A friend and I were dissecting a “failed-to-launch relationship” over coffee yesterday when she declared, “I can’t believe he didn’t want to at least give it a chance,” with an aggrieved look on her face.
Hang on—hold the phone and imagine this scene coming to a stop, her looking completely dejected and me looking incredibly surprised.
Why was I surprised by this heartfelt assertion?
Well, because she wasn’t interested in him in the first place. She had never found him interesting, attractive, funny or kind. In fact, she had never even liked the guy! It was only after a mutual friend of theirs indicated his potential interest that she started to consider him a match. And even then, in a reserved fashion.
But after he turned her down (or in reality, not responded to a casual date email from her) that she really started to fixate on him.
It was only after she had been rejected that she began to think he was indeed the one who got away.
Okay, imagine the scene continues: she’s still looking dejected and I’m looking surprised. I say, “But you didn’t like him in the first place.”
She responds, “What can I say, rejection makes the heart grow fonder.”
I had a light bulb moment.
Why does rejection have such a profound effect on people?
And not the kind of effect which results in us turning on our heels and shuffling away from said person with a shake of the head—rather it makes us redouble our efforts to win over their attention. And, let’s face it, the more they reject, the more we’re into them.
Rejection truly does make the heart grow fonder!
Sound familiar? Well, let’s workshop it.
Let’s face it, the majority of us just really want to be liked. We don’t want to be the kid in the playgroup relegated to spending lunch in the library because they don’t have a group to hang out with. So we’ll do almost anything to make sure that people like us.
Of course, the few people who truly don’t care what others think tend to win the popularity lottery—this is the law of opposites in action.
When we discover that someone thinks something bad about us, suddenly we go into overdrive.
“Why wouldn’t they like me?”
“I’m a perfectly good person! Talented, attractive, sweet (insert whatever adjective suits you).”
“I’ll show them. They won’t know what’s hit them.”
And then we go overboard—our one-woman or one-man performing act gets brushed off and rolled out, festooned with sequins, a top hat and a winning smile. Out we dance, shaking our tail feathers at said object of our affections—a lyrical display of everything good and perfect about us.
Of course, our finely tuned act often comes off with a flavor: a slight tang of desperation. And if we were on the nose previously with said person, we might now become on the nose, up the nose and down the wind pipe.
Affections are certainly not being won over.
It’s like a tango—we move forward, they move back, we move forward, they move back. And then eventually we stop dancing, because otherwise our tango might turn into a stango. (See what I did there? Combined stalker and tango? Yeah, you’ve got it, it’s called a stango.)
And here my friend was. She’d reached her stango and she had stopped dancing. But she couldn’t help feeling dejected, rejected (of course) and grim.
What I wanted to tell her was that we often can’t convince anyone otherwise, once they’ve made up their mind about us. No amount of evidence to the contrary will make them see us in a different light. Unfortunately, said person has boxed us in a certain place and we’ll never be a jack-in-a-box, no matter how much pressure we apply. The box will always remain closed.
They’ve defined us. Developed a whole picture in their mind without truly knowing our essence.
We exist for them only within that box. They’ll miss all those intrinsically wonderful things about us that other people see and adore.
They’ll miss out on our magic.
At some point we need to face the cold hard truth—sometimes people just don’t like us. And that’s okay.
But instead of turning the attention dial up to fever pitch, we just need to recognize this scenario for what it is. Rejection may be tough to metabolize, but wasting a whole lot of time, energy (and potentially sequins) on someone that in no way deserves our affection, is going to make it a whole lot harder to ingest later on down the road.
Not only do we need to move on, but instead turn our attentions towards the people who are making us feel special and unique. Those are the people who aren’t turning around when they spot us heading toward them in a crowded room, who actually are responding to our texts, or do check in to see how we’re doing on a daily basis.
They’re the people who actually care!
Time misspent on a rejection is time we’ll never get back.
So close down the energy invested on the person who rejected you and reinvest it in those around you who actually respect and admire you.
It sounds like an easy fix, but sometimes they’re the best kind.
Author: Lisa Portolan
Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll/Editor: Catherine Monkman