3 Ways to Handle Rejection
Why is rejection so painful?
We treat rejection in our lives like it’s kryptonite in our professional, personal, but especially in our romantic lives. It’s this horrible, painful little thing that crushes our insides. When it comes to dating and relationships, we treat rejection like it says something about us—we’re less attractive, not cool, less desirable. It makes us feel bad, at times just plain horrible about ourselves.
We also treat rejection like a mistake, like something has gone wrong in our experience. Either we did something that caused the rejection, or we feel, we believe that somebody else rejected us unfairly, so they must've made a mistake.
And if we could only figure out what that mistake was, and fix it or avoid it, then we won’t have to face rejection again.
It’s like when some people in professional coaching, lifestyle or mental health advertise their “5 things you can do so you’re never rejected ever again!”
Like they're gonna teach you the Konami code for relationships. The “secret sauce” to never facing rejection ever again.
Now, there is of course room for self-improvement, for sure. But if every time you get rejected you treat it as a failure, then you can't really learn the difference between 1) what you need to improve on, and 2) what can just be a matter of not a good fit.
But to be clear, self-improvement won’t spare you from rejection! Rejection doesn’t care about how much money you make, how tall or short you are, or how good looking, rejection comes for everyone, even some of the time.
What we get wrong about rejection
We respond to rejection like it's a bug in the system of dating and relationships. But it's not a bug. It's a feature. And the more we come to terms with that fact, paradoxically, the easier it gets to cope with it, and find more success in relationships.
Now, what do I mean by that? If we think about it mathematically, there are billions of people on this planet, hundreds of millions of people in this country, millions of people in a large metropolitan area like New York City. It would be unreasonable to expect every person we come across or approach to like us.
By the same token, it is also unreasonable to think that in the millions of people that can exist all around us, that there wouldn’t be at least some people who would find us attractive and appealing. There’s just too many people, too many possibilities to not find someone who can be a good fit for us.
Now, you can’t find people who are right for you if you don’t put skin in the game, if you don’t pay the price of admission. And that price is rejection. Rejection is part of the game of dating, and you have to pay to play.
Rejection is about putting ourselves out there and risking somebody saying no, or potentially saying yes.
Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with you, but it is a form of information. And I think primarily, that that person you approached, dated, what have you, may not be the best fit for you. And why would you want to date or be with someone who isn’t right for you?
How rejection is useful to us
From my point of view, you should reject as many people as humanly possible. And, other people, as many as possible should reject you. If you can set to the side all of the people who aren’t a good fit for you, you can start sifting through all the noise to find those people with whom you would want to make a meaningful connection. The people you click with.
Now, a few more words on self-improvement. Self-improvement is good, going to the gym, being involved in cool activities, learning a skill, these are all good things. Whatever you do to yourself, though, it won’t change somebody else not being that into you. It just won’t.
It also won’t change somebody who isn’t a good fit for you into somebody who is.
No amount of muscles, money, skills, or looks is going to make a square peg fit into a round hole.
Similarly, if your thing is getting together with friends and playing cards against humanity. And the other person you're interested in is like what the hell is this, that’s so dumb. Maybe not the best fit.
Or if your thing is going to a bar or a club and dancing the night away, and the person you like just, doesn't? Maybe even gets insecure about you going out and living your life. Not the best fit.
Square peg. Round hole. Looks or money can't force a fit for the human heart.
Unless you're filthy rich and invest all your money into genetic research aimed at creating the ideal human with a large round shaped hole in their heart to fill with your perfectly sized square peg. I concede your point.
Except now you're not just a rich person anymore, but probably Lex Luthor. Or some other eccentric billionaire super villain.
Now I know people might misinterpret this, so to be clear, I don't mean reject everyone who doesn't fit some unreasonable standard you may have. I don't mean don't put any energy into self-improvement.
What I am saying, is that if you accept the reality of rejection, you can use that reality for your own well-being. That acceptance, actually makes self-improvement easier and more effective.
If you start with “I have to figure out what I did wrong so I can change it,” or “I'm so bad or unlovable I have to change myself,” etc, you're likely going to feel shitty.
Fun fact about making any kind of change: if you do it out of shame, it makes change really hard. You need to have a bit of acceptance in order to make formative changes.
3 Ways to Handle Rejection
So if you're someone who struggles with rejection in relationships, I'm going to give you 3 tools you can use to start coping with rejection now. That way, rejection can stop overwhelming you, and start being an opportunity for you to learn, so you can take more risks.
Number 1, Don't. Take it. Personal.
If somebody didn't respond to your message on OkCupid, or rebuffed your advance at a bar or what have you, it doesn't mean you are bad. There's a multitude of things that go through a person's mind when they decide not to engage, and often many of them have nothing to do with you.
Number 2, Make a graceful exit.
Sometimes when we get rejected, we get mad. We think about what an asshole that person was, or how wrong they were to reject you. You'll have all of these negative thoughts toward them. But unless you have telepathic powers, all of those thoughts and feelings are gonna stay inside you and fester. It'll become toxic. For some of us, we'll get stuck in our own heads fighting with that person, having all sorts of arguments as to why they should give you a chance. This doesn't help you move forward.
For some of us, this might lead to a protest in which we ask why we're being rejected, or argue with that person so to why we're being rejected. Sometimes asking for feedback is good, relevant, and helpful. But often times it both reveals and reinforces our insecurity. Just because we press someone for an answer, doesn't mean we'll actually get an accurate one. They may just want you to go away and feel the need to come up with something.
It might be more important for you to make a graceful exit. Not fighting with the other person, not fighting with them in your mind, or blaming them, but really letting go and moving on. The less energy you spend fighting rejection in your mind, the more energy you can free up to do other things, including pursuing other people, or engaging in self-improvement.
Number 3, Try, and then try again.
When we fear something, we often avoid it so we don't feel that pain. Then when it happens, it feels catastrophic, overwhelming, horrible, right. What we don't realize is if we face that thing, over and over again, we can actually become less scared of it. We habituate, we desensitize ourselves to it, so over time, it's less and less anxiety provoking.
So too with rejection—the more you avoid it, the bigger it's going to be in your mind. But the more you face it, the more times you experience it without berating yourself or the other person, the more you accept it, the easier it'll be for you get out there.
And the more you take risks and get out there, the more likely it is to find people that you'd want to connect with.