Rejection is a universal pain point. As social creatures, we all crave feeling included, desired, and chosen. It is thus no surprise that rejection often represents the most vulnerable area of our intimate lives—especially when we are single and looking for a partner.
Moreover, as the fast-paced world of online dating provides us with endless opportunities to meet new people, it also implies endless opportunities to get rejected.
After coaching people from all backgrounds, I have found that the fear of rejection is the number one hurdle to finding and creating fulfilling relationships. However, I have also found that working consciously with that experience can deepen our ability to love in a profound, radically authentic way.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the pain of rejection can OPEN a door to become truly available for love!
In this blog post, I distill the lessons I’ve learned from my own rejection experiences and those of my coaching clients into a formula for turning rejection into a catalyst for self-actualization—a process that carves a path for true love and intimacy.
1. Use Rejection as a Flashlight
Rejection can be a powerful flashlight: when we use it to look inward, it illuminates the places in us that need the most healing. Ask yourself, “Where is the fear or pain of rejection coming from, exactly?” to reveal precisely where your emotional wounds are. This awareness is the first step of healing and transforming these wounds, and living an emancipated life.
Once we see where the fear or pain of rejection is coming from, we can then work to love ourselves more radically in those spaces.
For example, if a person doesn’t feel physically beautiful, feeling rejected in a dating situation will trigger the pain associated with lacking love for one’s own body. Seeing this dynamic clearly will allow a person to undertake self-love practices focused on their body, such as lathering lotion on themselves every night while intentionally infusing love into all the nooks and crannies. Actions like these can create a new vibration around us, and shift our social dynamics.
We are constantly teaching others how to treat us by the way we treat ourselves. How we feel about ourselves matters so much more than how we look—because people largely see us the way we see ourselves. When we love our own nooks and crannies, we automatically inspire others to love our nooks and crannies too!
2. Give Up on “Fitting In”
The fear of rejection usually comes from our addiction to external sources of validation. We are a hyper-social species programmed to seek belonging and approval from others as a matter of survival, beginning in infancy.
Paradoxically, as adults, the best way to attract love and genuine intimacy is to offer our own love freely, while releasing others from having to make us feel good about ourselves.
As a teenager, I was labeled a “reject” by my peers and became socially isolated for several years. What eventually freed me from the pain of utter rejection was the process of GIVING UP on being liked or “chosen” based on “fitting in.” When I realized that I did not have the option of “fitting in,” I was forced to give up on ever fitting in.
What a RELIEF! I was freed from the tyranny of seeking external approval, so I went on to carve my own path based on freedom and authenticity. I found my internal source of boundless love and acceptance—and that newfound confidence began to magnetize people into my life. In other words, I started receiving love from my peers once I stopped demanding it from them and started producing it for myself.
Anchoring your heart within your inner source of love might not happen overnight; but, the more you cultivate it, the more peaceful you will feel, and the more attractive you will become to others.
3. Strengthen Your Nervous System and Give Love Freely
A steady commitment to cultivating a network of loving relationships can strengthen our nervous systems and build our resilience to rejection.
According to the polyvagal theory pioneered by Dr. Stephen Porges, both children and adults need regular, safe connections with others to “co-regulate” and develop emotional health and resilience. This means that cultivating life-affirming relationships helps us get into the habit of feeling safe inside of ourselves—which is the essence of emotional resilience. Thus, prioritizing connection with our family, friends, and colleagues builds our embodied ability to feel safe when things get hard.
In the context of dating, having a strong social network will make the perceived “threat” of rejection slide off our back much more easily—rather than throw us into a fight, flight, or freeze state.
And how do we build a strong social network? By giving love. Giving love, especially when it’s difficult, forces us to stay connected with our inner source of strength—the abundant, unlimited geyser of generosity that lays inside each one of us. Accessing that source, especially when we are feeling offended or rejected, shifts the emotional dynamic from being a VICTIM and into being a GIVER. This not only feels much better to us, but it also makes us tremendously more attractive to others who are naturally drawn to our abundant, courageous, and daring love.
4. Cultivate Gratitude
The fear of rejection relies on a sense of scarcity; but gratitude is rooted in the perception of abundance. As such, gratitude is an antidote to rejection.
Too often, we date with expectations that others will meet our needs. When these expectations are unfulfilled, we experience disappointment and even feelings of betrayal and anger.
When we cultivate gratitude, we remind ourselves that everything is a gift. Remembering that we are not entitled to anything from anyone, and that nothing should ever be taken for granted, helps us see the glass as half full rather than half empty.
A 2-minute daily gratitude practice can create a river of abundance in your life. Try writing down one thing you are grateful for every single day, and deeply give thanks for it. This simple practice will gently enhance the flow of receptivity in your life, and help you magnetize love!
5. Choose Life!
Choosing life fully is to approach every situation with an attitude of engaged curiosity rather than judgment or condemnation. It is about viewing the multitude of moments that we experience every single day—even the disappointing ones—as opportunities to proactively create goodness, growth, healing, and love.
When we honor life as it is (rather than how we wish it would be), we fully participate in the great adventure of being ourselves. With this attitude, we have a chance to use pain—including the pain of rejection—as a school rather than a tool of self-punishment. This perspective is not only more compassionate; it can also free us from the prison of resentment, anger, and permanent sulk.
Observe your reactions to everyday situations when things don’t go your way: do you immediately jump to judgment? Victimhood? Blame? Simply injecting a moment of awareness in these situations will begin to create the space you need to view things from a more compassionate lens. In that space lies your freedom to build a richer, more positive, and more love-filled life.
Conclusion: The Magical Kitchen
Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the bestseller books The Four Agreements and The Mastery of Love, tells a beautiful story called The Magical Kitchen. It encapsulates my dating philosophy beautifully. Here it is, paraphrased:
Our hero has a magical kitchen that produces any food they desire, in any amount. There are always people around the large kitchen table—eating what they crave. The doorbell rings: a person is at the door holding a pizza box. They tell our hero, “I will give you this pizza if you promise to do whatever I want you to.” Our hero laughs and says, “Thank you, but I’m fine. I have a magical kitchen that can give me even better pizza—in fact, you are welcome to join me for dinner and eat anything you want.”
Now, how would this have gone if our hero had been starving for days? He might have agreed to trade his freedom for a piece of pizza.
We run the risk of losing ourselves and our freedom of self-determination when we date from a love-starved, desperate place. Don’t fall into this trap! Instead, try turning rejection into a path of liberation, healing, and as a catalyst to find love. Find your magical kitchen—I promise we all have one.