Let’s face it, rejection sucks.

No-one enjoys someone telling them “no”.

Being rejected stings, bruises our ego and makes us feel inadequate.

Except it doesn’t have to. We can learn how to get over rejection. Rejection doesn’t have to equate to negativity.

Behind a successful person is a lot of rejection

Learn the stories of the most successful people in the world and you’ll often see how they went through a LOT of rejection to get where they are. Behind every success story was a person who heard “no” a tonne.

Take Sylvester Stallone. Growing up Stallone was bullied for his looks and manner of speech (something that was out of his control due to an incident when he was born). When he tried to get into acting, he was rejected from roles a colossal number of times. He was thrown out of agency offices in New York over 1,500 times, more than the actual number of agents in the city since he often went back to ask them again.

Broke and unable to heat his apartment, he turned to last resort measures to find cash. Standing outside a liquor store, he tried to sell his dog to another man. He wanted $50 for his dog but the guy only wanted to pay $25 max. Desperate, he accepted the guys offer and walked off crying, calling it the lowest point of his life.

After inspiration struck him to write the script for ‘Rocky’, he again was rejected many times before he found two producers interested in the script. They offered him a huge amount of money but he refused unless they agreed to let him star in the title role. After multiple increased offers which Stallone still refused, he accepted $35,000 (a lot less than the first offer) since he could star in the movie.

The film was a critical and commercial success grossing over $200 million and winning an Oscar for Best Picture. Before receiving the Oscar, Stallone said he read every rejection he’d ever received because he kept note of them.

The best part? Stallone’s dog that he sold on the street was in the film. After he’d received the $35K, he went back to the liquor store and after three days found the guy he sold his dog to. After pleading him to take $100, then $1000 to get his dog back, he eventually offered the man $15,000 of his $35,000 to which the man accepted.

Remarking on his attitude towards rejection, Stallone said: “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”

How To Get Over Rejection Steps

Another story is that of J. K. Rowling. In the mid-nineties, Rowling was a single mother struggling to make ends meet, living off welfare payments and going through a messy divorce. Her mental state was precarious—she was suicidal at times and needed therapy over the course of several months.

During this time, she was finalising a book she’d been writing for a few years, completing it in the summer of 1995. Submitting the manuscript to numerous publishers, she was turned down by 12 until the publisher Bloomsbury saw its potential.

The book was ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, the first in a series of seven which went on to receive huge success and led to a media franchise which has raked in billions.

As part of her Harvard Commencement Address in 2008, Rowling reflected on her failures: “I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

How to get over rejection

“Most successful people do not let rejection define them. They let their reaction to rejection define themselves.” — Jia Jiang

What the stories of Sylvester Stallone and J. K. Rowling teach us is the power of the numbers game and time.

Very few things in life are a zero-sum game.

If that were the case, one single rejection would mean permanent failure and an inability to proceed with whatever it is that you want to do.

In prehistoric tribes, life was more zero-sum. One ankle sprain could render you useless in hunter-gathering forcing your tribe to abandon you for death. One argument with the leaders out of place could spell execution. One man’s rejection from a woman smeared his reputation among the entire group and could result in ostracism. With the risks being so high, we evolved to pay enormous heed to rejection.

The cultures we live in may be highly-modern but our brains still operate on prehistoric biology. We can send people to the moon, build the Internet using seabed cables and eliminate diseases with vaccinations but when it comes to socialising and emotions, we’re anything but modernised. We go about our days acting like a single rejection can mean life or death as it often did in our ancestral past.

How To Get Over Rejection Woman

Yet fortunately, the majority of us live in more balanced societies where it doesn’t. Our risk-reward assessments are uncalibrated for our times. A sprained ankle still isn’t desirable but it can be healed with modern treatment and can signal an athlete pushing their physical limits to perform at the highest level. Standing up to an oppressive leader can spell condemnation but can lead to transformative effects in the long run. One woman’s unrequited interest in a man can sting but they’ll be another who can end up his lifelong lover if he keeps looking.

This is the beauty behind asking. We get multiple if not unlimited attempts to ask for something we want, if not with the same person, then with the same question to others.

In doing so, we make the law of averages work in our favour. Each rejection brings us one step closer to a “yes”. You’ve found one person who won’t comply? No matter—now you can focus on the remaining pool who will. Persistence and time are like a homing missile lasering in on opportunities.

Another mindset shift is to understand that most rejections aren’t the result of malice.

