Feeling Rejected by Your Friends? How To Deal With It

“I recently got rejected by my best friend. My group of friends was hanging out without me for no reason, as far as I know. None of them, including my best friend, bothered to invite me or let me know. How should I respond to rejection from a friend?”

Learning how to deal with rejection from friends and potential romantic partners is an important life skill. As we go through life, the chances are almost 100% that someone will reject us at one point or another.

It may be someone new that we meet or someone we’ve been friends with for a while. In either case, feeling left out and rejected by friends hurts.

Here’s what to do when a friend rejects you.

1. Understand why or how you’ve been rejected

The first thing to do when we come across any kind of problem is to try and understand it. Is your friend trying to reject you, or is it a misunderstanding? Is there something you can do to get over this issue?

The more information you have about this particular problem, the easier it will be to solve.

Some questions you can ask yourself or journal about are:

What exactly has made me feel rejected?

For example, maybe you’re upset because your friends made plans without you or because they have said something judgmental that makes you feel rejected.

Or you may feel rejected if your best friend, who you used to spend a lot of time with, is now spending that time with someone else, even if they don’t tell you that they don’t want to be friends anymore. If you’re in this situation, we have a more in-depth article on what to do if your best friend has another best friend.

Is this a one-time occasion or an ongoing pattern?

If you are consistently overlooked or rejected, it’s worth trying to find out why. However, it may help to remember that occasional rejection, for example, being left out of an outing, is normal. Friends do not have to hang out together or agree on everything all the time.

Am I especially sensitive to the possibility of rejection?

You may find that you are particularly sensitive to rejection and see it even when it doesn’t exist.

For example, maybe your friends met without you, but they still want to be your friend—they just didn’t invite you along because they didn’t think you’d enjoy the activity they planned to do. Try not to jump to conclusions. It may help to read about 11 signs that someone doesn’t want to be your friend to understand if you are truly being rejected or misreading signs.

Am I doing something that may be pushing people away?

There may be something you do that pushes people away, like making insensitive jokes. Or you may find that you can improve on picking the right friends who want to be around you. If that’s the case, you can work on those specific areas. Our article on feeling left out might help you figure out what you could work on.

Do I feel rejected or unwanted even when I’m with my friends?

If your friends invite you to hang out and spend time with you, but you still feel lonely and rejected, our article on what to do if you’re lonely even with friends may help.

2. Have an honest conversation with your friend

It may help to communicate with your friend or friend group. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your feelings and asking to have a conversation about it.

Tell them you felt left out and rejected. Use “I-statements,” for example:

  • “Lately, I feel that you haven’t wanted to see me. To be honest, I feel a bit left out. Have I done something to hurt you?”
  • “Recently, I feel like you and the rest of the group don’t want me around. I’m feeling a little upset, and I’m wondering if there’s a particular reason things have changed?”

If they’re a good friend and there’s been a misunderstanding, they will probably try to work things out. You may be able to resolve the problem together.

If your friend tells you that they don’t want to be friends anymore, you’ll have a clear answer.

3. Respect your friend’s decision

If a friend tells you directly that they do not want to be friends anymore, respect their decision. Try not to get defensive or try to convince them that you can work things out.

Instead, try to focus on your feelings. Remember to use “I” statements:

  • “I have to admit I am surprised.”
  • “I respect your decision. I’d like to hear more about your reasons if you’re open to sharing.”
  • “Hearing that, I feel sad. But I respect your decision.”

4. Change the way you see rejection

Rejection hurts, but it doesn’t have to turn our world upside down. When we have low self-esteem, we take every rejection very personally and seriously. We see it as a sign that there’s something wrong with us.

But when we value ourselves and have self-compassion, we can see that rejection can happen for many reasons. Sometimes people aren’t compatible in a relationship. In this case, your friend may have decided your differences are too large to overcome.

People may judge us harshly without giving us a fair chance and reject us early on. And other times, we make mistakes that we can’t take back. Sometimes we can apologize, but it may not be enough.

Being rejected by others does not decrease your value as a person. You can do some work to increase your self-esteem and remind yourself you’re a worthwhile person.

