Fear of rejection is what keeps most single people locked away in their apartments binge-watching Game of Thrones (just kidding – everyone does that). And I get it, rejection feels shitty. We are hard-wired to seek approval from others and we physiologically and neurologically react to signs that someone is interested in us. We feel giddy when someone flirts, and get a rush when we kiss someone for the first time. We crave attention, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Until it is.
So many of my clients, when they first reach out to me, have sworn off dating (especially online dating) after one or two bad experiences where they feel rejection. They put themselves out there and got a whole bunch of nothing back. I know how terrible that can feel. For about 10 minutes. Then you forget about it, move on and will hardly remember it the next day. The trouble comes not from the rejection itself, but from the fantastical stories that we tell ourselves to justify the rejection. For some fucked up reason, we usually turn the blame of rejection on ourselves. I must not be pretty enough, I must not have seemed interesting enough, he must have noticed that I was forgot to brush my teeth this morning.
In reality, those moments of heartbreak don’t even register with the person delivering the rejection. They didn’t realize they were blowing you off, they were waiting for a friend, are already in a relationship or are really freaking shy. There are a billion reasons that they might not have reacted the way you were expecting them to, or wanted them to. But here’s where I have to get a little tough love on my clients – that person doesn’t OWE you anything. They are living a life completely separate from yours, and you have no idea what is going through their mind in the moment you walk up to them.
If you want to find someone that you really connect to, you’ll need to meet a lot of people first that you don’t. That means that you will say “no” to a lot of dudes. And a lot of dudes will say “no” to you. When I learned that rejection is a beneficial (and time saving) tool for dating, everything changed.
But this is a skill you have to practice. Seriously – go out and meet more people. Practice not taking rejections personal, and learn how to say “no”to someone you don’t see yourself with, using kindness and honesty.
Image by Kate Pulley
Stop dating – Start meeting people
The problem with most people re-entering the dating scene after a breakup is they immediately start lining up one-on-one romantic dates. Their friends and family tell them to “get out there” and go for it. Even those who have fully recovered from heart break never allow themselves the time to recalibrate what they want/need from someone and end up getting into the same relationships or fall into the same patterns that caused problems in the past. I tell my clients for the first few months to STOP DATING. But… go out and meet as many people as you can, especially single men.
Lower your expectations
Not every man you approach at a bar or coffee shop is going to fall in love with you. Stop going into every encounter with the “Destiny mentality” that this person could be “The One”. They aren’t. They are a person in a coffee shop and might be fun and interesting and are worth getting to know. Set your expectations to accommodate that person’s feelings and flaws. No one can stand up to the scrutiny of being “The One”. Not even you.
Ask yourself who cares?
Some rejections are worst than others. Some people can be really rude and even mean. But that is their karma. Your karma is in how you respond and how you bounce back. So what if some guy on Match.com said you were too old/tall/short/hippie to date. He’s an asshole. And he did you a huge favor by making that clear in the first few interactions. Thank God! He could have saved his asshole-ness until 6 months in. Thank him politely for the clean rejection and move on.
Practice rejection privately
I love to tell my friends all of my best dating stories (shocker, I know). I process out loud and get all of their feedback on each small encounter. I learned when I was younger, to be careful with making insignificant relationship issues public. Not because of gossip- but because my friends give a shit about me. They would ask me “How are things with so-and-so?” I would launch into the story again and give any minute updates. A simple rejection would all of a sudden feel like an epic and tragic love story. This is not good. Don’t give a small rejection or uncomfortable encounter the unnecessary weight of becoming a STORY. Talk about your rejections after the fact with levity and a hint of humor.
Play the numbers game
The more people you say hello to, the better chance you have of meeting someone you connect with. This is basic math. But it also means you will be rejected more often. Awesome! He’s probably wasn’t the one – but you had to ask her out to figure that out. The amount of time and emotions you put into feeling nervous, questioning yourself and then beating yourself up afterwards is probably only half of what you would have felt if you had asked her out and she said “no, thanks.”
Get over yourself
Everyone’s world doesn’t revolve around you. You have no idea what a person’s life is really like when you’re chatting online or meeting for coffee for the first time. They could be getting over someone and dating for the first time. They could be dating someone else and trying to keep their options open before settling down. They could just not feel connected to you. They have every right to go on a date with you and never ask you out again. There’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t take it personally – because you’re the only one that gets hurt.