As a kid, maybe you were known as the smart one, the creative type, or musically gifted. Those labels are helpful—you don’t have to explain why you’re good at math, your reputation proceeds you. But researchers have found that such a fixed sense of identity makes it harder to get over an ex.1
Sure, it seems like scientists haphazardly connected two dots, but let us explain. Say you see yourself as the creative type—it’s the life you live, the air you breathe. Psychologists call this the “entity theory of personality.” When these people encounter rejection (like a boyfriend or girlfriend breaking it off), they tend to question everything about themselves. (Does the whole world hate me? Have I been living a lie?) And down the rabbit hole they go. That endless rumination can make bouncing back from a breakup a doozy.
On the other hand, if you see your personality as always changing (the double-fisting partygoer in college who now prefers to knit and read on a Friday night), you tend to let romantic rejection roll off your back a little easier. The reasons behind the breakup don’t lead you to rethink your intrinsic identity (and everything you know to be true in the world) because your sense of self is always changing. And before you know it, you’re on to the next one.
Changes in Self-Definition Impede Recovery From Rejection. Howe LC, Dweck CS. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 2015, Oct.;42(1):1552-7433.