Self-Rejection: Why People Hate You When You’re Too Good

self-rejection example with the fox and the grapes

Self-rejection is a psychological and social phenomenon consisting of rejecting someone as a way to defend one’s own ego, self-esteem, or social status.

It’s a common phenomenon with important ramifications that go into socialization, dating, as well personal development.


Self-rejection means to reject, criticize, ignore, or even hate someone first when we feel that they would reject us, ignore us, or generally be unavailable to us

Self-rejection is based on a psychological self-defense mechanism as well as on an innate drive to acquire and preserve social status within groups.

Let’s review both of them:

Psychological Self-Defense

Getting rejected hurts.

And it can have real-world consequences when it dents our self-esteem, since low self-esteem people are less effective at life.

So whenever we (subconsciously) feel we might be rejected, self-rejection kicks in.
In order to protect ourselves and our self-esteem from the possibility of rejection and pain, we trick ourselves into believing that it’s us who would not want to mingle, talk, work, or get together with someone else.

self-rejection with fox and grapes

Aesop’s fable of the fox and the grapes is a famous case of self-rejection.
The fox tries to reach the grapes to eat them, but cannot manage to do so.
Instead of insisting or admitting failure, he walks away in fake disdain, saying that the grapes are not good.

Power & Status Offense / Self-Defense

Rejection affects power and social status.

It’s not just a psychological phenomenon, but also a social one that interconnects with group dynamics, interpersonal dynamics and, of course, social power dynamics.

Generally speaking, the one who rejects is higher power and/or gains power, and the one who gets rejected is lower power and/or loses power.

So an initial fear of rejection turns into self-rejection, which in turn turns into pre-emptive rejection to defend against ego hurt and power losses (power protecting).

It might sound complex, but it’s quite simple and chances are that you’ve experienced it already, and maybe even did it yourself.
For example, you think that someone is out of your league, and instead of being excited when you get to talk to them, you pretend you don’t care and act aloof.

Sometimes self-rejection can be turned into an aggressive, power-taking power move. For example, when we think someone disapproves of us, we may publicly disapprove of them first, or even make up stories of how they tried to get on our good side, but we spurned them. In that case, it’s not always easy though to say where self-defense self-rejection starts, and when a pure, aggressive, manipulative power move begins.

Self-Rejection in Dating

Dating is one of the areas of socialization where emotions are highest.

That means that people are more likely to get emotional and… Emotionally hurt.
So you can expect to see a lot of self-rejection in dating.

By the way, for full credit, early pick-up coach Sebastian Drake first came up with this construct and called it “auto-rejection”.
We called it “self-rejection” on TPM as we feel it’s more intuitive and descriptive, and extended its application to all socialization rather than just dating.

Let’s learn more about self-rejection in dating:

Female Self-Rejection

Most men don’t understand women’s self-rejection.

Men are most used to thinking -and fearing- in terms of female rejection, rather than self-rejection, so most men don’t understand how easily they can lose women to self-rejection.

Paradoxically, the higher value he is and the more she likes him, the higher the odds that he will lose women to self-rejection -unless he’s a power-aware man, that is-.

That’s because most men are used to men chasing women. And they aren’t used to women chasing men.
So they don’t understand how challenging, including emotionally challenging and risky it can be for a woman to chase.
Most men don’t realize that since women don’t usually chase, any unit of interest/chasing from a woman is like 10x of the male equivalent.

That means that, oftentimes, by simply looking at you a woman is already chasing you.
She’s often not gonna give you more than that as a stranger, or more than opening a conversation in a social setting.
And if the man doesn’t realize it’s a sign of interest and doesn’t act on it, the woman will often self-reject and write him off.

When women self-reject

Women can self-reject for a variety of reasons, including:

  • When he misses her indicators of interest: she thinks that she made it obvious, he doesn’t make a move, and she writes him off as either non-interested, or too socially challenged
  • When he doesn’t move things forward: if a man beats around the bush too long, the woman loses interest in the man and she writes him off as a romantic partner
  • When he stalls at key junctures of dating: for example, if he waits a whole week after a first night of intimacy, many women will write him off as not interest and/or unable to get a relationship with him. They’ll turn cold, potentially resentful towards him, and move on
  • When he doesn’t give back: if the woman invests, chases or cares for him but he gives nothing back, many women will eventually turn cold and move on
  • When she’s horny but he doesn’t make a move: this stumps some men because it’s not how men are wired. If a man would have sex with a girl today, he’d have sex with her tomorrow or the day after, all the same. But girl self-reject if he doesn’t move on the green light

As you can see from the above, self-rejections often happen as a misunderstanding or as men’s mistakes to read her signals of interest.
This is why it’s important to understand self-rejection in order to date well.

