“Well, it was really nice meeting you, bud, but I don’t really think we’re a match. Good luck to you though!” –or- “Yeah, it was fun! I’ll call you!” –and then the call never comes.
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there at one time or another. You know, that stabbing feeling of being unwanted that’s so hard to shake when it strikes. Yep—rejection! Rejection of all forms is a natural part of being human, from being declined for a job or being refused participation in a certain club. But as a single guy on a quest for a life partner, rejection is an inescapable given in the dating world as you search for a compatible counterpart. There is no way around it!
Now in this article, I’m not going to sugar-coat things and say “just get over it” or “it’s his loss if he doesn’t want to date you.” This type of common advice minimizes the impact rejection really has. The truth of the matter is that rejection sucks! It hurts, it’s no fun, and it can be difficult to swallow at times. But while rejection can be a nasty experience, it is a fact of life that needs to be accepted and embraced in order to survive and triumph over its effects. There’s no easy formula for overcoming the fear of rejection, but what’s offered here are some tips for making the most of it and taking on a new perspective to help you forage on and prevent it from holding you back from accomplishing your relationship goals and dreams.
Why Rejection Hurts
Growing up gay in a homophobic society poses many challenges as we face our developmental tasks and build an identity. As gay men, most of us carried boat-loads of shame and fears of not being accepted for who we were as we grew up (and a lot of us still struggle with these issues as adults) because of the messages from society that said being gay is “bad.” This prejudice and discrimination, coupled with the fear of not being accepted, can lead to an extra-hypersensitivity when any kind of rejection is perceived. This can be even more pronounced for those men who experienced banishment from their families or suffered some type of trauma or abuse for being gay. Low self-esteem, the tendency to have a strong need for approval, and to define one’s self-image around what others think of you can be additional culprits in making rejection seem insurmountable.
The Costs Are High!
For some single gay men, the fear of rejection acts as a huge barrier against their claiming one of their most desired goals—a loving relationship. This fear can manifest itself in giving up on dating, isolating oneself, avoiding risks that could result in positive life changes, a tendency to become desperate, needy, clingy, and a people-pleaser. Then there’s all the negative, pessimistic thinking, anxiety, potential to become codependent, fear of commitment, and presenting a false self to avoid exposing oneself and being vulnerable, which then leads to intimacy deficits, decreased social confidence, and sometimes it reaches dangerous depths of turning to things such as alcohol/drugs and sex to self-medicate against those feelings. The list goes on—yuck!
What does rejection mean to you?
What are some of the losses and negative consequences you’ve endured as a result of your fear of rejection, if any?
A Mental Shift Is Required
A new mindset is mandatory for conquering the negative effects of a fear of rejection in the dating world. Most struggles with rejection stem from your self-talk, the chatter we all have going on in our heads all the time. What you think affects how you feel which affects how you act, and then they all interrelate with each other. You can create a self-fulfilling prophecy that if you expect rejection, it’ll turn out that way. A lot of our fears of being “dismissed” come from such cognitive distortions (negative thought traps) as catastrophizing (blowing things out of proportion) and mindreading (making unfounded assumptions). You can certainly miss out on golden opportunities for meeting Mr. Right if you expend all your energy on your worries and negative thinking, not to mention that your self-esteem will be undermined and you won’t feel comfortable in your own skin.
Your job is to identify which thoughts help vs. hinder your cause; capitalize on those that boost your confidence and motivate you, and work at defeating those negative thoughts that keep you trapped in vicious cycles of self-defeat. Replace those negative tapes with more affirming statements; this will take a lot of consistent practice to internalize the new messages and counter the old ones that form your beliefs. Another option is to create situations for yourself that will prove your old negative beliefs wrong by demonstrating to yourself that you are capable of overcoming anything that acts as an obstacle to your success.
Tips For Coping With Rejection
The following are some ideas to help you reframe the way you think about rejection so it doesn’t seem so unbearable. Your negative beliefs can have a strong hold over you because they’re trying to protect you against perceived threat or harm, so some of these tips might inspire an “oh please!” or “yeah right!” attitude. Let your mind be open and pick and choose those that might best fit your personality and style. View any resistance you may feel as an indication that your self-protection mechanisms may have been triggered and refuse to be held victim by them any longer.
View rejection as a success. The fact that that guy doesn’t want to date you is saving you a lot of time and energy in building something that wouldn’t have worked out anyway. You’ve invested nothing, your heart is safe, and now you can channel your energies into new possibilities.
Typically, rejection has nothing to do with you; it’s a projection of the other person’s wants, needs, and life experiences. He doesn’t really know you. All he is aware of is what he saw and what you shared with him about yourself, but that’s not the totality of who you are. It’s more about him. It’s not your fault, so avoid personalizing it and realize also that you are not Mr. Right for every guy you meet and vice versa. Most people you date will not be the right guy for you.
Avoid attaching yourself to outcomes. Approach every date free from fantasy and as an opportunity to meet someone new. If something works out, then that’s an added bonus. Don’t mold yourself into a relationship just for the sake of being in one. Be the chooser!
A fear of being alone is closely tied to fear of rejection. The more value you place on someone, the stronger the fear will be, so take the emphasis off of him and find ways to value yourself. Discover ways to be “happily single”, independent, and don’t put stock in being fulfilled in your life only if you’re in a relationship. Identify your strengths and recognize what makes you a “good catch.” Cultivate a positive self-image.
Build your self-confidence by becoming the best “you” you can be. Invest in your personal growth, fine-tune your social skills, take safe and calculated risks, enhance your self-esteem and body image, develop a more balanced lifestyle with purposeful goals that will give you meaning. This will help take the focus off the other guy and put it more squarely on you and living your life to the max to where rejection won’t matter as much to you.
Whenever you experience feelings of rejection, write down the thoughts you’re having in a journal and work at correcting any distorted beliefs that may be hurting you. Are you condemning yourself? Are your thoughts reinforcing low self-esteem? How are you contributing to your own feelings of rejection? Develop your own personal list of affirmations that will encourage and affirm you and rehearse them daily.
Most importantly, stop giving emotional power to these men! How do you even know if this guy was really a match for you either? Are you projecting? His saying “no” to another date basically means that your personal requirements for a long-term relationship do not appear to match up. It is the traits, not you! And if a rejection occurs over something superficial, you don’t want to be with that person anyway. Superficiality does not equal long-term sustenance in relationships. Overcome your fear of being negatively judged by having a solid grasp on your vision and requirements to operate from that.
While nobody likes to be rejected, remember that it’s all about perception and that you have total control over the way that you think and interpret things; you have no control over the other person. Reframe your experience of rejection in more positive terms, develop a mindset of acceptance to bounce back quickly, and keep centered on your goals and beliefs in your ability to lead a happy life. Dating is risky business and not for the faint of heart, but can be a rewarding adventure. Don’t let your fears of rejection paralyze your life; live by the mantra NO MORE MISSED OPPORTUNITIES and remember that the main reason Mr. Right will want to be with you is by you being who you inherently are—that’s why he will fall in love with you and vice versa. So be yourself! Keep an ongoing log of affirmations that resonate with you to help you stay upbeat and centered during those difficult times, and in conclusion, here’s a neat way of looking at rejection.
To build resiliency, you must experience disappointment and rejection and failure and learn that one, you can survive it, and two that sometimes the universe has a better plan for you than you had for yourself all along. — Azriela Jaffe, author of “Starting From No: 10 Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business.”