Getting Comfortable With Rejection

There are many reasons why we may struggle with finding a partner. For some of us, we have trouble even getting off the starting block, as it were — meeting new people, joining dating apps, or asking someone on a date all feel overwhelming. Part of this is about our fear of rejection — we feel we won’t be able to handle being turned down or someone being uninterested in us, so we either never make an effort, or “settle” for relationships that we know won’t make us happy. In order to grow out of our comfort zone and find relationships that will genuinely fulfill us, it’s important to work on taking rejection in stride. Here’s what I suggest:

Understand that leaning in to rejection is key to success in dating

2024-02-13 Blog Image 2

You’ve heard the saying that “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and that’s certainly true. On the level of logistics, the only surefire way to avoid rejection is to stay safe at home alone and never even try to make other human connections — which means you’ll never find love (or even friendship). 

But fear of rejection causes more harm to our love lives and relationships than just the logistical. When your actions and decisions are primarily dictated by a desire to avoid rejection, conflict, and abandonment, you wind up making choices that make your entire life smaller, more limited, and less healthy. Someone who’s terrified of rejection doesn’t pursue the type of person they’re actually interested in, because they’re worried they won’t be considered good enough; they won’t describe what they really want in bed because they’re embarrassed and dread being turned down. 

Alternatively, someone with a healthy fear of rejection can ask out the new acquaintance they meet who seems like exactly what they’re looking for in a partner because they know that no matter what the response is, it doesn’t change their worth as a person. They’re able to raise an issue within their relationship that’s really bothering them, because they know that even if their partner reacts badly or it changes the relationship dynamic, they’ll be okay. If you’d like those statements to be able to describe you, it’s crucial to work on your relationship to rejection.

Give yourself permission to say “no”

2024-02-13 Blog Image 3

Slightly counterintuitively, a key step in becoming more comfortable with the idea of being rejected is becoming more comfortable with “rejecting” others. We often assume some pretty extreme things about those who say no to us or turn us down — that they hate us, think we’re pathetic, that they’re insulted we asked, or that we put them in some kind of terribly fraught position by even making a request. When we take it as a personal project to get more comfortable saying “no” ourselves, we can start to poke holes in some of those assumptions and destigmatize both the act of asking for things and the act of saying no to them.

What and who should you “reject?” Think about where you currently feel some stress, resentment, or reluctance. Has a coworker asked you to cover their shift short notice? Make a point with yourself of saying “Sorry, I can’t — good luck!” and notice what happens. You likely don’t feel intense resentment or hatred toward them, and likely nothing bad happens as a result of your saying no — they find someone else to take the shift, and the matter is resolved. Allow yourself to start actively noticing moments like this, where a request or invitation is turned down and nothing bad happens to anyone.

Practice taking small risks and hearing small “no”s

2024-02-13 Blog Image 4

Build on your success in the step above by practicing making small requests — ones that you may well hear a “no” to. Ask your friend if they can pick you up on the way to the event you’re both going to; ask the diners at the next table over if you can borrow their hot sauce; ask your server if you can substitute a poached egg for scrambled. Try a new hobby or activity that you know you aren’t very good at in the privacy of your own home — watercolor painting or bread baking. 

Notice what happens if you hear “no” or if you don’t perform well — it likely feels frustrating and embarrassing. Notice what happens after the feeling of frustration and embarrassment: likely nothing much. Life goes on, and the feeling fades. Bringing your awareness to this fact — letting yourself feel the discomfort, but reminding yourself that it’s only that, discomfort — will help build your resilience to rejection and difficult experiences in general.

Bring compassionate attention to your internal rejection narrative

2024-02-13 Blog Image 5

It’s possible that when you think about being rejected in an interpersonal or romantic context — being turned down by someone you like or being broken up with — you still feel paralyzed and shut down, even after taking these steps. Instead of berating yourself or deciding never to date again, make an effort to just notice what comes up when you think about being rejected. Are there thoughts that repeat, like “I’m pathetic,” or “why did I ever think I had a shot?” Is there a feeling in your body, like heat or nausea? What’s the main emotion that comes up? Anxiety? Shame? Humiliation?

These are all clues to the reasons why rejection feels so scary to you, and what might be useful in relating to it differently. We all have our own personal set of associations with interpersonal experiences that make some more daunting than others; paying attention to what set of beliefs about yourself or what’s going to happen to you you associate with rejection can be helpful in working with friends, a partner or a therapist in becoming less reactive to it.

For More Articles Check Out These Recent Posts:

Learning to Say No

Are You From an “Ask” or “Guess” Culture, and Why Does It Matter?

Our “Turn-Offs” When Dating Someone New

Take the Butch-Femme Quiz

take the Butch

Quiz me!