Why women self-reject

The reasons for self-rejection include:

  • She thinks he’s too much for her, which can happen when he was actually interested in her, but failed to properly qualify her, reward her for her investment, and generally make her feel good
  • She thinks he’s not interested, funny enoguh, sometimes the man was just playing dating games, waiting, or trying to be cool and aloof when all he had to do was to show more interest, be more genuine, or move things forward
  • Following emotional pain to regain self-esteem: for example, if he waits for a week before calling her after a one-night stand, she may be hurt and turn sour toward him. After one week, she will then be emotionally closed off to him even though she might have liked him
  • Following physical excitement that didn’t lead to a sexual release: if she was ready and horny and he didn’t make a move, she will go home -or find another guy- and blame the man for not giving her what she wanted
  • To prevent emotional pain: for example, she thinks she may get a one-night stand with him, but not a relationship, so she rejects either
  • Becuase he doesn’t take action and she thinks he’s not a resolute leader. This less about self-protection, but it’s quite common, so read more:

When she feels like she has given him all the signs and green lights possible, but he does not act, women feel either spurned or disappointed.
And they will write him off as ineffective at dating, or as a poor leader. They’ll think they wasted their time with you.
Of course, sometimes women think they’ve given him all the signs, but truly haven’t. And that’s why it’s often a great idea to test for her compliance and readiness to move, so you never miss your opportunity to move forward.

Signs she’s in self-rejection

Sometimes you may be able to tell, or even to sense that a woman is nearing self-rejection.
And, before she goes full 360 and goes for good, you may be able to turn things around.

Here are some of the signs:

  • She goes from warm to cold: she’s thinking that she’s given you so much, but you haven’t given her anything, and now she starts to pull back
  • She complains about something, or criticizes you: an indirect way of saying “you’re driving me away. Women often use indirect ways to hide their true reason
  • She’s aloof and cold: this might be a sign of pre-emptive self-rejection
  • She’s giving you too much for you to handle. If you can’t give back or move forward, get ready for self-rejection (see example below)

With time I’ve learned that whenever a woman is giving me too much, risks are very high she will self-reject.
For that reason, I don’t even think it’s a good sign to be getting too much, too early.
An example:

She was giving me too much, I wasn’t willing or able to follow up and give back that much, so I knew that this was a big candidate for self-rejection.

And what happened a few days later?
I forgot to reply to one of her many messages, and she blocked me:

She wrote first a few times and always more than I did.
When I skipped replying for 3 days she probably felt ashamed for having given me too much, back-rationalized I must not like her enough, and to protect her ego and self-esteem, she rejected me -in spite of the fact that I would have gone out with her-.

Male Self-Rejection

Male self-rejection is different than female self-rejection.

Men more rarely self-reject because women don’t show interest or because things don’t progress quickly enough.

Most male self-rejection concerns excuse not to make an approach.
For example:

  • She’s not really my type
  • I’m out with my friends
  • I’m not dressed well tonight
  • She’s too tall

Preventing Dating Self-Rejection

Since self-rejection is more of an issue for men, we’ll focus on men.

Here’s how:

  1. Be more attuned to women’s indicators of interest
  2. Take action on women’s indicators of interest
  3. Take action and move things forward when you have enough power and leverage to do so
  4. If she thinks you’re very high value, rein in the teasing (ie.: don’t overdo the “asshole“)
  5. Focus on bonding and connection and/or moving forward when she already thinks you’re very high value
  6. Pull her up to your level if she thinks you’re very high-value
  7. Invest back when a woman invests
  8. Generally be a warm and welcoming force

Pre-Emptive Self-Rejection

Pre-emptive self-rejection is a sub-type of self-rejection that happens before there is even a single social interaction.

To explain it, imagine the bars below represent the “personal value” of three different people:

social value bars

A is a 6, because she knows a couple of people there but no big-shot, is a bit overweight, employed but not in a high-position
B is a 10, because he’s famous and most people know him, he’s successful, rich, and happens to be good looking
C is an 8.5, because he’s semi-popular, doing well financially, and good looking

And now imagine they’re all out in a mixer event where people move around and meet new people for networking, business, or… Whatever else might arise.