When someone tells you “no”, it’s very easy to take it personally and assume the person is out to get you.

Those feelings stem from the prehistoric biology we talked about. In an era of human history when rejection could spell life or death, triggering a fight or flight response was the evolutionary sensible option for our genes.

Nowadays we operate on the same hardware but such personal reactions to rejection are often unwarranted. Rejections can occur for a vast number of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with us at all.

Even if a rejection is down to you, often it’s just a rejection of a conception of you, not YOU entirely.

For example, let’s say you’re interested in speaking to someone you find attractive across the room. You pluck up the courage to introduce yourself and state your interest only to have them politely reject you.

Did they reject you? Yes and no.

They rejected your first impression—a minuscule showing of the entirety of your being.

But they didn’t and couldn’t have rejected YOU—your entire range of personality, quirks, idiosyncrasies, history, endeavours etc… all the gold that makes up your personal identity. They couldn’t have rejected YOU because it’s impossible to find that out in one sitting.

Not to mention that the rejection of your first impression could have nothing to do with you at all. Maybe the person was already taken but didn’t mention it. Maybe they weren’t in the headspace to meet anybody new. Maybe they wanted to keep their evening focused on their friends… and so on.

Either way, it’s foolish to take rejections as an attack on your wellbeing. In fact, rejections can even be a blessing in disguise.

Why rejection is a blessing in disguise

“One of the beauties that people have to take in underperformance is that, if it did not exist, everyone would do what we do.”— Joel Greenblatt

Imagine a world where rejection ceased to exist. No refusals, no dismissive gestures, no hearing the word “no”.

Utopia right?

Absolutely not.

In a world where nobody can say “no”, all kinds of disasters and chaos would ensue. Boundaries would be transgressed. Rights ignored. Individual freedoms disrespected.

Rejection exists because quality is difficult to obtain. And the world is objectively better since quality exits.

With quality comes a standard that is suitable for a particular person, group or organisation. 

In a universe exempt from rejection, success would be a mere race to jump first, plant one’s flag first, ask first. Except that those who obtain their desires first wouldn’t be successes since there’d be no quality—if something is easy and free from rejection, it’s likely not worth doing.

Most people don’t become better lovers because they marry their childhood sweethearts. The rejection they face in their younger years leads them to develop into more well-rounded people so that through the dating game in the future, they’re better partners/spouses for it.

Elite companies don’t become successful by hiring the first applicant off the bat. They set standards for the type of people they bring in and instantiate a culture full of quality. Rejection is necessary to filter for the people who fit best but it also leads to the labour market increasing its overall quality through individual development to better compete.

Progress, whether individual or plural requires improvement—a continual betterment towards quality. Again, this is unavoidable, it’s hardwired in our DNA.

It’s because rejection exists that not everybody is going after the same things. It’s because rejection exists that you become a better person.

You’ve heard this next part a thousand times before from others but I’ll convey it again as we sometimes need to hear knowledge multiple times before it sinks in: we learn from our failures and rejections, not our successes. The way you get better at anything is deliberate practice—showing up then reflecting on what you can do better next time again and again. Rejection guides the way to self improvement.

Rejection is an ambiguity remover. It shines the light on the truth between you and another person and allows you to move on with clarity and no regrets.

For instance, why would you want to keep pursuing a romantic interest in someone who’s rejected you? With the truth revealed you can find someone else who will reciprocate.

So the next time you’re rejected, treat it as a chance for improvement. Take a moment to consider how you can become better, then move on towards quality.

How To Get Over Rejection Better


No-one likes the feeling of rejection.

But behind a lot of successful people is a mountain of rejection they’ve surmounted to get to where they are.

Those who are successful aren’t defined by their rejections, they’re defined by their reactions to those rejections.

Few things in life are a zero-sum game. We get to ask again and again, if not with the same people, then to others. When we play the numbers game, the law of averages tends to work in our favour over time.

Most rejections aren’t the result of malicious intent. We shouldn’t take most rejections personally. Few of the people we hear “no” from know us for who we truly are. There are often a myriad of reasons why someone rejects us that have little to do with us.

The possibility of rejection demarcates a boundary of quality. It’s because there are standards that we experience quality in different walks of life, be that professions, interests or relationships. Viewed this way, we can see rejection as a blessing in disguise—it pushes us towards quality as long as we reflect on how we can become better in the future.

“When you get rejected in life, when you’re facing the next obstacle or failure, consider the possibilities – don’t run. If you just embrace them, they might become your gifts as well.”