One of the biggest fears that a lot of men and women have when it comes to the dating scene is the fear getting rejected. Whether it’s summoning up the courage to go flirt with the cute girl at the party or finally mustering up the nerve to ask out the co-worker that you’ve been interested in for the longest time, fear of being rejected keeps most people from ever making that critical first step.
Notice very carefully that I said it’s the fear of getting rejected that holds people back. Much like many other phobias, it’s the anticipation of rejection – more than the rejection itself – that causes people to hesitate. The expectation of being rejected is so disturbing and present that many people won’t make any attempts at all in the face of everything they imagine will happen to them when (not if) they get shot down.
Now, it’s not terribly surprising that men fear rejection; after all, you feel as though your very existence is being judged. Being rejected can feel as though it’s a response to you as a person rather than a reaction to the circumstance or situation. You feel humiliated. You feel like not only did everybody just watch you get shot down, but they’re all enjoying watching you being put back in your place. Now news of your failure is spreading like wildfire through your entire community, leaving you emotionally stranded as an object of ridicule who will never, ever be able to ask someone else out successfully ever again.
Of course, what you imagine is far worse than the reality by orders of magnitude, but being rejected still sucks. However, it doesn’t have to be the apocalyptic event that you’ve built up in your mind. With the right mindset, rejection can even help you in the long run!
It’s Not As Bad As You Think
Let’s get this out of the way: being rejected – whether it’s by a relative stranger or by someone you have known and longed for for ages – sucks. No question there. However, it’s also not the end of the world scenario that you’ve conjured up in your head.
Y’see, if there’s one thing our brains seem to enjoy, especially if you have even the slightest hint of social anxiety, is coming up with worst-case scenarios. These tend to be the emotional equivalent of the Rube Goldberg-style death scenes from The Final Destination movies, everything building up to an operatic climax that ensures that your entire world is ruined foreverrrrrrr!
All of these scenarios are built up on expectation of embarrassment. You’re afraid of being embarrassed in front of others, whether it’s the boss you just asked for a raise or that hot librarian working the reference desk when you asked her for her number. You can just picture her breaking out into a harsh laugh, hardly believing that you had the temerity to ask her for her number, calling her friends over to witness your humiliation as your slinking away as everybody hoots and laughs at you while you slink away with your tail between your legs.
In reality though? That’s not going to happen.
When you’ve made your move and been rejected… all that’s happened is that you’ve been turned down. That’s it.
Everything else? That’s entirely in your head. Nobody’s pointing and laughing. Nobody else is going to notice – or even care. Hell, anyone who does happen to see it won’t even remember five minutes later. It’s not an indictment of you as a person. It’s just a simple “no, thank you”.
Once you learn to accept this, you’ll be able to make the steps towards turning rejection from an earth-shattering event to “no big deal”. Of course, the best way to do this is… well, through experience. That is, to be rejected a few times. And that’s the tough part.
Reframe, Refocus, Redirect.
Getting to that level of confidence can be difficult. After all, if the way to get over rejection is to get rejected, how are you supposed to learn from it in the first place?
The first thing you need to realize that you are in control of how you respond to things. You and you alone have the power to decide how you feel about something.
Remember what I said about how all of the pain and embarrassment from rejection is in your head? It feels that way because you allowed it to. You’re the one who decided to feel bad about it. It’s about how you choose to see things. Let’s say that you’ve asked your crush out on a date and she gives you the “Let’s just be friends” speech. You have two ways of responding to this: you can see it as a judgement on you as a person, or you can see it as being one step closer to someone who can appreciate what you have to offer.
You can see it as a crippling failure… or you can see it as a triumph; after all, how many people do you know who don’t have the courage to make their move and will just spend the rest of their lives in frustration, never knowing what might be?
You can see it as an embarrassing moment, or proof that you’re latest attempt didn’t work and need to try to do things differently next time.
You can see it as “proof” that you’re an irredeemable loser… or you could see it as just another woman who can’t recognize a good thing when it’s right in front of her.
Rejection only damages your self-esteem if you allow it to. To quote a wise man: “Pain don’t hurt.”
When you’re rejected, it’s up to you to reframe the situation. You can let it destroy you or you can decide that it’s not a big deal. When you’re getting rejected often, it’s possible to see it as a judgement on who you are as a person and begin to take on the attitude that everybody rejects you. As with other self-limiting beliefs, this becomes a cycle of confirmation bias; you only see what you expect and translate it into more proof that there’s something “wrong” with you. You need to remember that it only seems like everyone rejects you; you still have friends and family who love and care for you. It’s literally all in how you’re choosing to see things.
Remember: it takes a lot of guts to make that approach. Are you a loser for having been rejected, or are you a hero for reaching down, grabbing your nuts (or your ovaries) and saying “To hell with everything else, I’m going to take that chance”?