Ask Dr. NerdLove: When Does Rejection Stop Hurting?


What is happening Doc,

I am in need of some tips on the best way best to take rejection better. Not always in the moment when it happens because I feel like I have become a pro at that, but in the days that linger on until you have met someone else you are into and also the person who rejected you remains on your social orbit.

Here’s a story to illustrate what I mean:

So first things first, I am heavily involved with the stand-up comedy scene in my hometown. I perform, assist run shows, and manage lots of the marketing. This also means that I am a familiar face at some of the pubs in the city where shows occur. Second things second, there was this girl, see…like lots of these stories go. We go from sharing smiling glances from throughout the bar to breaking up the ice. Some nights we would speak with one another, other nights we would stick to our own social groups because she does not normally come to the pubs I do shows at to the stand-up comedy, she simply has a great deal of friends who go to the exact places.

Anyhow, on one particular night we wind up interacting in the same general group following a series until the team wittles down to just the two of us, and then proceed to ask her on a date. She informs me that she is in a newish connection but is flattered by the suggestion. I try my best to place any nervousness she may have at ease by cracking a few jokes; leaving not too long after by wishing her a great night, which she smiled ear to ear and seemed to genuinely value.

So hey, seems like a favorable story? I didn’t get what I wanted but in accordance with my observation she seemed to find my effort charming and I put myself out there even though I did not know where I’d land. I have not dated someone in more than a year because of being, frankly, devastated from losing a job I loved (albeit at a poorly paying business ), and have been regaining confidence by going back to college to get a higher paying career shift that’s finally beginning to show its upside. I admire her choices and don’t have any intentions of asking her or even referencing it in jest.

Thing is, the next time we were in exactly the exact same bar I frankly had no damn clue how to behave around her. We did not talk, I stuck purely by my friend group the whole night, at the one moment where our glances met by chance I averted my eyes instantly, and I left the pub the first opportunity I could after getting paid. Basically I feel like I went from being a fun man in her existence to a walled-off coward in the area of just over a week. I believe a huge part of this is that I have taught myself to roll with the punches when it comes to girls turning me down because I am confident I can/will find somebody who’s into me, but on some level I am embarrassed by being the identical space with somebody who I’ve been exposed in front of, however briefly and comparatively irrelevant.

So Dr. NerdLove, I am not too concerned about what I need to do regarding this particular girl since I’ll really be away from my hometown for the upcoming few weeks for work and any remaining awkwardness will have faded by then. What I’m concerned with is being ashamed about the rejection after the truth. It certainly makes me wonder how cool I really am with rejection when I have a lingering shame about it. Is there a way to deal with the fact that jealousy is in fact just irreparably humiliating and no amount of steely confidence at the moment it occurs can overcome that? Is there a lesson to be learned from my letter that anybody else could benefit from?

Barfly Affected by Emotions

So I’m gonna be honest here: you are kind of inventing a problem on your own, BAE.

I mean, you did everything right. You saw someone who is a regular on your different hang-outs, you must know her, the both of you have comfortable enough to hang out and speak by yourself, you made your move without hesitation and took her refusal with great grace. While it’s a shame that things did not work out, those are literally what I tell people to do if they see someone they are interested in.

Here’s the part that is not quite lining up for me, BAE: why should you behave any differently around her? Literally nothing has changed. It is not like you were harboring deep feelings for her or that you had a friendship of longstanding and your asking her on a date unexpectedly altered the context of your connection. Likewise it is not like you did anything wrong, embarrassing or uncomfortable when you asked her out. That seems to me like everything went as smoothly as you could hope for.

So why do you have some reason to be uneasy around her? Well, the answer to that is in how you are considering this, not just how cool you are or are not with rejection.

See, the issue you are having is not that you’re exposed with her, the problem is that you’re exposed and you were rejected. It is that feeling of”Great, I did what everybody tells me to do and it did not work. Glad I opened myself up to pain for no good goddamn reason.”

