There are several abstract psycho-emotional phenomena out there that many people may need to be introduced to. Rejection isn’t one of them. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had a crush, a love interest, an infatuation, with someone who we’ve become fixated upon, insistent that we’re meant to be with them. It’s amazing how certain that feeling always is. The most indecisive person incapable of making the simplest of decisions — the one person who spends hours picking out their work clothes for the next day, suddenly becomes confident in their ability to make choices. It’s always so certain. You’re always so sure that you’re meant to be with this person. From this certainty comes this sense of entitlement. We become insistent that we know better than fate, destiny, the universe, God — or whatever it is we believe in; we’re meant to be with this person and the universe better find a way to present that outcome…OR ELSE!
But, obviously, as we quickly come to learn, this isn’t how life works.
On reflecting on this, I think what makes this a really critical thing is that there’s a certain sense of renewal, redemption, or rebirth that we expect from this. The idea that we can desire something into existence, and if it works out, it would perhaps restore our faith in that there may be a bigger presence out there, after all. To crush, desire, or love is to prophecy something, and to chase or ask out a crush is an attempt to confirm one’s prophecy — and we all want to be prophets. We all want to feel like something is meant to be, and then have the person (the one person) who can make or break this actually affirm and agree that it is meant to be. There’s a very spiritual and religious aspect of it that’s often overlooked. It’s like asking God for a miracle and getting it instantly.
I find that in cases where rejection hurts the most, the ego is at play. In most cases, rejection occurs either in scenarios with people we know to a substantial extent, or with people we hardly know. In ones with people we know to substantial extents, rejection isn’t likely to hurt as much because we’re more likely to understand the roots of the rejection and we’re better able to visualize the other person without us. Because we know more about them and about their world, we still feel connected to their world, hence to them, and there’s still a bit of understanding from which closure can perhaps be fostered. But, in people we hardly know, rejection hurts (maybe I should speak for myself) a lot more. For one, we hardly know them so we hardly know their worlds, what their day looks like, and the people that surround them. Having being accepted by them, we’d have been invited to this new world of this person; in the stead, being rejected feels like an expulsion, so you’re not just being rejected by a person, but also you’re being blocked from entering this curious new world. But there’s more to this.
Rejection from strangers hurts more because the ego is always at play when we become fixated upon people we hardly know, and if one looks closely, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand why. With people we hardly know, what we know about them already stems from their external social image, which is always grounded in their social context in perspective of ours. So, we take a vague image of the person’s outward, social self and we fill it in with our own desires, expectations and needs. And I’ve had this conversation with several people. We always agree that there’s this sense of entitlement that comes afterwards. This is because the person we are crushing on or fixated upon is our creation, so when they reject us, it feels like there’s some sort of ungratefulness or some sort of deprivation. Like we’re owed something that we’re being denied of by this selfish trickster who baited us and then switched.
But this is all ego of course. It’s typical of the ego to proclaim knowing something it couldn’t possibly know. We’re always so sure we know these people. We know what they need, what what they deserve, what they’re supposed to want. Of course we know…we’re the ones creating them! The ego is a creator. It creates versions of ourselves, of our environments, dreams, desires, and even versions of the people we know and encounter. Sometimes, the ego reduces people, in that it recreates them to make itself appear superior to them. Other times, the ego exalts people, in that it recreates them into deities and places them as prizes it can win or conquer to exalt itself. We’ve all had people who crushed on us because they had this amazing versions of us that we knew we would never be able to live up to. I think it’s always important to reflect on what it’s like to be on both ends of this. And for sure, I think everyone has been on both ends — which brings me to a very important point.
I think one of the most difficult parts of being rejected is that there’s always a voice in one’s head that tries to make sense of this, and its way of doing this is to sometimes create false truths or false narratives. There’s always an inclination to want to identify with one’s rejection. This voice comes along and begins saying things like: you’re always rejected, nobody ever wants you, you’re just not desirable, you’re just not lovable. In these heated moments when the wound is still fresh, it’s very easy to submit to this. But the truth is that this isn’t true. We’ve all loved someone who didn’t feel the same and we’ve all been loved by someone we didn’t feel the same about. So, people do want us and do love us — just not the ones we want back, and in such cases, we’re the heartbreakers. When the voice says, “No one ever wants you!”, it just means, most times, the people you want don’t always want you back. But there’s huge emphasis on “the people you want”. These are all hurtful thoughts we might inflict on ourselves, and it’s understandable. Unreciprocated crushes are painful. Psychologically, as I’ve read somewhere, the reason they hurt is that we often leverage other outside socioemotional needs with our crushes, or we often want to use being liked back by someone as affirmation that something else about us is true. On the other hand, the reason it feels great when someone we like likes us back is that it feels like someone whose perspective we value is giving us permission to love ourselves.
Rejection obviously works differently for different people. There are often preexistent mental dynamics in people’s lives that may make rejection much heavier for them. For instance, someone with childhood trauma and preexistent abandonment issues may find rejection much more difficult to navigate because each encounter with rejection would likely trigger a re-experience of that feeling of abandonment. Such people, like myself, often have lots of complexities to overcome in their relationships, attachments, and in how they view and experience rejection. I think attraction and love and relationships — and the way that we view these things — are often shaped by our childhood experiences. Sadly, rejection isn’t a first cut experience where we get used to it after having experienced it the first time. For many people, each instance does feel like the first cut.
Conclusively, I think rejection becomes heavier with the amount of weight we impose on what’s at stake. If getting to spend time with someone and getting to know them doesn’t happen, that doesn’t sound too bad. We could just find someone else. The issue starts when it becomes more than that. When there are other external things attached. When our self-worth, our future, life plans, past troubles, and insecurities are all placed on top of this potential relationship before it even happens. It becomes easy to start seeing this relationship as a way out. A rebirth from which we can escape all of these burdens that weigh us down. But the truth is, this isn’t what we should want. We should want a rebirth, but such an important transformational part of our lives shouldn’t be left hanging on the shoulders of someone else (easier said…). I’ve been listening to Russel Brand, British comedian turned political rebel, turned pod-casting psychotherapist and life guru. Very wise guy. He stated something I’ve always thought, which is that many people often see love and relationships as an opportunity to abandon their older selves and sail off into the sunset with this new amazing version of themselves that they’ve always wanted to be. People have this idea of a soul mate. Someone who comes along to rescue them from their former selves, and someone who validates their entire existence and every suffering they’ve endured. As Brand concluded, instead of searching for a soul mate, try being a good mate to your soul…