IT'S NOTHING PERSONAL.
Maybe it was a first date and they never followed up, maybe you’ve been seeing each other for a few months and they decided it’s not going to work, maybe you finally plucked up the courage to ask them out and they weren’t interested… While rejection is pretty much inevitable in some capacity, it still blows. Getting shut down for something you desire can be painful and our fragile little hearts can’t help but wonder “why?”
Unless you have confidence of steel, romantic rejection can be traumatic and impact our self esteem. As humans, we are inherently social beings. We long for connections, meaning and need other humans to survive. So when we’re not accepted, the mind finds a way to think negatively about our own self-worth. While we’ve all heard the old line, “it’s nothing personal” — not taking rejection personally is a skill that requires practice. Rejection can come in various sizes. With the ever-evolving technology today, each of us is connected to thousands of people via social media or dating apps. It’s likely that a person might choose to ignore our posts, chats, texts, or dating profiles, and leave us feeling rejected as a result. Along with these minor rejections, we are still vulnerable to bigger, more devastating rejections as well.
This topic came about after conversing with one of my fellow bloggers (Fantasy World Unleashed). Initially we had quite an insightful discussion on whether size mattered 🤭🍆 (refer to my last post here!) We then spoke about the impact of romantic rejection and the various ways people handle it. With a ton of research available at the tips of my fingers, using my own experience combined with my interest in Psychology/Human Behaviour — I felt really inspired to turn this into a blog piece. However, the main question I was asked to address was:
WHO CAN HANDLE ROMANTIC REJECTION BETTER? MEN OR WOMEN?
On first thought, if I were to generalise (and going into the realms of stereotyping – sorry!) I would assume women would get hit by rejection harder because by nature we’re more emotionally expressive, we tend to overthink/overanalyse situations. With romantic initiatives; yes it’s men who typically have the responsibility of making the first move, therefore women are less exposed to experiencing rejection. Thus when women do receive a “No”… the aftermath can be prickly! Some get angry, others cry, anxiety increases, the ego gets bruised, we might feel like shit, etc… I’ve certainly felt it before, I’ve also witnessed many other different behaviours.
A friend of mine shared his view with me the other day. Reiterating what I had mentioned about the cultural expectation of men having to express interest first, he explained that a higher rate of rejection doesn’t necessarily mean men are any better at handling it. And from his perspective, being dismissed multiple times actually knocked his confidence down*. My other friend claimed that many men handle rejection by internalising their thoughts, compressing their feelings, but are more likely to hold onto the pain longer than women. *He also said that it’s 2020 so he’d appreciate if women would do more of the initiating... please! 😂 Ladies, take note! Are we ready to move past these stereotypical roles? Let’s save this one for another blog post! 😁
PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE
With everything considered, I guess being “better” at handling romantic rejection is not down to gender at all. It’s more to do with the person. The degree to which we are able to handle rejection is dependent on various factors such as how much we base our self-worth, contentment in the relationship and the effort invested in the other party. To put simply, some people handle rejection well, some not so well, some downright horribly. Romantic rejection can be particularly challenging, especially to individuals who desire a lasting romantic relationship. A breakup, or rejection can lead to feelings of grief that may be overwhelming, sometimes lasting for weeks, months, or even years! Some people eventually start isolating themselves or hold back from connecting with others because they’re too afraid of going through the process again. Being sensitive to rejection can alter the way we see our lives and our own self… this can result in loneliness and even depression.
The experience of rejection activates memories of other times in which we felt disregarded, or shunned. Many characteristically respond to rejection by blaming themselves. Others attack the source and express aggression toward the rejecting party. Everyone’s response to rejection is connected to how we have learned in the past to cope with negative feelings. Did you know the same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain? That’s why even the smallest things hurt more than we think they should, because they literally surface (emotional) pain. Unfortunately, when we feel hurt, the go-to response for many of us is to add fuel to the fire by being emotionally unhealthy and psychologically self-destructive, ie. criticising our self-worth or calling ourselves names.
OVERCOME IT AND REFOCUS
To put bluntly, rejection is something that will happen in life, so we should probably try to learn to work with it. Being able to face it, deal with it and come out okay on the other side can be really empowering as well as help to build emotional resilience. So here are some tips that could make the journey a little easier. Don't believe the hype Society insists that a “loss” or “failure” is undesirable. This is not true! Firstly, some situations are inevitable. We’re all bound to go through failure at some point in life. Secondly, how can we grow if we don’t experience difficulty? Thirdly, romantic rejection is not the end of the world. If you put things into perspective, you’ll realise there is a lot more to life. Moving on... It’s tempting to hold onto something that you think has potential… but don’t cling on for too long. It’s always better for your dignity and self esteem to let go gracefully. If you get turned down, don’t try and persuade or manipulate someone into giving you a chance. The relationship will most likely fail because it won’t be equal. We all deserve to be with someone who actually reciprocates the same feelings. Why be with someone who’s there… reluctantly. Call in reinforcements Socialising really helps in dealing with rejection. Call up your friends, have a good time, laugh as much as you can but also, use the time to open up to them. Don’t suppress any feelings, don’t go through the process alone. Friends are there for a reason — be free to explain how you feel, cry on their shoulders and ask for advice. Appreciate what you still have Don’t get stuck in dwelling and dragging yourself down. Try your best to shift your focus to what you actually have in life. Sometimes we obliviously get through our days taking things for granted — family, friends, our passions and hobbies… even the simple things like food, nature and a roof over our head. Refocusing our energy and tapping into gratitude will help put what happened into perspective and allow you to not be overwhelmed.
I want to give a shout out to Fantasy World Unleashed for the inspiration and conjuring up this question for me. I really enjoyed the deep dive and hope it gave you and all my readers some interesting insight!