I got a message from one of us the other day asking me if I could give advice on how to deal with rejection. I won't go into the details of her story, but she's dealing with the pain of being rejected by a man she had been with for many years, who is now engaged to be married to another woman.
In my experience, rejection sucks. I know I’m not alone here. It just sucks, for nearly everyone, nearly every time. None of us wants to be told we're not good enough, which is what being rejected ultimately feels like. I'm not smart enough or good-looking enough or this enough or that enough or whatever the hell you want me to be enough.
It bites, especially when we're being rejected by someone we like or love or admire. The more we care about the person, the harder we're hit by their rejection, and the more personal it feels. But when we reel from the sting of rejection, it's usually because we take ownership of whatever it is we feel we've been rejected for. If you don't find me physically attractive, some part of my mind tells me I must be ugly. I own your assessment of me. Now that's never a wise choice.
How others see us doesn't represent the truth of who we are. It only represents the truth of how they see us. Nothing more. Think about all the times you've rejected someone or something. When you choose vanilla ice cream over chocolate, your rejection of chocolate speaks only to your preferences, not to the essence of the ice cream. Okay, it’s hard to get too profound with ice cream.
Bottom line: don’t own what others think of you. That’s for them to own. Your job is to work at loving yourself, as you are. That includes your crooked smile and atypical fashion sense and bizarre family history and even your penchant for garden gnomes. Whatever it is that makes you you is something to celebrate, not be ashamed of or feel less than on account of.
Rejection, with all its pain, can also be a great catalyst for self-love, and self-love is the best catalyst for most anything important. Rather than accept another’s negative assessment of you as correct, take up your own defense in the court of your mind. What we think of ourselves dictates how we feel about ourselves, so let’s create our own definitions. And let’s have words like beautiful and kind and enough be a part of those definitions.
To the sweet soul who wrote to me, and whose rejection is fresh and very intense, I’d like to add this. I know you’re in a lot of pain right now, but you will get through this. Like other great pains we endure throughout our lives, the hurt of this rejection will lessen greatly with time. Feel the hurt you need to feel, but know this: You are enough, as you are. No qualifiers, no conditions. Trust in your path, and trust in the reality that this man is not the man for you. He couldn’t possibly be. Not yet, but one day I bet you’ll see very clearly how lucky you were to have avoided the life you had hoped for with him. One day you may even be grateful to him for not recognizing what a truly special person you are. Because now you are free to play with whatever other wonderful possibilities life has in store for you.
In love and solidarity…