Dear Ms. Ellis

Dear Ms. Ellis,

How do teenagers deal with or get over being rejected? Not that I have or anything…

____________________________

Me neither… (wink, wink). But to answer your question without knowing specific details, let’s start by acknowledging that the feeling of being rejected is both difficult and painful to endure. Especially during the teenage years when you are building a sense of identity, belonging, and self-worth. And if we begin to dig down to some underlying reasons why rejection is so painful, we can recognize that at the root of it exists a few things: a fear of not being good enough, of not being lovable or worthy, or an assumption that we must be deeply flawed, which is why the rejection occurred. So to be honest, a lot of dealing with and getting over rejection has less to do with that other person and more to do with our own sense of self. 

I remember someone once telling me that not everyone is meant for everyone, meaning there can be two incredible people on this earth, but that doesn’t mean they belong together – whether that be as friends or romantically. And when things don’t work out between those two, it doesn’t mean that either person is flawed or that they did something wrong; it could just mean that they didn’t quite click. Now, this isn’t true for every situation, but it’s a healthy starting point for us to not fully internalize the rejection. That being said, we do often form attachments (sometimes unhealthy attachments) with those who are not quite right for us, which can make it that much harder to move on. Sometimes we look to that person to provide us with our sense of value or worth. Sometimes that person even becomes a part of our identity. So moving on can feel nearly impossible as it leaves a gaping hole in us. So I would also encourage you to assess what kind of role this person has/had in your life, if they are deserving to have so much power over your sense of self, and why you might be afraid of letting them go.

Okay, so I’m getting long-winded now, but this is a loaded question and I’m not a succinct human. Once you’ve looked back and evaluated the roots of your feelings and the meaning that this person had to you, it’s important to try to look to the present and future. This rejection does not define you. It doesn’t mean you are not lovable, nor does it mean that rejection will keep happening over and over again. It just means this person isn’t your person. So how can you take care of yourself and help yourself move on?

  1. Talk to yourself like a friend would. A friend would tell you that you are amazing, that you have so many lovable qualities, that you are fun to be around. A friend would also tell you that it’s okay to be imperfect. That your shortcomings do not mean you are broken, and that it’s okay to continue to grow as a person. Being rejected is hard enough and you don’t need to compound that pain by assuming things about yourself that likely aren’t true. Replacing the negative self-talk with more realistic, positive self-talk is a challenging but imperative step to moving on. 
  2. Take care of yourself and tap into those coping skills. Spend time with those people who do make you feel loved and wanted. Journal about your feelings. Make a collage of encouraging words. Practice breathing exercises. Go for a walk. Learn mindfulness skills. Pour yourself into something you love to do.
  3. Remember, time and space do help to heal. So know that it won’t always feel this way, and the rejection will sting a little less with time. In the meantime, create healthy boundaries and space for yourself. Maybe try to unfollow that person on social media platforms or stop looking at what they are doing on Snap Map. Seeing constant reminders of that person can stir up old feelings and make it harder to move on. 

All easier said than done – but please come talk to me if you want more ideas! Or you could be talking about a college rejection letter in which case…this is probably not very helpful. 🙂

Ms. Ellis is an Upper School social science teacher in the History Department and the Upper School guidance counselor. The “Ask Ms. Ellis” segment of The Chronicle was created for students to anonymously get feedback on their mental and emotional health questions.

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