I was 13 and devastated.
The dance at my middle school had just been cancelled.
But, this was no ordinary dance. No. This was an end-of-the-year dance I had spearheaded and organized myself – from getting permission to hold one to getting teachers to supervise it to hiring a DJ for the evening.
My entire seventh-grade heart was in it; and now, it was never going to happen.
“A flu epidemic,” the principal had said. “It would be too dangerous.”
Rationally, this made sense.
Emotionally, however, it didn’t.
And so, upon hearing the news, I spiraled into a self-pitying hellhole: “God doesn’t want you to be popular! Things never turn out for you! You suck!!!”
The cancellation stung – hard – because I internalized it and took it personally in the worst possible way.
Which is kind of how it can feel when you’re ghosted.
You know… you go out on a date or two with someone, or are in the middle of what you thought was a great conversation online, and then poof! The person you thought you had a connection disappears with no explanation, never to be heard from again.
Not only is being ghosted frustrating, the lack of closure can trigger feelings of self-doubt and leave you wondering not only “what did I do wrong?” but “what’s wrong with me?”
While you’ll likely never know for certain why that person disappeared, by practicing the following three steps you’ll be able to bounce back quicker.
As a bonus, these activities – which are essential in any healthy relationship, including the one with yourself – will help recover from any disappointment in your life (including canceled dances).
1. Reframe: look at what just happened from a different perspective
Being ghosted isn’t about losing out on love (or sex, or companionship, or whatever you hoped would happen with the person). It’s about preventing you from far worse future heartbreak. And, it’s about freeing you for someone better suited for you down the line.
Think about yourself in six months. How much will being ghosted matter then? What about in six years? What about at age 60? Yes, it might hurt over the next six minutes, six hours or six days, but in the big picture of your life, you have more important things to do.
If you need some closure, try thinking of being ghosted as a catalyst to learn how to love yourself more. This, after all, is the experience that led you to this article and the next two steps, which will help build resiliency and, ultimately, increase self-confidence.
2. Compassion: allow yourself to feel what you feel
You thought you were on your way to love or at least a connection with another person that you liked. You didn’t get it. That sucks.
If it hurts bad, there’s a good chance are this isn’t the first time this has happened to you. Abandonment and rejection, even by someone we barely know, can bring up the pain of a previous rejection, especially if you never fully healed from that experience.
If you feel like crap, don’t admonish yourself for overreacting. Don’t tell yourself this is stupid. Don’t say just get over it. Instead, have compassion for yourself.
You can’t let it go until you’ve let it all out so feel what you need to feel. Whether its anger, sadness, fear or something else, breathe into your feelings and let them emerge.
If you are having difficulties letting it out, try writing a stream of consciousness, listening to music, watching a dramatic movie, or going for walk. As things come up, keep breathing.
(Note: if this brings up experiences from your past that feel too intense or scary, it’s okay to back off. A therapist or counsellor can help you explore and release these in a safe way.)
3. Self-love: ask yourself “How can I be good to myself right now?”
Whether it was a small growl of annoyance or a tsunami of grief, you’ve given yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and released it or, at least, acknowledged it.
You’re likely feeling at least a bit better. Now what?
Now, comes the best part! You get to step in and give yourself all the love and attention and affection that you didn’t from El-Ghosto and anyone else who abandoned you. That’s right lover-person, you get to love yourself.
“Yah but, I wanted someone else to love me!”
Don’t discount the incredible power of knowing how to self-soothe. As someone who for years looked to other people for validation, I can verify that learning how to be really good to yourself takes the edge off of all the crazy neediness you can feel when dating and in a relationship (plus, it builds confidence which is super-duper attractive to others).
How do you be good to yourself? You spoil yourself (which let’s be honest doesn’t spoil anything but just makes things better).
Make a list of things that consistently make you feel good and turn to this list whenever you experience disappointment from ghosting or anything else. These can be things that relax you, energize you, lift your spirits or make you feel peaceful.
My list includes telling myself things I love about myself, playing guitar, watching cheesy shows on Netflix, listening to the soundtrack from Rent, and going for walks in nature. For you, it might be something different.
At 13, I had no idea that someday I would DJ at large parties and get hundreds of people dancing.
And, although I certainly grieved the lost opportunity, I had yet to discover the self-talk that would make me realize I wasn’t a loser, good things do happen to me and I so do not suck.
Today, if I could talk to that girl, I would tell her to invite some friends over, put some records on, and keep dancing. The best is yet to come. And that is as true for me 35 years ago as it is for you today.
Be good to yourself.