In a world free of psychology and self-rejection, both Amber (A) and Christy (C) want to meet Black (B).
And Black could easily get friendship, romance, or at least a warm welcome by both Amber and Christy.

But in the real world, it’s not as straightforward.
People also have a sense for what their personal value is, and they know that higher value people might not be thrilled to hobnob with them.

That’s why Amber might want to approach Black, but she will not do so. Amber might be afraid that if she says hi, Black might spurn her.

Amber might be so deep in self-denial, that she doesn’t even admit to herself that she’d like to get to know Black.
So if someone asks her about him, she may even say “he’s not my type”.

Pre-emptive self-rejection is based on little concrete signals, and mostly on a calculation of personal values.
When people think you’re too good for them, they will act like you’re too good for them.

Amber might start to run a whole narrative based on her imaginary rejection, assigning negative traits and behaviors to someone she hasn’t even met.
When she notices herself looking towards Black but Black not looking at her, she subconsciously feels diminished and she tells herself “he’s one of those rich assholes who takes advantage of people”.
If Black approached her, she might even be cold and standoffish.

Pre-emptive self-rejection can become more common as you grow. It happens when people don’t think you will accept them, and they self-reject themselves before you do so.
If you are high-value, this is relevant for you because you could end up making enemies just by being high-value.

Offensive Self-Rejection

Sometimes what’s an actual self-rejection can look like a personal dislike.

Generally speaking, it’s people with a fragile ego and fragile self-esteem who masquerade their self-rejection as a rejection and/or personal dislike.

Says psychologist Albert Ellis:

The best defense against rejection is a good offense: Get the others before they get you.
Some attackers hide their insecurity by being subtler. They are quietly disapproving, superior, distant, judgmental, sarcastic, negative, and/or condescending toward people who may not approve of them. They hold everyone at arm’s length, or further. Their goal is to keep others off balance in order to protect their own fragile egos. They are just as afraid of what other people think of them, but they hide behind a wall.

Other Types of Self-Rejections

  1. After a (perceived) rejection: sometimes self-rejection happens after a perceived slight. For example, the woman sometimes interprets the man who waits one week to call her as a rejection, even when the man was interested and was playing the (wrong) “dating game
  2. After emotional hurt: rejections, even imaginary rejections, hurt. So if after an interaction, a date, or even after a relationship or friendship has ended, some people will self-reject
  3. As a power move: rejecting someone sub-communicates “I’m better than you”, so a self-rejection is sometimes masqueraded as a rejection and made public to acquire more social status
  4. Social strategy to maintain status: for some people, rejection is a social strategy to preserve status. In many groups you will see people playing games of feigned disinterest to either acquire power, or to self-protect against losing power

Preventing Self-Rejection

There are three levels of preventing self-rejection:

  1. In dating
  2. Socially
  3. With yourself

In Dating: Escalate & Give Back

This is particularly relevant for men, see above.

But to sum it up:

  1. Escalate whenenever she’s giving you the green light with investment and chasing
  2. Give back whenenver she’s investing, chasing, building you up, or showing interest. You can give back mirroring her, pulling her up, or qualifying her

Socially: Be Warmer, Pull People Up

People only self-reject when they feel you will reject them.

And that’s far more likely to happen when you look like someone who rejects people, makes them feel bad about themselves, or make them lose social status.

So the solution is simple:

Don’t look and act like an asshole :).

To put it in the positive, become a warmer person, and make people feel welcome and appreciated.
That way, people feel like your value is potentially available to them. Or, at least, that you will not disempower them with a public display of aloofness or rejection.

It’s low-warmth individuals who drive people into self-rejection

For more on these dynamics, also see:


With Yourself: Develop Antifragile Ego

Self-rejection has a lot to do with vulnerability.

When people are afraid of being vulnerable, they self-reject others so that they can put up a facade of fake strength and high-value.

Now, being vulnerable can easily be over-done and disempower you.
However, as for everything, balance.
And there is also much power in not being afraid of emotional pain. And especially not when the social and life costs of emotional pain are little or nil -and that is often the case-.

In those cases, self-rejection happens because of a fragile ego.
To overcome it:

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