Rejection is a fact of life. I often share with my patients that if they want to avoid rejection then they must avoid relationships altogether as it’s inevitable. Our reaction to rejection will vary based on our attachment style, the type of rejection (resulting from relationships, life events, etc.), whom we were rejected by, and the impact the rejection has on us.

For individuals with an insecure attachment style, and who generally view themselves as unlovable, unworthy and inadequate, the fear of rejection and the impact of being rejected tends to be more emotionally intense.

Why Does Rejection Hurt?

In a study measuring neurological responses to social rejection, the brain system showed significant activations in certain regions. The results indicated that our experience with rejection is similar to that of physical pain, impacting the endogenous opioid system of the brain. Because our basic human needs include social acceptance and connection, when that’s threatened, it literally hurts.

In her bookMaybe You Should Talk To Someone, Lori Gottlieb explained that this deeply rooted in our evolutionary history. We lived in cooperative societies, and for most of history, we depended on those groups for survival. She stated that “when somebody rejects us, there’s a very primal piece to it, which is that it goes against everything we feel like we need for survival.”

It’s understandable when our relationships are threatened, we tend to feel intensely sad, shameful and disappointed. Despite the feelings that get evoked, we need to manage them to the best of our ability.

How to Manage Rejection

1. Practice Acceptance. Instead of ruminating over why it happened, how it happened or how it shouldn’t have happened, which helps your mind avoid the pain, sit with that it did happen. Be willing to sit with the discomfort and get in touch with the emotions it’s bringing up, what it’s triggering for you, and how you want to show up in your life and be.

2. Process Your Feelings and Link Them Directly to Your Values. Recognize the feelings that are being evoked and contemplate as to which value(s) they are rubbing up against for you. For example, if you were rejected by a partner, acknowledge that because you highly value connection and intimacy, you’re likely to feel sad and disappointed. Reframe and shift your mindset to connect to the pride you feel for your higher order values.

3. Instead of Solely Focusing on What You Didn’t Get, Also Expand to Consider What You Need and Deserve. We tend to take things personally and feel wounded after being rejected. Empower yourself to think about what needs aren’t being met and what you want and need going forward. Sometimes this requires flexing and considering plan B, C or D.

4. Treat Yourself Compassionately. While you’re acknowledging the pain and grieving the loss, give yourself kind and empathic words of support and encouragement. For example, you can say, “In this moment I’m struggling. It’s understandable for me to feel this way based on what’s important to me, I honor myself and my needs.”

5. Don’t Allow Rejection to Define You. It’s not indicative of your power or worth. It’s a human phenomenon because of our plethora of needs and expectations. Keep in mind that you’re not for everyone and everyone is not for you. Just as you’re selective and judge others, others do the same. Also, not everything will go your way because we have limited control over most things. You inevitably have a choice as to how you choose to behave and whether you decide to move forward with a sense of self-belief and self-worth.

6. Be Curious About Your Expectations and Attachments. Notice what they are. Recognize if your “shoulds” “ought to” and “musts” are putting you in a position of being rejected or rejecting. For example, you may need to exercise greater flexibility and expansiveness so that you can cope with circumstances and people not turning out to be the way you expected.

7. Keep Putting Yourself Out There No Matter What. There are obvious health benefits to being socially connected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Research shows that social connectedness can lead to longer life, better health, and improved well-being.” People who avoid relationships and rejection often pick up maladaptive behaviors such as cutting themselves off, people pleasing and not setting boundaries or expressing their needs.

If it’s understood that rejection is part of life, it’s not to be avoided. Lean in when it happens and be proactive. Continue to make strides to build your confidence and resilience by taking risks and proving to yourself that you can effectively cope with rejection or any other challenge that crosses your path.

8. Take Away a Lesson from Your Experience. There’s always something to be learned from our experiences. You may better understand why you were passed up for a promotion, why your friend was disappointed by your behavior, or why your child is suddenly distancing him/herself from you. These lessons can contribute favorably to better understanding yourself and facilitating your personal growth and improved future.

Rejection is not to be avoided, but rather to be noticed, understood, and learned from. The pain can forge a path toward `greater resilience and better connecting to your values and what’s fundamentally important to you. Seize the moment when it happens as these are prime growth and learning opportunities to facilitate being your best you.

To fortify more connected relationships, here is a Manifesting Connected Relationships Guided Meditation led by me. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for more interviews and guided meditations.

Blog as originally published in Psychology Today.