“Well, it was really great meeting you, mate, but I don’t really think we’re a match.
Good luck to you though!” –or- “Yeah, it was fun! I’ll call you!” –and then the
call never comes. For OutUK gay counsellor and coach Brian Rzepczynski has
been exploring ways of handling rejection.
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there at one time or another. You know, that stabbing
feeling of being unwanted that’s so hard to shake when it strikes. Yep—rejection!
Rejection of all forms is a natural part of being human, from being declined for a job or
being refused participation in a certain club. But as a single guy on a quest for a
life partner, rejection is an inescapable given in the dating world as you search for a compatible
counterpart. There is no way around it!
Now in this feature, I’m not going to sugar-coat things and say “just get over it”
or “it’s his loss if he doesn’t want to date you.” This type of common advice
minimises the impact rejection really has. The truth of the matter is that rejection
sucks! It hurts, it’s no fun, and it can be difficult to swallow at times. But while
rejection can be a nasty experience, it is a fact of life that needs to be accepted
and embraced in order to survive and triumph over its effects.|
There’s no easy formula
for overcoming the fear of rejection, but what’s offered here are some tips for making
the most of it and taking on a new perspective to help you forage on and prevent
it from holding you back from accomplishing your dreams and relationship goals.
Photograph from Kobi Israel's Intimate Strangers. Read more Kobi and his stunning photography
in our special feature here.
Why Rejection Hurts
Growing up gay in a still frequently homophobic society poses many challenges as we face our developmental
tasks and build an identity. As gay men, most of us carried boat-loads of shame and fears
of not being accepted for who we were as we grew up (and a lot of us still struggle with
these issues as adults) because of the messages from society that said being gay is “not normal.”
This prejudice and discrimination, coupled with the fear of not being accepted, can
lead to an extra-hypersensitivity when any kind of rejection is perceived. This can
be even more pronounced for those men who experienced banishment from their families
or suffered some type of trauma or abuse for being gay. Low self-esteem, the tendency
to have a strong need for approval, and to define one’s self-image around what others
think of you can be additional culprits in making rejection seem insurmountable.
The Costs Are High
For some single gay men, the fear of rejection acts as a huge barrier against their
claiming one of their most desired goals—a loving relationship. This fear can manifest
itself in giving up on dating, isolating oneself, avoiding risks that could result
in positive life changes, a tendency to become desperate, needy, clingy, and a
people-pleaser. Then there’s all the negative, pessimistic thinking, anxiety,
potential to become codependent, fear of commitment, and presenting a false self
to avoid exposing oneself and being vulnerable, which then leads to intimacy
deficits, decreased social confidence, and sometimes it reaches dangerous depths
of turning to things such as alcohol/drugs and sex to self-medicate against those
feelings. The list goes on—yuck!
· What does rejection mean to you? · What are some of the losses and negative consequences
you’ve endured as a result of your fear of rejection, if any?
A Mental Shift Is Required
A new mindset is mandatory for conquering the negative effects of a fear of rejection
in the dating world. Most struggles with rejection stem from your self-talk, the chatter
we all have going on in our heads all the time. What you think affects how you feel which
affects how you act, and then they all interrelate with each other. You can create a
self-fulfilling prophecy that if you expect rejection, it’ll turn out that way. A lot
of our fears of being “dismissed” come from such cognitive distortions (negative thought traps)
as catastrophising (blowing things out of proportion) and mindreading (making unfounded assumptions).
You can certainly miss out on golden opportunities for meeting Mr. Right if you expend all your
energy on your worries and negative thinking, not to mention that your self-esteem will be
undermined and you won’t feel comfortable in your own skin.
Your job is to identify which thoughts help vs. hinder your cause; capitalise on those that
boost your confidence and motivate you, and work at defeating those negative thoughts that
keep you trapped in vicious cycles of self-defeat. Replace those negative tapes with
more affirming statements; this will take a lot of consistent practice to internalise
the new messages and counter the old ones that form your beliefs. Another option is
to create situations for yourself that will prove your old negative beliefs wrong by
demonstrating to yourself that you are capable of overcoming anything that acts as
an obstacle to your success.
Coping With Rejection