Sick and tired of rejection

Originally Published: July 14, 2006
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Dear Alice,

I believe that one of the most aggravating things that can happen to a woman is to be noticeably rejected by a man she is attracted to. This has happened to me more times that I'd like to admit. I have actually experienced the embarrassment of a guy shaking my hand 'hello,' while at the same time eyeballing my best friend who's standing next to me, and telling her what beautiful eyes she has, not looking at me once! How can anyone have a fun evening after something like that? I did read the insightful advice you give in this website about self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness and I truly agree with every word you write.

Still, how can you get over actual, tangible rejection when it's hitting you in the face? Do you excuse yourself and rush to the ladies room, to look at yourself in the mirror, and repeat an emergency mantra like: "I am beautiful, I believe in me, etc. etc."? That feels self-deceptive, almost hypocritical. You don't feel so beautiful at moments like that, you feel you've just been smacked across the face! Or, do you try to stop caring whether the guy you really like won't give you the time of day, or in general about how other people react to you? That is even more intangible and hard to accomplish; humans are social animals and we do depend on others for approval, especially when one is a warm-hearted woman with needs and expectations. So what does one do at that embarrassing moment of rejection? Do you crack a joke like, "Hey, if you want your hand back you'll have to stop eyeballing my friend!" or do you stomp his foot by accident? Please offer me an insight, or a fresh thought on how to handle situations like this, because, truly, I have run out of ideas.

Dear Reader,

Being ignored or overlooked when you really want to make a connection with someone can really hurt. You're not the only one who has had this experience; it's probably happened to most people at one time or another. Still, it's too bad that you feel like it happens to you over and over. You're right that we are social animals—people need affirmation and support from others, and you deserve it!

It may be important to keep in mind that not every response you get is a judgment of who you are. It's possible the people you're meeting aren't ignoring you out of meanness. Sometimes, people might seem uninterested when they are actually distracted, stressed, or tired. It may sound trite, but if people are rude to you on purpose, they're probably not great people for relationships anyway.

You might also think about how you are approaching people. Before beginning a conversation, do you anticipate rejection? If so, do you think this affects your ability to connect with people? Also, some people may fail to notice that you are looking to engage them. You might feel rejected, but they may not realize that you're interested. That's probably not the case in the hand-shaking example you gave, but how about other times? Making eye contact, asking people friendly questions, and positive body language usually make it clear you're interested in getting to know them.

Alternately, some people might feel like you're coming on too strong. Do you think people might perceive you as overwhelming? If you're really working to gain approval from every person you interact with, people might sense that and feel uncomfortable or pressured. It might help to try to relax and not feel so emotionally invested in every interaction. You're right; it's hard to not care what people think, but maybe you could try to worry less about it.

If it's clear that you're interested and the other person is not, some of your other ideas make sense too. Humor can help diffuse tension, and it's good to remind yourself that you are a great person. Even if it feels hypocritical to try to be upbeat when you feel down, focusing on negatives isn't likely to accomplish anything. Maybe you could try reframing the situation: "This person doesn't seem interested in me. Maybe we don't have that much in common anyway. I'm going to move on, and find other people who share my interests." Foot-stomping may sound appealing, but it probably won't increase the foot-owner's attraction to you.

You might also think about the situations in which you're trying to meet people. Sometimes parties or bars can add social pressures or distractions that make connecting harder. Maybe you would have more luck if you tried meeting people through a club or organization, a volunteer project, or a sports team. That would give you an interest in common, and having an activity to engage in together might make the interaction flow more easily.

Feeling rejected is hard. Spending time with friends or family who support you may help remind you that you are a good and loveable person, making those moments you feel rejected hurt less.