Most of us have been rejected by someone who we are interested in. Phrases such as, “It’s not you, it’s me” and “I’ll call you” (but they never do) are not something new. Rejection is, sadly, a reality that can influence the way we value ourselves. When someone says, “You’re a great person but I don’t think we are a match”, most of the time we can’t help but think that we are the problem. Rejection can indeed be very difficult to handle.
Rejection is not unique to gay men. However, for some of us, rejection can revive the feeling of isolation and exclusion on the basis of our sexuality. It can remind us of feeling alone, unworthy, unsure and unloved. Hearing “No” from other men can also make us question our place in the community, especially when other men seem to be able to pick up whoever, and whenever, they want. It can make us feel unattractive, and some of us may fear asking someone out because we don’t want to be rejected, again.
Can we walk away from rejection and still feel good about ourselves?
There are some strategies that we can use to deal with rejection and maintain our self-esteem. One key component is changing our mindset from negative (eg. “I’m not attractive”) to positive (eg. “I have many positive attributes”). This can be done by reflecting on our positive qualities and achievements. Similarly, surrounding ourselves with people who love and accept us can serve as a reminder of our sense of self-worth. It also helps to reflect on our personal expectations, and whether we are limiting our options based on what we want, instead of focusing on what we need from a relationship.
One thing that we need to be aware of is to not let rejection affect our ability to practice safe-sex. Some guys may feel that insisting on safe-sex will only result in further rejection. Some may feel that taking the risk is better than hearing “No”. Learning to handle rejection can give us the strength to walk away from a potential sexual partner who does not want to use condom. Learning to hear “No” therefore is not only for our self-esteem, but also our sexual health.
All of the suggestions above seem easier said than done. However, learning to handle rejection is a key component in finding a rewarding relationship. Reflecting on our positive qualities and changing our mindset can help us feeling content with the self. After all, there is no greater love than the one that we can give to ourselves.