By Eleanor Beeslaar, HRI Graduate Assistant

Rejection is a common, yet painful experience, and it can occur in many different types of relationships and settings. You may have experienced rejection in romantic relationships, friendships, family relationships, or potentially at work. Rejection can leave us feeling devastated and can lead to feelings of insecurity and uncertainty, impacting our overall sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem.

You may be wondering, “Why is rejection so painful?” According to a research study using an fMRI to examine participants’ brains while looking at pictures of their romantic partners after recently being broken up with, the same part of the brain that responds to physical pain was activated (APA, 2012). Similar studies examining participants’ brains while experiencing rejection found the same patterns linking physical and emotional pain (APA, 2012). 

Why is this important? Humans have a need to belong and feel loved and accepted. When we experience rejection, this need is neglected, and in response, we experience emotional pain. Often times, when we experience rejection, we go to a place of self-criticism, blaming ourselves for whatever happened. This pattern of self-blame intensifies the emotional pain we are already experiencing, leading to lower self-esteem and negatively impacting our emotional well-being and mental health. 

If you’re reading this, know that you are not alone. We all experience rejection throughout our lives and many of us have responded to rejection in similar ways, using patterns of self-criticism. However, there are healthier ways to respond to rejection. Throughout the next week HRI will be sharing a series of tips to help you identify and practice healthier ways to cope with and heal from rejection! 


Weir, K. (2012). The Pain of Social Rejection. Retrieved from 


Tagged on: