The feeling when someone, who you want to like you, has done something that makes you think they don’t like you at all.

You feel rejected when you fail to get love, attention, friendship, or approval from a person or group of people from whom you wanted to receive this1. For example, when you are turned down by someone who you asked out on a date, when your partner falls out of love with you, or when a group of friends meets up together without inviting you. The emotion is triggered by an action (or lack of action) that reveals to you what their actual feelings for you are. The action can be outright and deliberate, for instance, someone telling you they don’t want to see you anymore. However, the other person can also be rejecting you unintentionally, for example, when a group of friends meets up and forgets to invite you. Lastly, the other person might not even know they are rejecting you, for example, many parents will feel some rejection when their child is more interested in their toy than in them, at least temporarily.

You only feel rejected by those people whose love or approval you were seeking out2. These may be people you have known for a long time (family members, friends), or people who you have just met (potential lovers), people you want to work with (e.g., being turned down for a job), parents whose approval you want, and so forth. In each of these cases, there may be others who do love or admire you, but this is often irrelevant. Although acts of rejection are usually isolated, people can project them on their whole self, and feel that nobody loves or likes them.

In the comic, Murphy’s colleague comes by his open office to invite everyone for lunch. When he passes Murphy’s desk, he remains oddly silent. Murphy watches all his colleagues go out for lunch together.

Movie clips


Typical expressions

“Why didn’t they call me?”

“I wish he would know I existed.”

Murphy's bad day

Comparisons with other emotions

Rejection & Loneliness

Loneliness and rejection are both about being socially excluded, and as such share the same painful, sad feeling. Someone who feels rejected by a group can go on to feel lonely for not having meaningful social interactions. However, the two emotions do not necessarily co-occur. Someone who goes on a trip alone may feel lonely, but not rejected, because it was her decision to go on the trip, and her friends are waiting back home. Even someone who feels lonely for not having any friends at all, does not have to feel rejected, unless he has specifically tried to make friends and failed. Secondly, someone can feel rejected by another person, but still have other meaningful people around them who keeps him from feeling lonely.

Rejection & Humiliation

Humiliation, the feeling when another person puts you down, and rejection, the feeling when a liked person doesn’t like you, can occur at the same time in some situations, and the experience can be similar. In both, you feel bad because of the action of another person. There are a few important differences: you only feel rejection with a person that you like or love, whereas that is not relevant in humiliation. Secondly, in humiliation the other person deliberately makes you feel bad, whereas a person that makes you feel rejected may do this unintentionally. In fact, in the latter case the other person may not even be aware of you – which is exactly the cause of your feelings of rejection.

Rejection & Jealousy

There are several situations in which rejection and jealousy can be co-experienced, but it is important to conceptually distinguish them. Both are in essence about (the possibility of) losing a partner or special relationship. For instance, when a wife tells her husband she loves someone else and wants to leave him, he is likely to feel both rejection and jealousy. However, the rejection is felt towards his wife no longer loving him, whereas the jealousy is felt towards losing the relationship to a rival. As such, there can be cases in which someone is very jealous, but not feel rejected. For instance, when a husband cheats on his wife but still loves her and does not have the intention to leave her, he may actually overcompensate by spending more attention and love to his wife than he did before the affair. His wife may feel very jealous, but there are no preconditions for rejection.

Sources and further reading