It is human nature to want acceptance and validation from the people we want to care about us. The thought of being criticized or falling short of someones expectations can cause insecurity and anxiety. This is especially true in the process of dating. The stronger the desire to meet someone to connect with, the scarier it becomes to face the reality of being rejected. Self-esteem plays a vital role in being able to manage rejection when it happens. Early life experiences play a part in how we view ourselves and how we manage how others view and treat us. The process of dating can bring unconscious negative feelings about ourselves to the surface.
Dating can trigger challenges in maintaining a positive self-esteem. If one’s self-esteem is healthy, rejection is disappointing, but not devastating. When self-esteem is low, dating can be a traumatic, dreaded experience. It is a process that at times results in people deciding not to choose to have a relationship with us or to even want another date. Rejection, when personalized, can make us think, “if that person didn’t like me , than no one will ever want me. There is something wrong with me.” This form of distorted thinking and personalization creates an intense fear of rejection and shame. This fear causes extreme levels of anxiety that lead to self-sabotaging patterns of behavior such as negative projecting, mind-reading, aggression, or people-pleasing. All of these patterns block one’s ability to be authentic with others and comfortable with who they are. A healthy person will sense when someone is trying too hard to please and will suspect either lying, insecurity, or low self-esteem. These behaviors aimed to please and gain acceptance will often lead to the dreaded rejection trying to be avoided.
The psychological core of the fear of rejection is low self-esteem. Whether the original damage came from abuse, neglect, a physical impairment, poor peer relations, etc., low self-esteem can cause one to believe they are flawed, unlovable, and destined to be rejected. Mind-reading what we believe another person is thinking is a common coping mechanism aimed to manage anxious feelings about rejection. It convinces us that once we know what the other person wants or expects, we can adjust our behavior and communication to meet their needs and diminish the chance of being rejected. By thinking this way, our own wants and needs get minimized. Another problem with mind reading, is that it is often not accurate. Once you engage in performing to please someone over being authentic, making a healthy, intimate connection becomes impossible.
Resolving the issues of insecurity and low-self esteem is essential to create positive outcomes in dating. This means conducting an honest examination of yourself, not only related to relationship functioning, but in all areas of your life. Self-understanding leads to making the kind of changes in ourselves that can improve outcomes in dating. It is also important to understand all the opportunities that dating presents. It is is an opportunity to learn more about yourself, to explore interests and gain experiences, and to develop skills in how to communicate with, care for, and show interest in another person. It is an opportunity to learn about what you want and need as a person, and what your boundaries are. It is also a chance to get in touch with feelings that occur when you are trying to get close to another person.
There is no guarantee that having strong self-esteem, good character, and great social skills will guarantee all your dating experiences will be positive or lead to the outcomes you want. People we meet on their own personal path to maturity, self-esteem, and self-awareness. However, if you know who you are, like yourself, and have strong communication skills, dating can become a fun, enlightening experience on the road to a lasting relationship.