5. Acknowledge and accept your feelings

Often, when we feel rejected or have some other “big emotions,” we try to talk ourselves out of them without even noticing. Telling ourselves things like:

  • “I shouldn’t feel so hurt. We only knew each other for a short time.”
  • “That’s OK. I have other friends.”
  • “They’re probably just jealous of me.”

All these things we tell ourselves are an attempt to make things less painful for ourselves. Whether the message is that we don’t really care or that we shouldn’t care, the message is the same: there’s something wrong with us for the way we feel.

But feeling left out or rejected hurts. It’s normal for us to feel anger, sadness, and pain when these things happen, just like it’s normal to feel physical pain when we stub our toe, bang our head, or get injured in some other way.

Try not to tell yourself that you “shouldn’t” feel a certain way. Instead, work on accepting that right now, this is how you feel.

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6. Do something nice for yourself

Remind yourself that your value does not depend on external validation. Even if your behavior led to your friend rejecting you, that does not mean you’re a bad person. You’re still worthy of love, most importantly your own.

Take yourself out on a “date.” Take a hike to see some waterfalls, read a book on the beach, or make yourself your favorite meal and watch a comforting movie.

For more ideas of things you can do by yourself, check out our list of fun ideas for people with no friends.

7. Understand that you may not get closure

You probably want to know the reasons why your friend or friends rejected you. You feel that you deserve an answer since you’ve been friends for so long.

Sadly, you can’t force your friend to give you an explanation. They may feel uncomfortable sharing the reasons for their decision. In either case, it is a choice that they made and a boundary they set.

Try to make peace with the fact that the friendship ended, and you may not understand the exact reasons why. Remind yourself that some friendships are temporary. A relationship isn’t any less special just because it ended. Try to value the good times that you shared, even as it hurts that the friendship changed or ended.

8. Address gaps in your social skills

If you know why your friendship didn’t work out, try to use it as an opportunity for growth instead of beating yourself up.

Instead of saying, “I’m always left out and will continue to be,” remind yourself that you’re doing your best, and it takes time to learn and practice new skills.

If making friends is a challenge for you, you can read books on making and maintaining friends. These books will teach you valuable tools to hold a conversation and become more interesting.

If you tend to end up friends with people who dump you if you don’t do whatever they want, it may help to read about setting boundaries with friends and learning how to differentiate fake friends from real friends.

Consider getting outside help

If you’re unsure why you get rejected by friends, it may be helpful to work with a therapist, coach, or support group. In the right setting, they will offer valuable feedback about your behavior and provide alternative tools and methods to try.

Online courses dedicated to learning social skills may also be beneficial, particularly if they include videos, discussion groups, or one-on-one support.

Take your time when building your skills

You may be stressed reading this, thinking something like: “I need to become more interesting and learn how to pick good friends!” Don’t worry if you identify with several of these points. We all have more than one thing that can be improved. Learning and growing is a lifelong process. It may help to pick the most pressing issue for you (the one causing you the most pain) and choose to concentrate on that initially.

9. Give yourself time to move on

When we experience heartbreak, it can feel very overwhelming. In the beginning, it may feel like every day is more difficult than the last. We feel so much pain as we need to adjust our life to a new reality.

As the months and years go by, though, the pain feels less intense. Those new things we try start becoming habits. We start to feel differently about things. Maybe we look back on our friendship and discover new ways of looking at it.

Let yourself grieve. It’s normal to have good days and bad days.

10. Appreciate the good things in your life

Ideally, we aim to create a well-rounded life. Relationships are an important component of life, but many other things can add meaning and help us feel more fulfilled, like hobbies, topics we like learning about, pets, work, exercise, travel, and more.

It may help to remind yourself of the good things you still have in your life. Some people keep a running log of good things in their life, writing down things at the end of each day:

  • “I went to the gym and set a personal best.”
  • “Someone told me I helped them change their perspective on a topic.”
  • “I discovered a new band that I love.”
  • “My boss complimented my work.”
  • “I cooked a new dish, and it turned out amazing.”
  • “I did the dishes and changed the sheets even though I felt depressed.”
  • “I shared a smile with someone on the street.”
  • “I felt confident in my outfit today.”

No moment is too big or small to be on this list. As you practice writing down these moments of positivity, it will get easier.

When you’re feeling low, like after being rejected by a friend, it can help to look back on such moments and remember that there are still good things in life.

Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages SocialSelf’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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