Mimetic Desire and the Fear of Rejection

by Eric Disco
Jun 20

I was with my 3-year-old nephew this weekend.

We were playing with his toy cars. He would always start off this way:

“Uncle Eric, which car do you want?”

“I want the blue one,” I’d say.

“No!!! I want the blue one. You take the green one!”

Almost every time we played he would do this.

He would first check to see which toy I wanted, and then take it for himself.

Was he being a dick?

No. He’s doing what kids do, and human beings in general.

If one kid is playing with a toy, all the other kids want that toy, even if there are a ton of other toys to play with.

It’s called mimetic desire, a term coined by the philosopher Rene Girard.

Mimetic means to copy. And mimetic desire means a desire that copies someone else’s desire.

Girard hypothesizes that all attraction is in some way mimetic, that two people are never truly attracted to each other in a vacuum.

There is always a third party involved in some way. Triangulation.

If nobody was attracted to you or wanted you, then your partner wouldn’t desire you either.

If everybody was attracted to you, like a rock star, then your attractiveness skyrockets.

This is also known as pre-selection, or social proof.

If you’re in a bar with two attractive women, it’s more likely that other women in the bar will be attracted to you.

It makes sense.

It’s less work for them to figure out how valuable you are.

They can see that other attractive women have already chosen you.

Along with pre-selection, I believe there is also pre-rejection.

Kenny gives a great analogy in one of his recent blog posts about an empty restaurant on a street next to a restaurant filled with people.

Sure, you may get quicker service in an empty restaurant, but if you’ve never eaten there before, you start to question why it’s empty.

Is the food bad? Are there cockroaches?

My friend had a first date with an amazing woman. But on that first date, the woman told him that her last boyfriend dumped her.

That was a really bad thing for her to tell him.

When a woman tells you this, you start to wonder why.

You can’t help thinking, is there something wrong with her? What did he see in her that he didn’t like?

And you start looking for the bad instead of the good.

This is one reason why I believe men fear rejection so much.

Human beings are extremely social creatures. We evolved in small tribes. Everyone knew one another.

If you took initiative with the wrong person and got rejected, it’s likely everyone knew about it.

This could have a tremendous impact on your standing within the tribe.

You were knocked down a few pegs.

Now you’re the toy that nobody wants to play with. You’re the restaurant that nobody wants to eat in.

That could have a huge impact on your future success.

In today’s modern world, a rejection from one woman doesn’t mean anything in a practical sense.

Nobody will know if you say hi to a woman at a Starbucks and she rolls her eyes and ignores you.

But the feeling can be devastating for most guys.

This is because we’ve evolved to avoid rejection. Those who shamelessly took initiative and got rejected, suffered due to pre-selection.

Those who were much more careful with their initiative tended to maintain their standing in the group.

Next time you see a bunch of kids all fighting over the same toy, realize that this is human nature. It’s mimetic desire.

And we are all party to its effect.


posted in Attraction, Embarrassment and Rejection

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