“Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people. Don't base your self-esteem on their opinions.” – Harvey Mackay
This is something we have all been confronted with and still it is one of the hardest and most commonly traumatizing experiences we go through. Most of us learn to deal with it and get past it, but some never do and the results can be quite devastating. I am called to write this blog for two reasons. I have recently been confronted with the remnants of this and a client also recently told me about a family members’ inability to deal with the emotional trauma and subsequent suicide after feeling rejected and excluded by those she wanted to feel accepted by. This is, of course, an extreme and heart-breaking outcome, but I am guessing there are very few people who cannot relate to the emotional pain that rejection and exclusion can cause. The feelings can be quite crushing and there is almost no one who has not felt it. Why are some people more affected than others and how do people learn to cope with and get past these feelings?
Acceptance and validation are quite basic to our needs and very few of us get enough of these to build our self-worth, self-love and resilience to a level of confidence where we are truly secure and rejection-proof. At least, we seldom get it in childhood and without a lot of introspection, awareness and self-esteem-building work. Why is this? First, most of us are raised by adults who have not yet attained this level of self-worth themselves and don’t know how to give it to us. Second, we face a world which bombards us with self-esteem diminishing challenges on a regular basis. It seems to be the nature of humans to try to build their own self-worth at the expense of others when they don’t know more healthy ways of doing so. We see it all around us and it is modeled for us in some cases.
From childhood into adulthood, we see it. Two friends make themselves feel superior by talking about what they see as the shortcoming of someone else. Or, in today’s world one group of people criticizes and villainizes another group of people over beliefs and ideologies. Many times, we don’t think this is a big deal until we are on the receiving side of it. The people that are bonding and feeling superior in that bonding, often lack any empathy for the feelings of the person they are diminishing. That is sometimes because they do not really know the person and sometimes because they do and want to purposefully exclude or diminish them for their own benefit.
I am going to share a story from my own childhood that had a huge impact on me in so many ways. While today I consider it a blessing as the feelings I experienced give me a special empathy and advocacy for helping people to feel confident and resilient. At the time it was difficult. I was always a fairly kind and inclusive child with a strong sense of fairness, so excluding others or making them feel bad was never something I did. Pretty much the opposite was true. In first grade, I met a girl who became a long-time close friend shortly after the school year began. I got guardianship that day of the much-coveted playground equipment, the ball for playing square ball. A couple of other girls and I were getting ready to play when a girl I had not yet met came up and asked to play. The other two girls said "no" and told her to go away. I reacted immediately and asked them why. They said they didn’t like her. I said it was my ball and I say she can play. They said they wouldn’t play if that girl played. She and I took the ball and found two other girls to play. It turned out that girl and I became good friends and well, the other girls, I don’t remember what became of them. This was pretty much my philosophy.
In fourth grade, a classmate had a bird that she brought to school and that bird became the class pet. She was very attached to her bird, as most of us are to our pets. She shared the bird with the class though and allowed others to care for it. Over one weekend, something happened and the bird died. The whole class felt bad and mourned the loss, but it was really hard on the owner of the bird. I had empathy and felt very sad for her. I had an idea of getting her another bird and instead of doing it myself, I organized a group of her other friends and we all planned together to raise the money, get the bird and give it to her. I thought everything was going quite well. I was excited that we were going to able to do this as a group and hopefully help our friend feel better.
