One night I was sitting at a table in a bar with a group of friends. I guess I must have stared at the cute girl at the end of the bar for a little bit too long because my friends soon started pushing me to go up to her and ask her out.
You see they had heard of this little game I play where I go up to a woman every single day with the purpose of being rejected. That’s the goal: every day I have to get rejected by at least one woman.
I’ll explain the game later on and what happened that night when I approached the girl at the end of the bar.
But my friends wouldn’t believe that I walked up to a random woman every day and got rejected. It was beyond their comprehension. People just didn’t act that way in their world.
That’s because most humans do everything they can to avoid rejection. And it’s pretty obvious why: being rejected hurts.
When we are rejected we think that it means that we’re not good enough. That the person who rejected us doesn’t like us. That other people won’t like us as well.
Rejection is a confirmation of all of our deepest fears about our own inadequacy. A person who has brushed us off has judged our character and must have found it lacking. And we feel the shame and anxiety of that judgement.
But a fear of rejection doesn’t have to be all bad. Think about the ways fear of rejection has motivated you in the past?
- Haven’t you worked harder in order to avoid being rejected by your boss?
- Didn’t you make an effort to be nicer to avoid being rejected by friends or family?
- Or improved your study skills to do better in school to avoid rejection through failing?
The fear of rejection can be a powerful motivator to improve yourself and behave better. If we had no fear of rejection we would all just do whatever we wanted without any regard to how our actions made other people feel.
A lack of fear of rejection would lead to societal chaos.
But people who are shy or who have social anxiety experience the fear of rejection much more strongly than the average person. We tend to view any sort of rejection as an immediate condemnation of ourselves as people.
But we have to remember….
#1. Rejection Isn’t Always About You
Whenever I ask a friend to hang out and he says that he can’t my first reaction is always to think:
“Oh God he doesn’t like me anymore, our friendship is finished!”
But it’s a silly reaction.
Usually sometime later I find out that he couldn’t hang out because he was working. Or his brother needed his help with homework. Or something else totally understandable.
And I re-learn the valuable lesson that the universe doesn’t revolve around me.
Just because you’re rejected doesn’t mean that the person rejected you because she doesn’t like you.
Resist the urge to view every single rejection as a judgement of who you are as a person. It’s much more likely that the other person just had another commitment, or was in a bad mood, or just needed to be alone.
You may be reading this and saying: “But Neil sometimes a person will reject me because they don’t like me!”
And I agree that does happen. But:
#2. You Can’t Please Everyone
Because our world is filled with a great diversity of people you’re going to run into those who just plain don’t like you or are not attracted to you.
The truth is that some people like certain things and others like other things. There are people out there who will find you utterly uncompelling as a romantic partner. They will just have zero attraction to you.
Remember though that the world is not filled with identical robots. And just because one person dislikes you because of the way you do something (or the way you look) doesn’t mean that everyone will.
Let me give you an example:
If you walked into a convention of U.S. Democrats and started up conversations about how all government services needed to be cut down because they were wasteful and bloated you would probably be met with hostility and rejection.
But take that exact same conversation starter to a U.S. Libertarian Party convention and you’ll be greeted with enthusiasm.
You see what happened there? The exact same thing that got you rejected by one group of people can gain you acceptance with another.
Even the most amazing person in the world is rejected sometimes. For almost every personality quirk and physical appearance out there there is someone who loves them and someone who hates them.
If you are rejected by someone it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or an ugly person. It just means that this specific person isn’t attracted to you. That’s all.
#3. Focus On The Process, Not The Outcome
Here’s what I used to do when I prepared to ask a girl out:
Step One: Fall in love with girl from across the room.
Step Two: Plan entire future together.
Step Three: Be so afraid of messing it up that I end up never approaching her.
Most people are outcome-focused and they try to reduce all risk in social interactions in order to get the result that they want. This makes every single social experience for them a painful and high pressure affair.
And when they inevitably fail to accomplish the specific goal that they wanted they feel horrible.
When you assign so much importance to a single social interaction you just set yourself up for disappointment.
Instead of being outcome-focused be process-focused. If you find yourself in a social situation then let yourself enjoy it without placing any expectations on it.
Being process-focused means that you still accept that you might end up rejected but that doesn’t matter too much. What is more important is that you just let the experience take you where it will. And if it ends up in rejection that’s okay too.
Being process-focused allows you to take greater risks because you’re no longer dependent on every single social interaction being a smashing success.
When you become process-focused you’re ready to….
#4. Inoculate Yourself From Rejection By Exposing Yourself To Repeated Rejection
Now we finally get back to the cute girl in the bar from the beginning of this article.
So I was with my friends sitting at a table and they were urging me to approach her. They had heard me describe to them that I had a personal project where I deliberately went up to a woman every single day with the goal of being rejected. And they didn’t believe me.
I stood up from the table and started walking to the bar. I had done this just four times before at that point and I felt like a nervous mess. It was made worse by the knowledge that behind me my friends were watching my every move.
When I made it to the girl I admit that I was shaking a bit. Trying to act casual I leaned against the bar beside her. My first attempt at speaking came out as a pathetic croak.
I tried again.
This time she heard me and she turned a tiny little bit towards me. She looked at me for a moment with the most withering expression on her face, and then she turned away.
She didn’t even say anything.
I felt like a fool as I trudged back to my friends who, rather then comforting me, looked at me with giant grins on their faces. They were having a laugh at my expense!
But the next day I went up to another woman. And the next another. Over and over I played the rejection game. Again and again I approached women with the only goal being to be rejected.
And the game worked. Every time I was rejected by a woman I felt the sting a little bit less. And I learned something new from each attempt.
The best way to conquer your fear of rejection is to inoculate yourself from it.
When you go get your flu shot the doctor injects you with a tiny harmless piece of the exact same flu that you’re trying to avoid catching. The theory is that if your body learns to defeat this weakened version of the flu then it will be able to use that knowledge on the real thing.
Well Rejection Inoculation is the same thing. You have to inject yourself with rejection over and over again so that your mind learns that it poses no real threat to you. When your mind learns to cope with the rejection of strangers then it will be able to handle the rejection of people you know who actually mean something to you.