The Psychology of Rejection

Six tips to help you deal with rejection after an interview


Failed an interview? The expected promotion has passed you by? Almost everyone experiences rejection at least once in their career. Being rejected as a professional in this highly competitive field is challenging. Unfortunately, rejection is part of life, but it is not an easy feeling to process. Maybe there is a better opportunity coming along, but it can be challenging to adopt this positive outlook. How can we be better at dealing with rejection?

1. Rejection Hurts

You may be disappointed, sad, angry, or anxious. Rejection hurts. It is even visible on fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans. The brain areas activated by rejection are the same areas that light up in response to physical pain. No wonder we prefer to avoid rejection. However, ignoring or suppressing emotions does not take away the pain that can come from rejection. Our feelings help process emotional situations by accepting them. Allowing the emotion leads to acceptance. For example, crying when feeling sad and sharing concerns with loved ones when worried can help process the feelings. The only way to let go of emotions is to give them space.

2. Be Realistic

Be aware of the possibility of being rejected. When staying safely in the “comfort zone,” little might change, but when you are reaching higher, the chances of rejection are increased. Being rejected is evidence that you are aiming towards achieving your personal goals. In addition, rejection can be viewed as a form of feedback. When you take an honest look at yourself and the situation, you will likely discover that this opportunity was not right for you at that moment. 

3. It’s Not You

Rejection can erode your self-esteem: Did I do something wrong? Why do others get the jobs and I do not? Am I not good enough? Remember that an employer chooses candidates for a variety of reasons. Ultimately, only a limited number of people can hold the positions that you are applying for. An interesting opportunity attracts many talented people. In addition, company politics can play a role, or someone more experienced came along. 

Try not to view rejections as “they turned me down,” but try to view it as “they chose someone else.” This may be little consolation, but in the end, it can make a difference in how to approach future applications. Additionally, talk about it with family and acquaintances – this helps you process faster. Try not to let the rejection put you off and continue the job search! It might be challenging not to take it personally, but various factors influence a decision. Try not to focus on yourself, but look at the situation from different points of view. People are rejected for all kinds of reasons beyond your control. It often also has to do with the company or the decision makers. Maybe it has to do with them and their circumstances and nothing with you at all. When you have done your best, try to comfort yourself with the fact that you have done everything in your power to try to sieze the opportunity. 

4. Take Time to Recover

Seek the warmth and positivity of friends and family who will listen to your story. Rejection is not something you have to deal with on your own. Sharing these experiences and feeling appreciated is a powerful healer. Doing things that you enjoy, together or alone, helps shift your mood and helps to put things in perspective. It also prevents you from getting stuck in negative thinking, such as self-criticism or victimization. Life is more than rejection. This experience is the beginning of something which may be much better.

5. Analyze

Once you are more at peace with the emotional setback, it is time to analyze the application. 

Start by comparing the vacancy with your qualifications and résumé. Look at the job description and the requirements. Did you fulfill all the requirements? Were there any spelling errors? There might be something that does not match what the employer was looking for. Consider over-qualifications as well. Perhaps the company was afraid you would leave for the competition in no time. However, it is possible that everything was perfect, and you were still rejected.

6. Continue the Search

A rejected application can undermine your motivation to continue the search. Do not let that happen! The only way to get a job is to continue applying. A rejection hurts less when you know this was not the only way to get ahead. And if you have not already, start exploring other options right away. Nothing helps to deal with a rejected application better than a successful application elsewhere. Remember, if the organization responsible for the rejection does not view you as the ideal candidate, it may not have been the ideal position for you.

Final Thoughts

Some people have a difficult time letting go, whereas others tend to give up immediately. It is crucial to have a realistic view of the situation and adopt the mindset that this rejection can serve a purpose. When you are able to accept that you cannot change or influence everything, it is time to let it go and move on. Moving on is not the same as forgetting or not feeling hurt anymore. If you feel like you have difficulty dealing with the situation, keep reaching out to loved ones or seek professional support. 

SOURCEAero Crew News, August 2021
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Reini Thijssen is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHCA) and certified life coach specializing in working with aerospace professionals. She has been a writer for Aero Crew News since 2019 and covers various topics related to aviation concerning life- and career changes, relationships, and overall mental health. Reini is in private practice at Emerald Mental Health. She offers online mental health support to adult individuals and couples coping with a wide range of challenges such as anxiety, burnout, grief, and stress. For more information and questions, contact


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