Which is entirely clear; when you are letting yourself be vulnerable to someone, it seems just like you are doing something that’s going to make you look bad. It feels like you have done something embarrassing or shameful and revealed a side of yourself which you keep hidden. But here is the thing about vulnerability: it is actually a strength. It is showing the world that you don’t find your authentic feelings to be shameful or something which has to be hidden. When you are letting yourself be exposed, you are showing the world that you are powerful enough to be your authentic self rather than putting up a mask which you think the world would like to see. You are living openly and honestly and sincerely, and to be perfectly blunt: Many people can not manage living like that.

How you told someone you were attracted to them and wanted to take them out on a date is not anything to be ashamed about. Hell, the fact that you made your move is commendable. It is a shame that it did not work how you’d expect, but how you did it at all is something you ought to be proud of. There is no reason to feel awkward about her or to attempt to prevent her because you did not do anything to feel awkward about. Honestly, avoiding her will make things more awkward since it sends messages that are odd, despite the fact that you do not intend for it to do so.

So what do you do about it? Take a deep breath, let it out slowly and then push that first sense of”oh god I am embarrassed” and act like nothing has changed. This is easy because, basically, nothing has changed. It is all exactly the same as in the moments before you asked her out on a date. So when you force yourself to pretend it (at first), you will realize very quickly that you are not having to pretend it; what will flow smoothly and normally and you will relax to the familiar old routines before you know it.

You don’t have any reason to feel ashamed, BAE, nor do you want steely confidence to get over this. All you will need to do is alter the context of the way you see being exposed. It is not something over and beyond or something awkward. It is just you leaning to being your authentic, real self.

And that will make it much easier to find somebody who may want to go out on this date with you.

Very good luck.

I want some platonic advice:

So, I am moving away in a month or two (I am living in Taiwan and’m returning back to America) and lately a female friend reached out to me wanting to throw a party for me before I leave. Super nice sentiment and all that, but a few issues:

— We were rather seeing each other last year. Nothing serious and far from actually anything just spending the majority of the weekend together and she wanted me to sleep within her place (I insisted on the sofa because I did not want to cross a line) when we hung out and we kissed a couple of times. However, the moment another man she wanted to get with got back into town she ghosted on me for months. I finally got over it, but still kinda bites, so this is sort of out of left field.

— We don’t have any friends in common, and the friends of hers I have met I suspect do not care for me.

— She is younger than me (23 vs 30) and parties very hard while my blackout drunk times are behind me.

My question is this:

How do I turn her down party idea politely and suggest perhaps we do something similar to just go get drinks and catch dinner or something only the two of us without coming across as with any sort of amorous overtures to the thought?
I legitimately just need a platonic hang out and I am worried that if I turn down a larger party with plenty of drunk people I do not understand or really enjoy in lieu of a scenario that means more to me like”how about just the two of us” will look like I am trying to make a move.

— Kautious in Kaouhsiung

I believe I need a bit more info, KiK. My first question is”how close are you?” How you phrase things makes it seem as if you have not seen much of each other as you had your short flirtation. That alone raises a couple of questions for me. However, the fact that you also don’t have any friends in common or overlapping social circles is what actually makes my Spidey-sense tingle. I don’t think she is planning anything untoward or malicious, but it is a bit weird to want to throw a farewell party for you once you have not been visiting each other in months. I suspect this is less of a”celebration” and more just excuse to see you before you proceed. Maybe she wishes to compensate for having ghosted on you for so long. Maybe she just wants a last opportunity to hang with you until you are gone for good. Who knows?

That having been said, I do not believe you really have to worry about her taking things the wrong way if you indicate another plan. While it’s possible that she would see this as an effort to produce a move, that isn’t really your problem. You can not really control how people interpret what you say; regardless of how clearly or explicitly you state it, some individuals will always hear what they want to hear, regardless.

So in the event you don’t need a party, just tell her you do not need a party and suggest a few other ideas instead. Then just relax and enjoy this opportunity to see your buddy before you leave, rather than getting hung up on”what if she thinks I am trying to make a move?” Either she will realize that this is a strictly platonic-hang-out in the jump… or she will figure it out once you, y’understand, do not hit on her.

Very good luck.

This post was formerly published on Doctornerdlove.com and is republished here with permission from the author.

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