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”?
You Can Learn From Rejection
I didn’t fail 1000 times. I successfully discovered 1000 ways that didn’t work. – Thomas Edison
One of the great paradoxes of life is that it’s difficult to learn from success. When you have an easy success, you have very little frame of reference for why you succeeded. Was it all due to a combination of perseverance and skill, or was it a case of the universe lining up perfectly and leading to a once-in-a-million chance?
You can learn a lot from failure, however. Repeated failures let you refine your process, eliminating errors and mistakes and narrowing down your pathway to success. Failure is the greatest teacher you can have, and this is doubly true when it comes to dating.
In my own journey towards getting better with women, I have been laughed at, ignored, shot down, dumped and otherwise rejected more times than I can count… and as much as it sucked in the moment – and let me tell you it sucked – each and every failure I experienced was infinitely more valuable than the early successes. Every time I fucked up, every time I fumbled an easy score, every time I choked1 it meant I did something wrong, and once I figured out what that error was, I could eliminate it from my repertoire.
It’s like I said earlier: rejection only has to be horrible if you frame it that way. If you see it as being a learning experience – something that will only prove to make you stronger in the long run – then rejection can be incredibly valuable to you.
I’m a big believer in documenting everything in your dating life. It’s part of how you troubleshoot your skill set, after all. When you get rejected, it means something went wrong along the way, and once you can figure out what it was, you can take steps to ensure that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
Now it can be difficult to be detached and analytical when you’re in the moment… but when you’ve had a chance to get home and put pen to paper, you should be taking notes about everything. What you said, what she said, how she said it, whether she mentioned having troubles with her boyfriend, stress from work, everything. You want to be able to take an honest and appraising look at what happened. After all… it could just as easily be a fault of bad timing as something you did. Maybe you made an off-color joke that she took badly, or perhaps outside influences lined up in just such a way that she was not in a position to be receptive to your advances.
The more you’re willing to see rejection as something you can learn from, the less rejection will bother you.
Confidence = Fear + Survival
Once you’ve had more experience with rejection, learning to control your reaction to it and how to learn from it, you’ll find that you won’t fear it as much as you did before. You’ll be in a better position to go out and risk getting rejected and not letting your fear hold you back.
Now this doesn’t mean that making your move will be easy at first; in fact, you’ll almost certainly still feel anxiety. This is ultimately a good thing; after all, you should be making an effort to get outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis. However, the more you experience rejection, the less it will affect you or ruin all of your progress. In fact, after a certain point in my development, I welcomed the harshest rejections… in fact, if I got an especially bad one, I would turn it to my advantage. I would actually tell the girl “OK, hold that thought for just a second, ok? I’ll be right back.” Then I would grab my wingman or wingwoman, bring them back and re-introduce myself. “This is my buddy,” I’d say, ” and he totally needed to see you shoot me down like that. Could you just do that again? In fact, could you make that even meaner?”
Sometimes I’d get a laugh out of her and turn the entire interaction around. Sometimes she’d ignore me entirely. Sometimes she’d be even harsher… and then I’d turn to my wingman and demand a high-five. “See? I told you that was awesome!” I’d say as we walked off. I may not have gotten her number, but my friends and I would turn a negative into a positive experience. We would have the confidence to face rejection head-on and not flinch. Because we had learned how to handle rejection, process it and make it into something we could use, we would take the risks… and reap the rewards that came with them.
Rejection hurts. But while pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Rejection may suck, but you can turn it into more than it seems and use it to become even stronger than you ever were in the first place.
And then you won’t be getting rejected as much again.
- literally, a couple times. Be careful when you’re hitting on women while drinking, is all I can say [↩]