Ah, rejection! It keeps you on your toes unlike anything else. I was recently sent a “thanks but no thanks; I don’t see it working out; etc etc so long farewell auf wiedersehn aideu” from someone I liked. And, it’s not the first time I’ve been rejected – in fact, I write a lot about rejection – but thankfully over the years, the writing has changed because I have changed. Loss teaches you a lot about yourself, about what you offer, what you need, what you want. It teaches you also about how you react to things you cannot control, and what you attach importance to in your life.
And, if you’re very lucky and a little clever, it can teach you a lot about love too.
A note about the title: I didn’t always find romantic rejection to be refreshing or appealing – certainly, I wasn’t always so appreciative of it. It took me a long time and a lot of self-love, self-compassion, self interest as well as compassion, empathy, and understanding for other people’s choices to get to this point. So here are some useful reminders:
- If you’re dating right, rejection should feel like a risk.
What I mean by this is that rejection is always a risk when you’re interested in someone – and you should be able to feel that vulnerability. That vulnerability, safe and protected, is commitment. That vulnerability, when shared, is butterflies. That vulnerability, when expressed to one another, is love. And when that vulnerability is not reciprocated, it’s rejection. If you are dating and aren’t particularly interested in someone, there’s no real risk to your heart at all – so you may date comfortably for a while, but you may be playing it so safe that you’re not meeting anyone that makes you feel warm fuzzy feelings.
- Date people who like you and who you also like. This is probably the only rule to dating. If you date people you don’t like, you experience 0 risk, but also 0 magic. Half the fun in dating, connecting, sharing, is being able to show someone how much you care about them – you won’t do that instinctively unless the connection sparks something in you. The other half is receiving the same from someone. If you are chasing after people who don’t like you, you are playing a validation/attention-seeking/low self-worth game, and that’s no fun. You have to enjoy being liked, and this is NOT the same feeling as winning someone over, or convincing someone that you are worth being liked.
- Rejection is a reminder that feelings can sometimes change and it’s no one’s fault, and the key to inner peace is to stay on the same page as the other person. I dated “Auf Wiedersehen” – that’s his name now, for the purposes of this blog post – and every day I checked in with myself about point 2 on this list. I felt I liked him, and I felt he liked me. I wasn’t ready to commit but I felt some sort of connection, and he also felt something. I’m still pretty sure that something existed for the time that it existed. When it began to change, I could feel the emotional distance between us and changed my pace/interest accordingly. And I checked in because it’s not always clear what is happening when that emotional distance sets in. Any number of things can be happening in anyone’s life that causes them to be distracted, not present, and aloof – it’s not always about their feelings for you. When he explicitly said he was no longer interested, it let me lose interest in him fairly quickly because our connection no longer fit with point 2.
- The answer should be: Nothing. The question is: “What would/should I have done differently while knowing this person?”
Something I realized I’d been doing in the past was taking some serious stock of my flaws after being rejected – and rightfully so, I had many characteristics that I considered to be flaws in myself, that I wanted to work on for the sake of better relationships and better connections. I’m not saying I’m “perfect” now, but in large part, I don’t think I did anything “wrong” or “unkind” in the time I knew “Auf Wiedersehen”. I was myself. I stayed true to my needs and also to my ideals of compassion and kindness. There was emotional and sexual chemistry up to a point. I didn’t feel the need to pick apart my actions, because while dating this person, I tried very hard to ensure my actions met my own, extremely well thought-out, criteria and ideals for a relationship. I acted from a place of security, interest, and of course, flirtation 😉
- a) Q: Did I genuinely like the person I dated? A: yes
b) Q: Did I feel they liked me? A: yes
c) Q: Did I enjoy who I was around them? A: yes
d) Q: Did I modulate my behaviour based on their behaviour to ensure we were on the same page? A: yes
e) Q: Did I ask questions to clarify the situation: A: yes
f) Q: Was there anything else I could have done? A: no
g) Q: Can I be on my own and love my own company? A: yes, always
Sometimes you take a risk, and in the end, you get stung – but that doesn’t mean that taking the risk was a wrong decision in the first place.
- I associate rejection with courage, because I associate life and going for what I want, with courage. Do you have any idea how many people are in relationships that are making them miserable simply because they don’t know how to live with themselves, alone? I have no need for half-relationships. I have no need for relationships that pretend at romance and which mask insecurities. I love genuine, deep connections, sharing honest moments, and being there for myself and for a potential partner — and it’s the only thing I’ll settle for.
- Rejection is a reminder that the people who are wrong for you will remove themselves from your life to make way for something better. Even if that “something better” is your life, on your own, it’s better than being with someone who does not want you. You are not losing anything with rejection – you are gaining a truer sense of your connection with someone. Even if that truth is “there is nothing here”, that’s a truth to be grateful for because you can work within the realm of truth. The realm of deceit, lies, suspicion, fear, anger, hate are paralyzing places to be in, emotionally. Who needs that? Not me!
- ***SOME ADVANCED LEVEL SHIT*** Are you ready? Who you are when rejected is who you are at your darkest core. Romantic rejection brings out your deepest darkest insecurities. It’s not necessarily your only truth, but it’s a part of you that you’d rather run from. It can even be a part of you that you hate, that you hoped would be “appreciated” by someone else, that you decide to hate even more upon being rejected. A few years ago, for me, that was a damning emotional space to be in – and it required a lot of personal growth to come out of that. It required me taking a deep compassionate look at parts of myself that I did not like very much, and make a decision about some of those parts: I had to decide if it was worth it to love those parts of myself or change those parts of myself. And once I started that journey, I never stopped doing it. Do I love this or do I change this? It became a daily, weekly, monthly, minute-to-minute question – so it’s no longer a question that comes at me, bullet-speed, when I’m rejected. It’s the work of life that I’m interested in. So, I wasn’t devastated by being rejected by Mr “Auf Wiedersehen”, despite feeling all soft and squishy and sweet around him, because it’s a question that I ask every day. I know who I am and who I want to be – and my days of a rejection changing that or influencing that in a painful way are long gone.
- ***SOME MORE ADVANCED SHIT*** I can genuinely continue wanting the best for someone after they’ve rejected me because my feelings of good-will are about me alone and what I offer to people. It’s not dependent on what others are doing to me or even the impact they have on me. It’s just based on what I feel is morally kind and ethically right. I like caring about people that I like or have liked. There’s nothing wrong with that so long as I don’t impose on their lives. Maintaining a healthy distance after rejection can be a part of showing care through effective boundary-setting.
- I value my own peace of mind above anything else – and, if I’m to be in a relationship, I want a relationship that feels like having my cake and eating it too. I want it to feel good and strong without sacrificing my inner peace, sense of self, or anything of deep and personal importance to me. I want it to feel like “me and the other person vs the problem” and never “me vs the other person”. I want it to feel so good that it feels like cheating. And the price for that? Is simply the risk of rejection. You have to remember when you’re rejected that not everyone knows what they want, and not everyone has done the hard work of dealing with their own insecurities such that they can offer consistency and kindness while also offering vulnerability. Some people freak out when they like someone and withdraw. Others only date people who like them because it feels “safe”. Still others just want the chase and cannot actually handle being loved or liked because they are on an endless quest for validation. And sometimes? Sometimes you can have sexual chemistry, emotional compatibility, and it can still fuck up because that’s life and that’s timing – there is a degree of this left to chance, after all!