. I already know it is irrational. I already know that the meaning I attach to it is unhealthy and doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t help. I even decided to just be a loner and never marry, because my pride wouldn’t be able to handle my wife leaving me.

  26. avatar Per says:

    Well, this guidance (and many other pieces of self-help guidance) is nice and easy to follow when one is in a “balanced” state of mind. However, when the inappropriate neurotransmitters flood the brain, and we get emotional (e.g. about the rejection), it is not easy to think straight and control the behaviour. Any thoughts on how to act in an acute crisis situation?

  27. avatar Anon2 says:

    Anon I know how you feel. It’s just happened to me and all my friends don’t understand why I am feeling so bad. Our biology changes from intense or recurrent experiences and our thought patterns get ingrained, especially if we are generally sensitive folk in the first place. I am in the depths of it right now but these posts have helped. X

  28. avatar renroh says:

    This starts off pretty good, but falls apart at the solution stage. This offers absolutely nothing if all you’ve ever known is rejection and you don’t think you’ll ever form the bonds you need in life, not with one person who is currently rejecting you, but with anyone because everyone rejects you.

  29. avatar dr skmi says:

    wonderful article. thankyou. very halpfull in all respects. keep the good work going. its a ultimate treasure to people who come across this who are in need of support. congratulations and thankyou once again.

  30. avatar Kevin says:

    I have read several articles on this subject and yours by far is the best. Thank you! You have done a great job explaining the realness of this syndrome as well as offered practical advice with examples. The only thing I would add is for people to seek God or “religious” support if they are so inclined. Thanks again

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Kevin, first, thank you for following Psychology in Everyday life. I’m glad you found the article on Rejection Sensitivity very helpful. Thank you for the added recommendation. I believe in God too. And, I know first hand on how faith in God can guide us to help ourselves. But, even if a person believes in a higher power but not per se a God – he has a guide to know the spiritual part of self has self-compassion and will have the faith and courage to test the rejection waters so to speak. So I’m sure many people will appreciate your comment Kevin. You take good care. Warm regards Deborah.

  31. avatar Laurie says:

    Deborah – I have struggled with rejection for about 15 years. I am 49 now. I was very close friends with a neighbor of mine and her Daughter and my Daughter used to play together. My neighbor and I got into an argument about a feud our Daughters got into. Basically, we were defensive I would think to protect our Daughters. I told her I was sorry because I said something to her that was hurtful but she wasn’t nice to me during the argument either. I wanted so badly to let the past go since we were such good friends (We did a lot together)and I truly valued our friendship. Well, she didn’t accept my apology because I have been ostracized ever since and I also know she made other neighbors dislike me as well. They also get together at each others houses and no longer invite me or my family. I have been so devastated by this. It hurts so much. It’s very hard when we see eachother because we just say hi to one another. I don’t have any other friends close to me except for a couple but they are not very close friendships like my other couple neighbor friends I once had. I often feel so lonely too. Sure, I have a Husband, Daughters and Son who I know love me but I still feel inadequate. I feel so sad when I see other close-nit friendships because I don’t have those kind of friendships. I have already tried meeting new people but they never develop into much no matter how much I give of my self. I am a very compassionate and caring person and life really sucks sometimes living like this. Your article did help and I did go to counseling for quite a while but that didn’t help.



  32. avatar S says:

    Im in a long term relationship with a person that has frequent low mood and little communication or awareness of it. Coupled with my tendancy to focus on others emotions as a signal for rejection, it is a longstanding problem that is now at the point where i have ran out of options and considering leaving. Do you have any advice please?

  33. avatar Mickey G says:

    I know whom and what to avoid, but I can’t find anyone with the interests I need to share. Looking for them sets me up for more rejection. That means that what I need to do to overcome it brings me more of the same.

    Mental health professionals have added to the problem by telling me I can’t expect to find the acceptance I need.

    What on Earth am I meant to do?

  34. avatar Toddleston says:

