Many people suffer from overwhelming discomfort when it comes to breaking the ice with an interesting stranger, whether the motivation is friendship or perhaps networking. There are uncomfortable unknowns at play in situations like this, especially if you think you could be romantically interested in that adorable stranger.
This thought sparked a fascinating question — Why do we often think of rejection as such an awful thing? Sure, it can make us feel bad, but what else? Does it hurt us physically? Nope, it sure doesn’t. In my experience the strife of rejection has stemmed from taking it too personally and my own fixed expectations of the situation at hand.
I feel like many people treat rejection as a direct evaluation of them as an individual. I know I’ve been guilty of this. However, with further consideration this makes no sense. If you think about it, rejection from a stranger can feel awful, but essentially means nothing. A stranger doesn’t know you, have any insight into your life nor has any realistic capacity to empathize with you while knowing so little. Thus, it is not a personal slight by any means.
Here is another important thing to mention, your expectations are superfluous and cause problems. Our beliefs about how the future ought to be can cause major mental roadblocks and emotional turmoil if we are not flexible with situational outcomes. The reality is that we have no clue what the future holds. It is important to reflect on our expectations with the knowledge that events may not result as we wish and people may not act as we think they should.
With these things in mind, try to think of rejection as a helpful tool, a life filter. You certainly don’t want to associate with people who don’t want to give you the time of day for whatever reason, thus they are filtered out of your life. It is essential to go through uncomfortable social situations to grow as an individual, make new friends, create networking contacts or meet potential love interests*.
So you think that barista you’ve been flirting with at the coffee shop is adorable and has eyes you would willingly get lost in? Well try making small talk, perhaps give them your number. Maybe they will appreciate your fondness of grammar and love the idea of being asked out to dinner. You don’t know what will happen unless you put yourself out there.
Cultivate a comfort with the unknown; build up your self-confidence and resilience through experience. If you want to meet new people don’t let the fear of rejection hold you back. Remember, rejection is a useful filter. Get out there, do what makes you happy and be flexible with your expectations.