Rejection. It sucks. Nobody likes being rejected. It implies you made yourself vulnerable, you took a risk, and it wasn’t well received. Or, at least it wasn’t received the way you were hoping and expecting. For me, the first thing I want to do when rejected is kick and scream and throw an epic fit. I want to make the person, or entity, pay for turning me down. I want to punish them for drawing me in and making me think I had a chance at being accepted by them but instead making me feel stupid, lame, defeated, and ultimately, regretful. But acting like that would make me a bad sport. And the only thing worse than being rejected is taking the rejection badly. The way I’ve learned to cope with this has been to counter my knee-jerk tantrum reaction with an apology. I don’t apologize for putting myself out there; I apologize for who I am. I make excuses for myself in an attempt to sound self-aware and humble. I try to make it seem like I am open minded and understanding and that I’m not taking it personally – because hey, maybe there’s something in me that deserves to be rejected and I’m a big enough person to admit that. Above all I want to sound nice. I shove myself out into the cold dark night and say, “Shame on you for not doing better. Now I have to go apologize for how lame you are; because if you were different this wouldn’t have happened.” It sounds harsh, but this is honestly what goes on inside me. Rejection makes me doubt myself.
It’s only recently that I’ve really come face to face with how I deal with rejection (or perceived rejection in most cases). After a recent rejection from an organization that could help me promote my message, I drafted an email thanking them for the opportunity and undercutting my own intelligence and expertise in the process. I didn’t want to come off in the email as upset and disappointed. I wanted them to like me. So I threw myself under the bus in an attempt to win approval from people who already said they didn’t approve (at least not the way I was hoping they would). I was taking their rejection personally but I didn’t want them to know that. Instead I let them know I don’t respect myself, and neither should they, and that the rejection was probably best. I didn’t say it exactly like that but I might as well have. Maybe throwing a tantrum would be better. At least I would be acknowledging my true pain and feelings. At least I would be on my own side.
What’s amazing to me is I’m not like that in everyday life. I’ve been very intentional in my adult life about truly loving and accepting of myself, and I can honestly say I don’t want to be anyone except myself. So, what’s the deal with my reaction to rejection? Why am I so quick to apologize for who I am?
I have a good idea it might have something to do with the fact that I’m human and wildly imperfect. It might also be tied to some very old and tiring self-talk that rears its ugly head when I’m vulnerable and tells me I’m too much and not enough – all at the same time, of course. But eventually I tire of the old messages. They don’t fit anymore. I am loved and I am enough. The rejection ultimately kept me from being involved with an organization that wasn’t a right fit. It’s not personal, it’s just synchronicity saying there’s something different, something better.
Oprah Winfrey once said, “I don’t want anyone who doesn’t want me.” And neither do I. That doesn’t mean I’m immune to the sting of rejection, but it lets me off the hook and gives me permission to stop trying so hard. Ultimately I feel best when I stay with myself and give my feelings of disappointment and rejection room to breathe. Then, when I’m ready, I can release the disappointment and negative feelings into the universe with gratitude. Because the truth is, I don’t regret putting myself out there. I don’t regret my vulnerability. I don’t regret who I am. It’s my vulnerability that allows me to love and be loved. Such openness might come with great pain at times, but it also comes with great joy. As Brené Brown has famously shared, we cannot selectively numb our emotions. If we close ourselves off from pain, we also close ourselves off from joy. The thought of missing out on joy is too great a risk for me. I choose vulnerability. I choose openness. I choose joy. I choose love.