Now that I’m dating after a long break, there is a new rule in my household: I don’t waste time dissecting dates’ text messages. The aftermath of first dates used to find me analyzing every comma with my ever-patient friends. I’ve kicked the habit recently, because I’m actively trying to wean myself from self-consciousness around rejection.
As many of us, based on the pandemic conditions in our areas, navigate IRL dating and sex, we may experience a renewed sense of joy and exploration. Yet being open to love and sex also means opening ourselves up to rejection. Even in my getting-back-out-there optimism, I frequently find the ghost of those old insecurities creeping back in.
I’m not alone: “At least what I see in North America in 2021, generally most people don’t have skills to deal with rejection of any kind,” says Karen B.K. Chan, a sex and emotional literacy educator who lectures on “rejection resilience.” We are taught that finding and keeping a partner is key to our worth, so sexual and romantic rejection can carry a particularly sharp sting.
Yet giving and receiving a “no” doesn’t have to be a verdict on our value. In fact, “no” is as much a part of affirmative consent as “yes!” With reflection and self care, it’s possible to transform receiving a “no” from a destabilizing experience to a constructive, even joyful one.