I've had quite a few conversations recently about love, sex and romance. One friend told me he feels he is at a stage where he knows he has plenty of time to find love, but still feels like he needs “something real" right now. I told him we all feel like that.
“Then why doesn't it work for most of us?” he asked. This is a very good question, but it's not one that's easy to respond to.
With another friend of mine, I discussed the endless torture we can conjure up for ourselves and how quickly our self-esteem vanishes when faced with the perceived rejection of just one person we barely even know. Welcome to the world of romance. This is where we all stumble around, hoping to grab on to “something real,” while simultaneously patching ourselves up from stinging slaps in the face.
For almost two years now, I have been single. I think it is actually the longest time in my life I haven't had a proper relationship. I must admit that generally, I enjoy my romantic status. I won't be single forever, and right now, it suits my lifestyle. It's a bit like a fairground ride with exciting twists and turns. But, twists and turns always have the occasional potential to make you feel dizzy and just a little bit sick.
Nothing on this romantic roller coaster makes you feel more nauseous than when someone point-blank refuses to fall madly in love with you and adore you for all eternity. To some extent, I think the power it has to hurt you is dependent on just how much you look to others for validation.
Regardless, unless you are blessed with absolutely no self-awareness, facing rejection in any form is going to feel unpleasant at best. There is no avoiding this. However, you can apply the wonderful power of perspective before you start to weave some seriously unnecessary suffering for yourself. Here are five important truths you should remember when dealing with rejection:
1. It is what it is.
Most of the time, there is no real way of knowing why something is the way it is. Yet, we still proceed to torture ourselves by going through all the possible imagined reasons. You will never know why because the truth is such a complicated construct. It is built from so many, sometimes contrasting elements.
All you can do is pointlessly and usually painfully grasp at a few stories you have invented based on your biased and over analyzed version of the situation. You do not need to know why things are how they are, all you need to do is accept "what is" at this very moment. At a later stage, you may or may not be required to act in some way, but first you need to begin where you are, and that starts with accepting how this very moment is. There is no changing it; it has already arrived.
2. It's not personal.
I know this is a difficult truth to swallow. It certainly does not feel that way when we are experiencing what we interpret as rejection, but honestly, it really is nothing personal.
Your needs and wants have been under construction for many years as you change and react to every single event that occurs throughout your life. Your needs and wants are incredibly intricate and have been molded by the unique things that have happened to only you.
The thought that they could be actually based on one person in the present moment is nothing short of ludicrous. In the same way, the other person's needs and wants at this moment in time have pretty much nothing to do with you.
It has everything to do with that individual's equally complicated path in life. Do not let the frustration you feel from not getting your way turn inward on yourself. There's nothing you could have done differently to change that person's needs and wants in that particular moment.
3. Resist labeling what has happened as good or bad.
What transpired is not bad. No, really. This is because you genuinely have absolutely no way of knowing how this moment will play into the rest of your life. I promise this isn't just a tactic to feel better about not getting something you wanted. It is the truth. It is very easy to focus so closely on one small event that we lose sight of the much bigger picture.
When you are staring at something too closely, it can easily become distorted to the eyes. Maybe you win a car in a prize draw. You might think you've been blessed with good fortune. This is definitely a good thing. Maybe when you go and pick that car up, you die in a fiery crash on the drive home. Although this is an overly simplistic way of making the point, the fact is you just don't know what's in store.
You really don't know enough about life and your future to decide right now whether something is a good or bad thing. You might have felt disappointed by not winning the drawing, but maybe — just maybe — you have actually avoided a fiery crash.
4. It's going to help if you try to lighten up.
This might only be successful once you are able to stop digging a deep hole of misery for yourself. But, try looking on the bright side. Perhaps the person who has rejected you will fall on a pitchfork and become hideously deformed; that will teach that person. OK, I clearly don't mean this. But, it's much better to smile or even laugh at the situation if you can.
Life doesn't have to be so serious. Joke about what happens with yourself and with your friends. When a guy I fancied failed to call to finalize a meeting, a darling friend of mine helpfully suggested, “Maybe he is driving."
Yeah, maybe. Although this road trip has lasted roughly nine months now, so God knows where he is going. I shudder to think of the fuel costs. Afterward, "Maybe he is driving" became our standard joke explanation for everything. See, isn't it good to meet crushing disappointment with a laugh? Don't you feel better already now?
5. Everyone in the world faces rejection.
It's like some big sh*tty club, and we're all in it together. You may not notice it because we all go through it at different times, and not surprisingly, we often play it down rather than openly brag about it. But regardless of how great you are, we all will be rejected at some point in our lives. As much as we struggle to believe it, pretty, smart, funny and all-round awesome people also face rejection.
I once met a woman who was single and felt unlucky in love. Everyone found it so hard to believe because she was so beautiful, sweet, talented and generally desirable. Love is more complicated than getting picked for a sports team. It's not like the best get chosen first, and if you haven't been selected, it isn't because your skills were lacking in comparison.
Ultimately, we all want to win, and I understand why rejection can feel like losing. But, life is just a game, and getting your own way all the time is quite frankly cheating. It's all too easy to selectively forget that you do win in the game of romance plenty of times. Although winning feels better, losing can provide valuable experience. We should be humble enough to accept defeat graciously instead of becoming defensive or self-loathing.
This article was originally published on the author's personal blog.