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 article, 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 minimizes 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 relationship goals and dreams.
Why Rejection Hurts
Growing up gay in a 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 “bad.” 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 catastrophizing (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; capitalize 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 internalize 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.
[ Part 2 - Tomorrow ]
To build resiliency, you must experience disappointment and rejection and failure and learn that one, you can survive it, and two that sometimes the universe has a better plan for you than you had for yourself all along. --- Azriela Jaffe, author of “Starting From No: 10 Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business.”
©2006 Brian L. Rzepczynski
Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, contributing author to GAYTWOGETHER, is one of the leading love coaches for the gay community. As a licensed dating and relationship coach, Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, DHS, MSW has over 18 years experience as a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in helping GLBT individuals and couples develop and maintain successful and fulfilling intimate relationships. He holds a doctorate degree in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Western Michigan University. He also runs a successful private therapy practice, Personal Victory Counseling, Inc. http://thegaylovecoach.com