It’s Not Me, It’s You

How do you cope with rejection, dear Ghost?

One thing I can say for my 24-year-long relationship is that it helped me to avoid rejection for that period of time. I’ve never been good at handling it, but now that I’m on my own again and back in the cesspool that is the dating game, it’s an inevitability. It has, in fact, already happened.

So how does one cope with that? I mean, I’m just being me. As I said in my last post, my goal in life is to be unapologetically myself. So it obviously hurts if someone doesn’t like me for me, or finds me full of flaws that are too much for them, or doesn’t find me attractive. One rejection or a handful is OK, I can take that. But what happens when they really start to stack up? That’ll be a real kick in the ass.

I just Googled “how to cope with rejection”, and an article in Psychology Today suggested that I “strengthen my resiliency.” Well, great. So the answer to coping with rejection is to get better at coping with rejection. That’s possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. They also suggest grieving the loss, but if you’re getting rejected on a weekly, or even daily, basis, are you just going to be grieving all the time? Christ, I’ll have to limit myself to one date a month just so I have time to grieve, get over it, have a week or two of relative happiness, and then go get rejected again the next month.

I guess the answer is really to build a fundamental level of confidence that’s not breakable. It’s also probably wise to stay off dating websites, though in the wake of my latest rejection I opened a Tinder account because I don’t know how I’m going to meet people otherwise. I am sick of going to bars; I don’t want to pick up or get hit on by guys who are hammered, while I’m hammered. If nothing else, Tinder is a really good reminder that there are a lot of lonely people out there, which makes me feel just a teensy bit less alone.

I had really hoped that I would meet someone more organically, through a friend or through a shared interest. Maybe that could still happen. I’ve never really been a joiner, but I guess I’d better start if I want to put myself out there. At the very least, participating in activities that I like is never a bad thing, and doing it with others can stave off loneliness for a few hours at a time.

The one valuable nugget of advice in the Psychology Today article is that you shouldn’t blame yourself if you’re rejected. That’s easier said than done, because clearly if someone rejects me there is something about me that they don’t like, right? True, but that may be more their problem than mine, and it may be something I have very little control over, like my age or my face or my shoe size. If that’s the case, then what can I do? I may never know the reason for the rejection, and that’s kind of the hardest part. At the same time, do I even want to know? Would I try to change something about myself if I knew, and is that even reasonable? I guess if I knew at heart that I was a despicable person, that would be something to try to change, but I’m not. I’m also not stupid, unlovable, difficult, or ugly. The article says that self-blame may result from childhood conditioning, and that “these are beliefs that you can now choose to discard. As an adult, you’re better equipped to consider alternative hypotheses – other reasons for rejection.”

So maybe if I just have a bulletproof awareness that I’m a good person, that I am lovable, kind and decent, then the rejection becomes the personal issue of the rejector and is no longer really my problem. Is it fair? No. Will it hurt? Probably. Nobody likes everything about everyone. But if I just keep on doing my best to be me, someone might eventually like the whole package, flaws and all.

Dear Ghost friend, if you haven’t already fucked off to some other corner of the spiritual galaxy just to get away from my inane musings, then please bear with me as I explore the idea a little further.

I really want to know how to handle rejection well. It’s inevitable that I will be rejected again at some point on this journey through singlehood on the way to negotiating terms for a new (hopefully) love. I had a date last night, and though it went really well and I think we both want to see each other again, it really means nothing. The dealbreaker could surface next time, or the next, or the next, until a reasonably solid foundation has been built on which to discuss the future and what it is about each other that we have a hard time with, without making that thing the reason we don’t see each other again.

As I said, I Googled “how to cope with rejection”, and while the initial advice from an article in Psychology Today was totally stupid, I went on to read other items, and listened to a podcast. An article I read that I absolutely loved suggested that I embrace rejection as protection, which is the most valuable thing I’ve learned in the last few months. It means that you embrace your rejection because it leaves you free for a better experience. This is such comfort.

The podcast was called the “Self Love Fix” by some totally brilliant 24 year old woman named Beatrice whose well-adjusted self I would absolutely have KILLED to channel at her age. She talked for 25 minutes about why you shouldn’t chase someone who doesn’t want you. To go a step further, she talked about what the signs are of someone who doesn’t really want you, and why it’s in your best interest to step away. She called my most recent rejection experience out completely: “Don’t feel like you have to make excuses for how these men interact with you. Trust me, it will be very clear, it will be very clear. And if they’re not clear, well, then good. Thank them for not being clear so that you can be on your way. Who wants to be in a relationship anyway where you have to de-code how they feel? Where you have to decide how they actually feel about you?“

And that’s exactly it. I don’t. I deserve better than that. If he likes me enough, he will be clear about that, and he will be available. He will want to spend time with me, and the relationship will be on both our terms, not just his. So no matter how much I want this guy in my life and in my bed, none of it is even remotely worth it if I’m constantly questioning my position in his heart and always on the verge of heartbreak. Fuck that. Fuck that completely. Also, knowing what he knows about my most recent year, how dare he toy with me this way? How dare he be one more thing I have to work through?

I also texted with my friend Matt about this topic. I told him what I was writing about, and that brilliant and lovely peach of a man said this to me:

“Of all the people I have known in my life, I can say that you are one of THE best, kindest, most loving, good and decent souls to ever live. And, I think I have known that for many, many lifetimes. Do not doubt you. Do not allow yourself to feel lesser because of how others treat or have treated you. In the end, it’s your own heart, love and goodness that will shine, and those who discard it will be all the lesser for it. Be steadfast in who you are and be the light, no matter what anyone else says or does.”

Once I finished crying, I realized that all you really need to handle rejection is some truly brilliant people in your corner. Holy shit, Matt. Thank you for that, my sweet friend.

This was a long and brutal one, Ghost. Thanks for making it through.

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