Raise your hand if you like being rejected. Anyone? Not a one? OK. I’ve gathered you here today to change your hearts and minds. I’m not saying you should go around asking people to reject you — I’m just saying that you should be thankful when it happens.
Let’s rewind to before I realized the benefits of being turned down. Historically, upon being rejected, I’d fall onto my bed, Disney princess style, and proclaim that I was the worst, everyone hated me, and I’d never find someone. A bit dramatic! But I bet you’ve felt this way, too.
“It’s called cognitive distortion when we take one experience and over-generalize it to mean everything,” says Jennifer Silvershein, LCSW, founder of Manhattan Wellness Associates. “So if you have one bad date, [you think] that means you’re never going to find someone to love you because you suck at dating. In reality you could have just had an off night.” The solution, while obvious, isn’t so simple to pull off. According to Silvershein, you should try to “see each experience as a single experience with a single person, and don’t allow the person who’s rejecting you to have the power to determine your worth and value.” If we know this, why then do we spiral into the ether instead of letting one date, comment, or text roll off of our shoulders?
For starters, in dating culture, “rejection” is a dirty word. Like not getting picked for a kickball team at recess, it makes us feel like we are lesser than.
“Whenever we are not the winner in our society, there is a negative association,” says Silvershein. “People like to be in control, and when we get rejected we are out of control.” It’s basically a shitstorm of uneven power dynamics and asserting dominance. But think back to a time you were romantically rejected. Silvershein wants you to ask yourself whether you were actually dying for this person to ask you out again, or whether you were you convincing yourself you did because you were eager to find someone. “Everyone goes on a date with the intention for it to work out, so there is a common occurrence of convincing yourself it’s good. A lot of the time when we reflect, we realize it wasn’t good for us either.” After some reflection I, for one, can confirm that every single person who has rejected me was definitely 100% without a doubt not right for me. But in the moment, I let the fantasy of what could’ve been and the bad feelings about being dismissed get in the way of acknowledging how I truly felt.
“Someone who’s never been disappointed or told no is going to have an ego, isn’t going to be very agreeable, and is going to think they’re more important than other people.”
I wish I knew then (and by “then,” I mean all those times) that “if someone is rejecting you, they’re actually doing you a favor,” according to Silvershein. They’re saving you the time you’d otherwise have to spend figuring out this situationship is not right. It couldn’t be, because in order for a relationship to be successful, both parties have to want it.
Plus, experiencing — and bouncing back from — rejection makes you a much better dater. “It’s really important to experience rejection, because it shows us how to be empathetic and increases resiliency,” says Silvershein. “Someone who’s never been disappointed or told no is going to have an ego, isn’t going to be very agreeable, and is going to think they’re more important than other people.” Do you really want to be that person? Didn’t think so.
“The only way to be empathetic [when] breaking up with someone is to have experienced it yourself. When we get rejected, we learn how to do it correctly,” says Silvershein. “It’s similar to ghosting. Not until you get ghosted do you think, huh, that’s really fucked up to ghost someone.”
And like so many other things, an essential part of reframing rejection is to strip away the stigma. “Can we see rejection from a date similarly to [how we see] the rejection of a friend saying they’re unavailable?” asks Silvershein. “We hinge so much on the first date [and beyond], and that’s a lot of pressure. If we removed the idea of the future and the comparisons to other people’s relationships, there would be a lot more space for authentic reflection as to whether this person is a good fit or not.”
This all makes the rejection pill a lot easier to swallow. “Everyone is going to meet people, and everyone is going to be rejected,” says Silvershein. “That’s how we find the right person. If it weren’t for rejection, we would end up with the first person we date, and that’s not the reality for most people nor should it be.”