For the last three days, I have oscillated between forcing myself to think, “it’s not you, it’s him”, and being consumed by thinking, “he ghosted you because of something you did”.
Past experiences remind me that any time I have been ‘left out’ or rejected from any situation, my brain automatically goes to a place of self-judgment and nervousness due to a lack of validation.
My current set of crime mystery-esque circumstances: disappearing without a trace on the day of a mutually-planned second date. Unless the guy in question got abducted, or even worst, lost his phone (which I am actually still contemplating), I must have done something wrong, right?
I’ve never been ghosted before – until last Saturday. And, if it’s never happened to you, I can confirm that it sucks. On Sunday, I searched up the definition of “ghosting” as part of my I-don’t-know-how-to-deal-with-this emotional crisis. On Wikipedia, it is defined in a way that sounds as bad as the experience itself. Bad because it’s unexpected. Bad because I have no ability to control it. And absolutely bad because there is no way to find closure in order to settle my mind. This is part of why I have avoided dating in the past: I am so unmeasurably afraid to feel this way.
Rejected, unwanted, not valued enough to even be considered when it ends.
Let’s get one thing straight. A relationship doesn’t need to last years in order for it to be meaningful. A relationship is formed in a single transaction and the true way to enter into any relationship is with respect. The most important part? Respect for relationship with self is where it starts.
Before I go on, I feel the need to address the word “rejection“. I understand it as something that feels harsh, invoking a deep feeling of not being good enough. Regardless, relationship rejection should not be defined as something that promotes self-degradation, but unfortunately, in the world we are living in, it often does.
Rejection can occur in a variety of circumstances. Ever since I was little, I developed a craving for social connection (something that we as homo sapiens require whether we acknowledge it or not). I remember feeling a sense of desperation if I wasn’t able to fit into certain groups or ideals. My first instance of kindergarten bullying: I was ostracised for my Middle Eastern looks. Being young, I didn’t process it. I think the sadness got stuck deep down inside. Since then I’ve been bullied on a number of occasions, both within friendship groups and in the workplace, each time almost seeking out the situation to prove to myself that I was good enough to fit in.
Romantically, I have found it hard to accept and move on from rejection. One bad experience can wipe out all the good. In a dating world that seems predicated on looks, it’s very hard not to take rejection to heart and believe it’s not about me. I know deep down that I fear it because of how I really feel about myself.
Take dating apps, for instance. Bumble is supposed to empower women to take the first step and message the other person first. On times when I have done this and either been deleted or ghosted, I have automatically thought it’s because my deleter/ghoster found a better looking option. It’s just the place my mind takes me. I have deleted dating apps for this very reason. The lesson I am learning the hard way though, is that if I am rejected by someone (which is inevitable because if everyone was attracted to everyone then how boring would dating be), and if I am content with who I am, it shouldn’t matter. Sure, it might come with a level of disappointment, but it shouldn’t make me feel any less.
I think back and laugh at the many innocent love interests I had in my twenties, when I cared less about my image, which I really owe most to the awesome people I surrounded myself with. When I adopted this carefree attitude – without capitalism, social trauma, and diet culture, this is my true essence – I attracted more interest. If I sit here today and compare this time to more recent years, avoiding possible situations where I might be rejected, in order to protect my mental health (or maybe my ego), I simply feel as though no guy even looks in my direction. Which is, of course, untrue and one of the many destructive thoughts I have to fight off.
The annoying thing about the aforementioned ghosting situation is that it conjured up incomplete resolutions I had formed about myself. That I did not live up to the expectations of someone else.
The fear of rejection is 100% about me.
My sensitivity has caused me to pull away and ironically create distance between me and what I crave: human connection. Last year, when I was very depressed, I met a guy on Bumble, a rare occurrence given the headspace I was in. It happened when I least expected it, and, for the first five dates, I heavily distanced myself from the guy who was basically throwing his affection at me like balls of snow. At first, I was terrified. I didn’t know how to accept it because my depression told me that it would end, that he would lose interest, that I was just a moment in time until something better came along. He proved me so wrong. He stuck around and we had the best time. In the end we went our separate ways but as I think back to 2021, had he not been as persistent, my fear or rejection would have stopped me from having an amazing six months with him.
I’ve been rejected by guys who didn’t find me attractive.
I’ve been rejected by kids in the playground who didn’t think I was cool enough.
My creative ideas have been rejected by bullies in the workplace.
But possibly the most potent rejection of all, was the one I showed myself when I let these instances break me down. When I would look in the mirror and believe that I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough. When I let those kids make me cry. When I shut my ideas down because my belief in them was overshadowed.
Having it all and being liked by everyone isn’t realistic, and it sure as hell isn’t the silver bullet to a happy life. We have a choice when we are rejected. We can stay with our own thoughts and teach them to accept every inch of who we are. Right down to the parts we will be working on forever.
That’s what I am trying to choose every day, when I remember.
As for last weekend, maybe he did ghost me because of something I did. But everything I did in the lead-up to the second date was in confidence and from the heart. I’m okay with that.