Here’s how to cope with repeated rejection
Malte Mueller | Fstop | Getty Images
Dating, much like job hunting, is a grueling process punctuated by discouraging rejections.
Every sparkless dinner or deadbeat conversation feels like a personal and definite failure.
Anyone who’s had a string of bad dates knows how overwhelming a back-to-back disappointment can be.
Being rejected repeatedly has a “cumulative effect,” says Mark Leary, a former psychology professor at Duke University. Leary’s research focuses on social relationships.
“If you wrecked your car every day of the week, it would be stressful and anxious.”
If you wrecked your car every day of the week, it would be stressful and anxious.
Feeling bad makes you a “normal person,” Leary says, but fixating on your rejection can lead to some long-term consequences.
“People develop a worldview that the world is a rejecting place,” says Leary.
If you think your rejection was your fault, it will affect your self-esteem. “Even if it’s just a one-time rejection, if you think it’s you, your self-esteem will go down,” says Leary.
You might be more reluctant to give people a chance and start to “retreat,” he says. “One way to avoid getting hurt is to stop going out on dates.”
If you think it was the other person’s fault or it’s just bad luck, you may get “an angrier retaliatory reaction,” says Leary.
Instead of bitterly saying goodbye to certain experiences, you can learn to deal with repeated rejection in a way that helps build trust rather than diminish it.
Give yourself breathing space, says Thema Bryant, president of the American Psychological Association and a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, where she directs the Culture and Trauma Research Laboratory.
“Sometimes, right after a rejection or repeated rejection, we try to immediately settle down with another person,” she says. “The breakup was last night and this morning I’m on every app.”
Resist this urge and give yourself time to just feel bad.
As you take time to grieve, you can also reflect on why you seem to be struggling. Do you get similar feedback from all your dates? Or pursue a certain type of person who doesn’t seem to appreciate you.
“I like to say it ‘brings wisdom out of wounds,'” says Bryant.
“Sometimes we have self-sabotaging behaviors where we actually like the person, but because of our own history, we treat the people we like most the worst,” says Bryant. “They could send mixed messages. To be able to think about if I can somehow contribute to this cycle so I can learn about myself.”
I like to say it’s “drawing wisdom out of wounds”.
President of the American Psychological Association
Try not to jump to the most hurtful conclusions, Leary says. Most people interpret rejection as more personal than it actually is.
“Do your best to assess the problem realistically,” he says.
If a potential partner is taking a long time to reply and says it’s because they’re busy with work, don’t invent another, more disturbing, reason why they’re not being more communicative.
As you reflect, remember to separate your story from your value.
“There are times when looking at the evidence doesn’t work,” says Bryant. “The evidence tells you that this keeps happening to you because you’re worthless or unattractive, but the truth is that we don’t always receive treatment commensurate with our worthiness.”
The pain of rejection is partly due to how isolating it feels. As you go on date after date, you might start comparing yourself to those who have found a partner.
“To give yourself grace and compassion, I would say rid yourself of comparisons,” says Bryant.
And don’t try to adopt a scarcity mentality.
“This fear that there aren’t enough people or not enough love for me,” she says. “There are many people looking for friends or looking for relationships.”