How & Why You're Setting Yourself Up For Failure

I’ve never met anyone who got rejected more than my old roommate, Stan (name changed).

During one spring month, 12 women whom he had started to date gave Stan the boot. After about nine rejections in a row, Stan made the most interesting comment.

He said, “You know, I wouldn’t be any better at getting rejected than if I were setting a conscious goal to make it happen. I should tell girls that I will only take them out if they promise to reject me.”

Stan didn't have a conscious goal to get rejected, though. He wanted more than anything to meet a nice girl, settle down and start a life together.

He wanted it so badly that when a new girl agreed to date him, he poured on the nervous charm and pressure so abruptly that the girl would inevitably freak out and run.

I asked Stan if he understood that he needed to play it cool for a while before turning up the heat. “Oh, yeah,” he replied. “Girls don’t like desperate guys.”

True story: With the very next girl, and after just one successful date, Stan went out and bought a used four-door sedan. He showed up outside this unsuspecting girl’s apartment and exclaimed, “Look! I got a different car. I went with a four-door. It’s more convenient for a family, you know.”

She never took his call again.

Do we set ourselves up to be rejected?

Yes, we do. The problem is, we hide this fact from ourselves (others can usually see it clearly).

Stan was a super bright guy with a 4.0 GPA in a tough major. He was no dummy, and it was so obvious to the rest of us how blatantly he set himself up. Yet Stan bumbled along, blind as a bat.

I often ask my clients to discover how they're setting themselves up to get denied, passed over, ostracized, betrayed or rejected. These are rarely random events.

Here are some things we’ve come up with:

  • Chronically underperforming at work and getting passed over for promotions.
  • Neglecting to do things around the house that result in disappointment and criticism.
  • Being rude, crude, obnoxious or drunk, especially in public, inviting criticism.
  • Not taking care of yourself, looking slovenly, dressing sloppily for formal occasions.
  • Openly provoking or criticizing others and inviting backlash.

All of the above are examples of choice-driven behaviors. Most often, they invite criticism or rejection. Beyond the above list, of course, there are endless ways to walk into rejection.

We hate rejection, but we invite it by virtue of our choices. How do we make sense of this?

You could say that we just don’t know any better, but that's not true. Stan knew girls didn’t take to desperate, pressuring guys, yet he somehow justified mountains of pressure, even though he understood this tactic had failed him countless times.

Could it be that, due to a long history of rejection, we fall into a “rejection rut” and get so used to it — even comfortable — that we continue recreating it on autopilot?

This is precisely what we do! We hide it from ourselves because it’s not pretty!

Once they get it, most of my clients have the following experience:

I knew I was doing this. I just wasn’t ready to admit or deal with why I was doing it.

As soon as they square themselves with what they've unconsciously been up to, they're free — free from the compulsion toward rejection and free to explore their history of rejection and heal it.

Here's what you can do to get over your own tendencies to solicit rejection:

1. Identify specific times and places in your life where you feel rejected, passed over, ignored, or ostracized.

2. Brainstorm a list of possible things you may be doing to encourage this to happen.

You may or may not be inviting the rejection, as others can choose to reject you for no good reason.

If you’re in a chronic pattern of feeling rejected, however, there is a greater likelihood that you're unwittingly involved.

Self-sabotage is a sneaky little devil. Harness your courage, expand your awareness and put a stop to it!

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