    I checked this website in desperation for a problem I’ve had since as long as I can remember thinking, in the same desperation that led me to see probably 30+ psychologists and psychiatrists over the course of my life and make my parents (who never hurt me in any way) feel like they’re living in hell 24/7. I’m thirty-four, have a B.A. with a perfect 4.0 GPA, am working on my Ph.D, as yet still with a perfect GPA, and am still commuting from my parents’ basement because I’m scared to apply for jobs anymore – too many rejections. Sadly, you sound like every therapist I’ve seen, and you don’t really get it:
    1. Please don’t belittle my intelligence by suggesting I equate rejection with meaning “everything is wrong with me.” There are different types of rejection. If a romantic partner rejects me, it affects how I feel about my looks or my personality. If I get a “B” instead of an “A” at school, it affects how I feel about my smarts. If I get turned down for a job, it affects how I feel about my functionality and self-sufficiency. This is one of the most degrading things therapists do – make a ridiculously broad statement like “you feel like everything is wrong with you.” I’m not six years old anymore.
    2. The whole idea of “self-worth” makes no sense. We are what we do or don’t do. We are what we do to others or to ourselves. We are our achievements and our failures. I can say something a million times to myself or someone else, but it doesn’t make me believe it – this is what “self-worth” feels like to me, attempting to lie to oneself. I need a logic-based argument that truly convinces me; and the argument can’t be, “thinking or believing this way will make you feel better.” Of course I recognize many of my thoughts and feelings are counterproductive, but I cannot seem to change them, hard as I try. Feel-good ideas without logical bases do nothing.
    3. Self-hatred for me doesn’t always come from someone else. It comes from my own head, from a part of my brain I don’t like – a part that almost seems (metaphorically speaking) like it’s not really me. I cannot turn this part off.
    4. As soon as someone says “toughen up” in any context whatsoever, I get aggressive to that person. I know I’m weak and cowardly, and it’s offensive for people to suggest I’m just staying this way because I haven’t bothered to “toughen up” by choice or, worse yet, because no one told me I ought to do it.
    5. “You decide what rejection means to you” – this is exactly why therapy has failed me my whole life. I CAN’T JUST SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THE WAY I FEEL AND THEN FEEL THAT WAY. As I mentioned already, I can say it multiple times to myself or others, but it doesn’t make it so. I can’t just “decide” to make rejection hurt less. I can say it doesn’t, but then I’m just lying.
    6. Reliance on others to make a rejection-sensitive person feel better is directly counter-intuitive. No one has ever made me feel better about myself more than for a brief while when I first meet him or her, the “honeymoon” phase as I call it. Once they hurt me, they’re tainted forever and their complements or good sentiment mean nothing. I would think you know this because this is what “rejection-sensitivity” is all about. Good feelings are fleeting, but hurt stays on high volume forever.
    7. How can I learn from something that hurts when it hurts just as much every time I remember it? Of course I will avoid these memories and not learn from them because they never fade in intensity over time.

    -Disgruntled with the mental health field

    • avatar Toddleston says:

      Very interesting that the “doctor” only replies to positive comments. Is this how you claim to help people?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, I don’t respond to comments immediately but do get to everyone who writes to me. I’m sorry to hear how disappointed you are in your therapy and the mental health field. A sensitivity to rejection can have many sources as you see from this article. I don’t know the nature of your treatment so I can’t comment on its quality.

      You do cite much disappointment here. I can only suggest that you keep reading and trying to understand the nature of your issues and most importantly that you do not give up on yourself and treatment. There are very good therapists who are able to help diagnose the nature of your difficulties. I’m sorry I could not be more helpful to you in this context. Best regards to you, Deborah

    • avatar Intuitive70 says:

      Have you ever tried zoloft? It helped me not be so porous, gave me a sort of teflon surface and a more cheerful disposition. Also, a psychiatrist told me that it can permanently “teach” your brain away from its usual patterns.

      • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

        It’s a great medication for sensibly issues. Thank you for sharing this with our audience. Best regards Deborah

  35. avatar Betsy says:

    The good doctor has some good advice for those who do not have a physiological cause for their RSD. I have had it for my entire life and only recently discovered that it can be a symptom of ADHD and that there are medications that can help.

    I knew I had ADHD but I had never heard of it being linked to RSD until I found this article. I hope you will both look at this link

    If the link does not come up, google ADHD Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and/or Dr. William Dodson, M.D.

    I am going to start this medication as soon as I can get it.

  36. avatar Intuitive70 says:

    So here’s my issue, which I feel is a nuance. My anticipatory fear is greater than my devastation once actually rejected. But it does help create the rejection. I have pushed away many partners who showed some ambiguity, without being able to take a wait and see attitude and let the person perhaps resolve their own ambivalence (sometimes they weren’t even ambivalent). It might also lead me to choose people who are unavailable which I think is a particularly cruel twist in this.

    I mentioned in a separate comment that I tried zoloft and experienced relief. But the weight gain associated there didn’t help me feel desirable so it felt like a catch 22.

    Is there something I can do behaviorally to teach myself to sit with my feelings instead of confronting the other person with my fear, which may not have much to do with their reality?

  37. avatar Keesh says:

    Dear Dr. Deborah,
    I’ve been suffering from anxiety, pure OCD, panic disorder etc for years now but more importantly, from RSD – Rejection-Sensitive-Dysphoria.
    When I got “rejected” by my “dream girl” in university in 2001, I was totally destroyed – had hallucinations,drinking problems and could have failed but I was very lucky to pass. I always suffered from rejection issues, acceptance from others etc – I’ve always been single and now at 37, looking to overcome this once and for all. PLEASE HELP ME.
    Toronto, ON CANADA

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Keesh, thank you for wtiting me. I know dealing with a rejection sensitivity is difficult. It makes one’s world smaller. I don’t know what you’ve tried so far to reduce your fear and anxiety but please look to some of my recommendations in my post to guide you. Yes I have said that medication can help to lower a person’s fears enough to take risks socially. But if you are opposed to this, I suggest trying cognitive restructuring your fearful thinking. Look this term up and see what I speak to here. You must work on challenging statements and attitudes about rejection. Like, I’ll be so hurt if I’m rejected or so embarrassed. The challenge is to repeat over and over the opposite. Like I’ll be fine. This happens to everyone at times. Yes this approach is hard when you have anxiety. But over time it does work. What really helps is pairing efforts to restructure and change your negative thoughts along with ways to relax your physiology. Consider the ways in which your diet may increase your anxiety and also exercise and relaxation therapies to become physically and mentally more
      calm in threatening situations. I wish there was a magic pill. But there isn’t. You sound motivated and it does require personal effort. But you can do it Kesha. Warm regards. Wishing you well Deborah.


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