As a guy, I’ve faced a lot of rejection in my life.
As I’m sure you know, rejection is usually brutal. No matter what form it comes in or who is giving it to you, it can feel like experiencing real, physical pain (link to the study at the end of this page).
If you’re constantly on the receiving end, you start to resent the people who reject you. Who do they think they are? Do they think they’re better than you? Why are they such jerks?
So today, I am going to tell you a different story than usual. Rather than telling you about a time I got rejected and how I learned to cope with it, I’m going to tell you about the first time I rejected someone else. I’ll also give you a couple of lessons to handle rejection better.
The first time I rejected someone
It happened during my college years and, of course, it involved a girl.
This girl was smart. She was hot. She was kinda cool. But something about her rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn’t anything particular about her, but her whole vibe. I was the “funny guy” and she didn’t get my jokes. She had a great figure but dressed like an old lady. Her whole personality just didn’t match mine.
She. on the other hand, saw things differently. It was pretty clear she was crushing on me.
We were in the same group of friends so I tried to be polite. At the same time, I was showing her that I wasn’t interested. I didn’t engage her in conversation. I was cold. I spent time away from her. To other people in the group, my feelings were obvious — but she was clueless.
So one weekend, our group had plans to go to this party together. I was working late, so I told everybody that I’d meet them at the club after I’m done.
But the girl… she had other plans.
She asks me if I want her to meet me after my shift so we can go together. I tell her “no”. She shows up anyway. I walk out of the building and she’s at the parking lot, waiting for me with a bag of pastries saying: “I thought you might be hungry.”
At first, it sounds kind of sweet. But think about it like this: if a guy was pushing himself onto a girl who wasn’t interested, then he shows up at her work after she explicitly told him not to — it’s creepy as hell. It’s a real-life example of the Dobler-Dahmer Theory.
So I walk out and I’m just dumbfounded…. and a little bit pissed.
We start walking to my car and she’s being all flirty, as she is trying to get my attention and prays I make a move. On the other hand, I’m being cold and distant, as I’m trying to communicate that I am not interested.
As we’re passing this small, dark alley, she stands in front of me, puts her arms around my shoulders, and pulls me close to her. In her mind, she’s thinking: “This is it! It’s finally going to happen!”
But I’m thinking: “OH GOD, NO!”
So we’re standing there; her arms around me, pulling me into a kiss I do not want, her eyes piercing me like cold daggers, me awkwardly trying to pull back without physically pushing her away… it was a nightmare.
At this moment, I realize: she’s not getting the hints. She does not understand. I need to stop dropping hints and make it dead fucking obvious what my feelings are:
ME: “Uhm… what are you doing?”
HER: “Oh, I think my intentions are pretty clear.”
ME: “Yeah… I don’t really feel the same way.”
Her face turned from cheerful to dreadful, as if a dementor had just sucked all life out of her. She just stood there for a few seconds, then released me from her grasp. She shriveled and turned away, embarrassed by getting rejected; not just by “some guy”, but by a friend she sees on a regular basis.
What I did next was terrible: I figured that the best course of action would be… to ignore everything.
At this time, I was just starting to build my social life and was still working on changing myself into the person who will one day start Mind of Steel. During this phase, I was trying to be unreactive and cold to show that I am not phased by such trivial things.
In my mind, I thought: “I was honest. She gets it now. I didn’t insult her and I wasn’t rude. We can go back to being friends and everything is going to be back to normal.”
But she was thinking: “OH GOD, NO!”
Like I said in the beginning, getting rejected sucks. In reality, I have probably been rejected about 1000x more than that girl ever will be. But every rejection, no matter how small or big, hurts like fucking hell.
Instead of pretending the whole thing was something that happened in a parallel universe, in a galaxy far, far away, I should have understood that no matter how much I try to rationalize what just happened, she suffered an emotional shock. She was in pain. So instead of trying to “talk it off”, I should have explained to her all of those things I said at the beginning: she was smart, beautiful, and pretty cool. I just didn’t feel a connection with her, but hope we can remain friends.
It still would have hurt like hell, but it would have made the experience just a tiny bit easier.
On that night, I finally understood what it’s like to be on the giving end of rejection. And let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. No matter how much I tried to mask it or play it cool, I felt horrible for a long time. Even while writing this story, I feel like a dick.
Getting rejected sucks. But rejecting someone sucks as well.
Nobody wants to be the “bad guy”, yet it’s inevitable that, at times, you will not like the same people that like you. And no matter what you say, you will reject them eventually. It may be through your words, actions, or lack of actions. But if you don’t want to be around someone, the only alternative to rejection is to… well, be around them and pretend you don’t mind — forever.
I mean, what are you going to do? Date them out of politeness?
3 life lesson lessons you can learn from this story
Lesson 1: Attraction is not a choice
You never consciously choose “I will be attracted to that person”. In most cases, it’s out of your control. You either like someone or you don’t.
Sure, you can improve the odds that someone will like you by working on yourself or changing your personality. But no matter how hard you try, it’s ultimately out of your hands.
Accepting this is one of the hardest lessons for people, especially in their teens and 20s, but once you detach yourself from false perceptions, a whole new world opens up. A world where you are confident and proud to be yourself.
Lesson 2: Rejection hurts, no matter which side you’re on
Everybody knows that being rejected sucks, but most of us don’t think about how the other person feels. They may be uncomfortable, or even feel threatened. They may simply be uninterested or unavailable for the kind of relationship you want.
Telling someone “no” is harder than it seems. Many times, when you hear a rejection directly, the other person probably dropped a bunch of hints you missed. They probably tried to let you down easy, you didn’t pick up on the signal.
Sure, there are always people who are jerks about it. But those people are the exception, not the rule.
Lesson 3: Rejection is not that big of a deal
I’ve approached a bunch of girls in my life and most of them rejected me. I’ve worked as a salesman and got rejected — daily — by 95% of the people I talked to. When I applied for college, I got rejected by more than half of the colleges I applied to.
Each of those rejections hurt… but nothing bad happened as a result. In fact, the people who didn’t reject me turned out to be a much better fit for me.
If you get rejected, it means you put yourself out there.
That takes balls. Purposely opening yourself up to rejection is scary. Especially knowing that most people will not appreciate the courage it took to do what you did. But those who do… oh man, it’s so worth it.
- That girl/guy who you never would have met if you didn’t get over your fear.
- That new friend you made because you weren’t afraid to talk to a stranger.
- That great job you got because you didn’t give up.
The girl in my story put herself out there. For a girl to approach a guy like that takes a huuuuuuuge amount of courage. I commend her for it. And sure, when I rejected her, it hurt a lot. But guess what happened as a result?
She re-invented herself. Next semester, she looked better, had better style, and more confidence. I’m pretty sure I was “that asshole” that made her want to turn her life around. And I’ll admit, I thought to myself: “Damn Phil, you fucked up.”
But if I hadn’t rejected her, she wouldn’t have changed and I wouldn’t have thought that.
About a year later, she met a guy who felt about her the same way she felt about him. If I hadn’t turned her down, she never would have ended up in such an amazing relationship. And once some time passed, we patched things up and remained friends until the end of college.
Next time you get rejected, ask yourself: “What if getting rejected by this person opens up a new opportunity that is 10x better?” Then swallow your fear and put yourself out there.
Struggling with being social?
If you’re looking for a detailed guide to dealing with rejection and building self-confidence, check out The Social Gladiator.