One thing I often think about is that when you’re single, there are so many opportunities to suffer from the sting of rejection. When you’re in a long-term, committed relationship; a night out, or a new social scenario is exactly that – you can enjoy it for what it is, without the added pressure of wondering if it will be an opportunity to meet someone. When you’re single, any instance where you’ll be coming across new groups of people (a holiday, a new job, starting a new hobby) brings with it the gentle wonder of whether you’ll also find a romantic connection (and if you’re not thinking that, try doing any of those things without your friends commenting – “Ooh, I bet that’s where you’ll come across Mr Right!”)
As well finding yourself gazing around a bar to see if anyone piques your interest, there’s obviously the more antisocial digital version; the left swiping through a sea of selfies to see if your perfect person is lurking there. With all of this swiping, gazing, and allowing your imagination to run wild as to whether that guy who works in Finance really did smile at you in the canteen, you must still be harbouring some sense of hopefulness about meeting someone, no matter how large or small that sense of optimism is. And the problem with that, is that hope can so often be dashed, and with allowing yourself to be vulnerable (going on dates, making the first move on Bumble, asking your friend to pass on your number to their attractive friend), there is also the possibility of rejection. And rejection STINGS.
Trust me, I feel like I have become a connoisseur of rejection recently. From guys who chat to you for weeks and then drop off the face of the earth before the first date, to guys who go from ‘love-bombing’ to ‘ghosting’ in a period of days, to the dates that end up in relationships that later don’t work out. It’s hard not to let your self-esteem take a battering when it happens, and it’s almost impossible not to immediately wonder “what’s wrong with me?”
If you’re anything like me, rejection threatens your sense of ‘enough-ness’. It makes me feel like I obviously wasn’t ‘cool enough’, ‘fun enough’, ‘pretty enough’ or ‘slim enough’ (I know). It makes you feel un-worthy or un-loveable, and if that’s a narrative you already struggle with, it can reinforce those feelings (“See? I knew I’d never meet someone who liked me.” etc). It’s easy to also get caught in a trap where we seek out dating scenarios which will ‘prove’ our pre-conceptions about our ability to love or be loved – for example someone who (consciously or unconsciously) believes they aren’t worthy of love might seek out people with an avoidant attachment style who will push them away and reject their desire for intimacy, which only serves to reinforce their low self-worth.
Even though there’s no doubt that rejection sucks, I’ve been given so many opportunities to learn and grow over the last few months that I wouldn’t have had if I had immediately settled into a relationship. I learned that I was being very passive in my dating endeavours – treating it like a ‘job interview’ where I’d wait to see if they liked me, rather than really analysing whether that individual had qualities I was looking for too. I learned that I was placing too much pressure on my dating endeavours to bring me happiness – waiting for someone to come along and save me from my lonely Friday nights stuck indoors and shower me with affection and validation. That’s too much pressure to put on anyone. I learned that I was measuring my self-worth by the amount of validation I was getting from the person I was dating at that time. I felt pretty because the guy I met on Tinder said so, I felt fun because the guy in Revs asked for my number after we’d chatted for 10 minutes at the bar. The fact is, I am fun and a kind, thoughtful person with a lot to offer in a relationship, regardless of whether I’m in one or not, and regardless of whether Dave from Bumble decided to un-match me the night before we were due to meet. “Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”
And the most important thing I’ve learned? Rejection is never about you. The Second Agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s ‘The Four Agreements‘ is ‘Don’t take anything personally’. He says: “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in … If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”
As the old adage goes, rejection is redirection, and every rejection is nudging you gently towards something that is more meant for you. But yeah, it hurts.