You will find a million articles out there talking about how to date, or how to get people to like us. Clients will talk to me about people they have feelings for. They are excited about the potential between them and this other person, but are anxious not knowing how the other person feels about them. It’s almost too frightening to find out. I get it. During the beginning of my dating stint, there were several instances where I was feeling a little crush towards someone with some butterflies in my stomach. But those butterflies turned into mutant MMA fighters, and I felt a punch in the gut when these guys said they didn’t feel the same back. I also remember the sullen look on certain guys’ faces when I told them the news that I wanted to be just friends. It felt just as awful to dish it out. Ugh, sigh. We all want to be accepted. We NEED to be loved and belong. What I’ve come to find, though, is that most of us see the path to receiving love and belonging by avoiding rejection. Because if you didn’t reject me, then I would be loved and belong, right?
In my practice, I have found that fear of rejection is one of THE top fears people hold onto. When I look back at my life, I see how much of my behavior on a day to day basis completely revolved around avoiding rejection. When I was in elementary school I would make up stories about my life so people would think I was cool (then they wouldn’t reject me). When I was in middle school, I wanted to wear everything Abercrombie & Fitch so people would think I was cool (then they wouldn’t reject me). I remember being afraid to tell guys certain things in high school (like my jokes and off sense of humor) because then they may not like me (then they would reject me!).
I look back at the metaphorical prison I used to chain myself in. I did all of those things so I wouldn’t hear the words, “No thank you.” I wanted people to say, “yes,” to being with me. As a young girl and woman, rejection was a pain I couldn’t stand to bare. But as I did my healing, I realized something;
So much of the time we internalize rejection and think something is inherently wrong with us. When I heard the words, “I don’t feel the same way as you,” I internalized it and felt that somehow I was inherently undesirable, as a friend or otherwise. And yes, when we believe we are inherently lacking or flawed, that is the emotion of shame. Shame is an incredibly painful emotion to experience. The more shame we have, the more painful rejection is. This is because we internalize rejection when we believe there is something inherently wrong with us. Good news… there isn’t something inherently wrong with me. And there isn’t with you, either.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Rejection has become a neutral event for me instead of this painful, gut-wrenching experience. In order for it to be neutral, you have to realize two things.
“I’m sorry Erika, did you also just say rejection is a gift?” Why, yes I did. Here’s why I choose to see it that way.
When I look back at all of my experiences of being rejected, what I can see is that we were mismatched. Rejection is like trying to put two puzzle pieces together that don’t match… Just because they don’t line up doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with either piece. It was a gift every time because that meant I no longer had to try and “fit” or “match” with someone or something that didn’t match my unique puzzle piece. It gave me space to fall in love with the unique puzzle piece that I am, and realize that I am just looking for what matches and aligns with me.
When I tell people about me getting laid off twice 3 years ago, their initial reaction is, “Oh that blows.” Trust me, at the time it did not feel good. But now I look at both of those events as some of the best gifts I could’ve ever received. In the long run, those jobs would’ve been stifling to my career because I would’ve made myself small and put myself in a box to fit their mold. Overtime, it would’ve worn on my soul, and I would’ve been unhappy. So to them, thank you for rejecting me and seeing our misalignment before I could.
To the boyfriends that broke up with me, thank you. I wouldn’t have been fully loved by you. You wouldn’t have given space for me to be fully who I am. You wouldn’t have been my support and cheerleaders because you didn’t know how, and you weren’t willing to find out. I would’ve been stuck in unhealthy patterns with you. If you didn’t reject me, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be with the amazing man I’m with now, who shows up as a true partner in love and health. Seriously, y’all dumping me looks like Christmas morning now! At the time I didn’t see it that way, but I do now. Thank you.
The authentic joy and love that I experience because I was rejected is more than I could’ve ever hoped for. If I would’ve stayed in relationships (friendship or romantic) where I didn’t experience rejection, I would be in relationships where I was constantly trying to fit the mold that wasn’t mine. Sure, I wouldn’t have experienced rejection; but I wouldn’t be experiencing the true joy and bliss that comes from being in true alignment with someone or something.
It’s all just puzzle pieces. Embrace your unique piece, and remember if it fits it fits, and if it doesn’t, it’s OK… It just doesn’t fit. Your matching pieces are out there.
PS- If you struggle with rejection and need some assistance, click here.