I had no idea that there were any problems brewing in the group. Most of the girls, I had known for several years and felt they were friends. One day, just a few days before we were going to give the bird to our mutual friend, one of girls asked me to meet her down on the baseball field after school. I didn’t really think much about it and went to meet her and saw that the rest of our group was also there. Still, I thought nothing of it. I have never been bullied or had enemies for the most part, so nothing occurred to me. Suddenly, the group formed a circle around me and skipped in a circular motion while chanting “we vote you out!” I was taken completely off guard and it took a few minutes to even figure out what they were doing and what it meant. And then, one of them explained that they were excluding me from the group and I would not be allowed to participate in the plans for giving the bird to our friend. I was just out! My stomach felt like it dropped to my feet and I simply couldn’t speak. I was hurt more than I could have expressed and no words would come out of my mouth. I looked at them trying not to let myself cry and then I walked away as fast as I could. When I got out of their sight, I ran all the way home before I cried. The feeling was horrific and I had no idea why they had done this. I also did not know how to deal with it or my feelings. I had a hard time going to school the next day and really couldn’t look at any of the girls. It hurt that my friend did not know that her new bird had been from me, as well as, the other girls and that it had been my idea, but I didn’t say anything. It seemed like months, but it was really only days, when some of the girls in the group started coming and apologizing to me and telling me that one of the girls had instigated what had happened telling the rest them that I was too bossy and didn’t deserve to be in the group. She was jealous and wanted to be in charge of things. Sadly, she didn’t know that I wasn’t really set on being the boss and would have let her have more say, if she had spoken up rather than tossing me aside as she did. Eventually, all the girls except the instigator apologized to me and even the girl who got the bird told me she had been told it had been my idea. That helped, but the feelings and mistrust hung on much longer. I avoided the girl who instigated things for the rest of the time we were in school together, though we had been friends before that. I am not sure if she knew that I knew about what she had done. She still talked to me and acted friendly from time to time. I had not realized before how insecure and insincere she apparently was, but of course, I knew I couldn’t trust her and didn’t want to deal with that. I did forgive her. I never wanted to experience anything like that again, however, strangely made me stronger and gave me confidence in getting through it. It would be decades, many more experiences and much self-reflection and self-acceptance before I would feel confident enough and put that trauma behind me. It was the start of a very important lesson on dealing with rejection and exclusion. A lesson I am very thankful for, despite the pain involved. I also gained a sort of “Spidey-Sense” for picking up the energy of those people who, due to their own needs, would be inclined to throw me under the bus, so to speak. I learned to opt out or avoid them before they have the chance to do so. Usually without any malice. I have come to realize that they are doing the best they can with what they know.
I did encounter the instigator of that grade-school trauma again on a break after my first year of college. I went into a local store on a visit home and was looking around when I heard a voice excitedly call my name and when I turned around the girl who had caused me that pain, way back when, had a big smile on her face. She grabbed me and hugged me, saying how happy she was to see me. I was in momentary shock as I recognized her and took everything in. She had surprisingly gained a good 40 pounds and looked a bit different. We talked for a while and caught up on what we had been doing since high school. I was surprised to find out that she was on a break from college and working full-time at the store. She had dropped out of school during her freshman year after having an emotional break-down. I listened to her story and empathized as she told me of her feelings of not fitting in, being excluded and having trouble keeping up academically. She seemed to feel better as I empathized. I asked her about her future plans and encouraged her, reminding her of the skills and abilities I knew she had. There was that moment where I felt a twinge of revenge brewing, but opted for compassion. She hugged me again before I left and said she was glad we bumped into each other and that I had always been a loyal and kind friend. I was happy in the end to know she thought of me that way. She went back to school the following fall to a college in the Mid-West where she still lives. She graduated, married and had a beautiful family. When I last heard of her, she was enjoying a happy life. I did wonder if she ever thought about her actions and how they had affected me, however, I realized it really didn’t matter as I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
There are many types of rejection and exclusion and they bombard us throughout life. Breakup, divorce, job loss, not getting the job, award, raise, praise or accolades that we wanted, hoped for or deserved. We do need to feel and process those emotions, no matter how painful. I thought I might die when I fell in love way too soon after my divorce, with “Mr. Wrong for Me”. It seemed so unfair. Eventually I realized I wasn’t ready and “us” trying to be a couple would have been a train wreck. He didn’t want children and I had one, he was gorgeous and romantic, but also selfish and a perfectionist and always made me feel “not good enough”, -- who needs that? In the end, I took the lesson and moved forward, a little bruised, but so much stronger and wiser.
In conclusion, pay attention to your intuition as much as you can and avoid people and situations that end up draining you or feel toxic. Rejection isn’t always avoidable, but try not to take it personally. It likely isn’t about you. Lastly, it is usually not fatal, although it can feel that way at the time and, if nothing else, it will give you strength and character, even when that doesn’t seem possible. I am sure you have some lessons under your belt already. Use them to buoy you up, rather than make you bitter. Rise above the negative thoughts and know that only you can define who you are and what you deserve in this life.
Blog By Kate Olson
Kate is a Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner & Trainer, Reiki Master, Energy Healer, Life Coach and more. To find out more about her or her work, click the links below:
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About the Blog
After 4 years of featuring at least 1 guest Author a month this blog changed in 2020. I loved featuring the posts of other great people who also believe in mind, body, spirit wellness. I will continue to feature articles submitted to me on this topic that align with my own mission. However, finding & reaching out to others is time consuming and I do it for my radio show, Soul Talks and other groups and projects and so for this blog i will be ramping up my own posts and perspective. posting mostly my own blogs. I will be happy & excited to post articles from those who submit them to me.