Why do we take rejections so personally?
A while ago I went on a few dates, maybe 5 in total, with someone who I thought I clicked with. Lots of overlaps with interests, dating goals, and life goals. I told friends about her, she told friends about me, we even ran into one of her friends who said “Oh you’re the blog guy”. It all seemed to be going well, then she ghosted. It felt out of nowhere and quite frankly, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.
I pride myself on handling rejection well, on being indifferent to the slights that come with dating big and small, but something about this whole thing just bothered me. I’ve been rejected before, I’ve been ghosted before, and I’ve been on the other side of things too. I write about this stuff, and I think I’ve got a good handle on dealing with it. A rejection shouldn’t bother me, ghosting shouldn’t bother me, but in that instant, I was personally offended.
So I reached out to her. I came from a place of trying to understand, and not confrontational. Not that I’m against confronting people who ghost you, it just doesn’t do anything for me. But knowing why at the very least felt like something that would help me get over how upset I was. It didn’t, but that’s a whole other story.
Does this story sound familiar to you? Anything like this happen in your dating life? Maybe a more generic scenario sounds more common to you: One, two, or a few dates in, you get rejected. Maybe it’s a passive rejection like being ghosted, maybe it’s a more active rejection. Whatever the scenario, you take the rejection really poorly. It feels personal, even if it wasn’t, and you just can’t get over it. Why is that?
I think that many of us have a desire to be liked. Many people want to be considered good, and interesting, and a rejection feels like a rejection of that. A rejection feels less like an impersonal decision and more like a judgment on the quality of who we are as a person. A rejection can feel like a rejection of your value as a person. Not every rejection feels this way of course.
In my experience, the rejections that I took the most personally had two things in common. First, I was excited about the person, and not just attracted to them. Second, I mentioned that person to someone as a potentially viable romantic partner. I never said “This is the woman I’m going to marry” or anything, it was usually more like “I met this girl and I’ve got a good feeling about her”.
Being wrong about someone hurts, even more so when you were wrong after you loudly and proudly talked someone up. It hurts to be wrong, but it hurts even more to be wrong when other people know you’re wrong. I think that’s why people tend to make ghosting so much more personally than any other type of rejection. It’s one thing to read attraction incorrectly, or level of interest incorrectly, and get rejected. It’s another to think all those things are there, plus assume that someone is decent enough to give you an honest rejection, and to just be ignored. That’s what being ghosted is, it’s being aggressively and purposefully ignored. Nobody wants to be ignored, especially by someone they thought would treat them decently.
So, commiserating aside, what can we do? There’s no way that I know of to effectively shut off the emotions you’re feeling, but perspective helps. Sure, a rejection sucks, but each rejection has a silver lining. At minimum, each rejection you receive is an opportunity to find a better fit for you. Being ghosted can be hurtful, but it’s better to be ghosted early rather than late, now you’re not wasting time on someone who isn’t interested in you. Sure, it’d be nice to never get ghosted, but you know as well as I that people can be rude to each other when dating. Yes, it sucks to get your hopes up about someone to only be proven wrong. Remember though, you don’t really know the people you rejected all that well, so being wrong about them isn’t indicative of some sort of failing on your part.
You’re human. You’re not perfect, and neither are the people you date. You’ll get rejected, you’ll get ghosted, and you’ll need to eventually move on if you ever want to find a better match for you. Acknowledge why a particular rejection hurt, put it in perspective, but try not to dwell on it for too long. Remember all the silver linings to be had in a rejection, and if it’s any consolation, you’re not alone.
Good Luck Out There.
Also published on Medium.