Rejection hurts like hell, and has the capacity to lead us into some pretty self-destructive patterns of behaviour. There are those amongst us who are particularly susceptible, of course, but every last one of us will experience the gut-wrenching pain of rejection – not just once, but many, many times, throughout our lifetime. How much power we allow it to obtain will dictate how often, and how deeply, it cuts us. I believe that we ourselves can become so attuned to rejection that we actively seek it out, albeit unconsciously. I know for sure that I myself have fallen into this trap, and operated from there for years… as have many of the women I have worked with. But it isn’t all bad! A certain amount of rejection is necessary, if we are to define and refine our passions, expand our horizons, and live up to our own, unique potential. Every successful person on this planet has experienced failure and rejection, as an absolutely unavoidable part of their journey. We can choose to view rejection as an educator, or as evidence of our own powerlessness and lack of worth… and the choosing begins with awareness, and some critical thinking!
I remember heading home from a women’s seminar in Liverpool, with two ladies I haven’t been in touch with for years, sobbing my heart out. My life was going through a massive transition, and, emotionally speaking, I was bloodied, tattered, and torn… but, also relieved and hopeful! It was the end of one long, dark phase, and the beginning of something that I had worked very hard for. I still had a long way to go, but I was definitely seeing the encouraging glow of light at the end of the tunnel. The seminar had been made available to me for free (otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to attend!), and I was really looking forward to it. There were different sessions to choose from, with different speakers. I chose to spend most of the day with one particular woman – and I was eager and keen to join in, to be part of the ‘sisterhood’… to feel ‘normal’ again. I responded wholeheartedly, arm shooting up to answer questions, filling in all the little test papers that were handed out – but, when the audience were asked to offer up an example of an occasion on which they had been surprised by their own strength, I realised I had misjudged. I laughingly recounted how, not long before I left my now ex-husband (a very recent event, at that time), I had been so angry, so at the end of my tether, I had actually picked up an armchair and thrown it across the living room. I had tried to follow suit with the couch but couldn’t quite manage it – and the room fell silent. The American lady stared down at me from the stage, and, using her hands to demonstrate, she replied “You know, you’re kind of UP HERE, and maybe you really need to be DOWN THERE… you’re kind of FULL ON, and you need to STEP BACK…”. I was immediately whisked back in time, to the day my school history teacher slammed her hand against the table, screaming “STOP being so STUPID!”, when I laughed a little louder than I’d intended at one of her jokes. I was 13 again, self-conscious, idiotic, and lesser than ‘the others’ who always had the sense to recognise where the line should be drawn – and who would never publicly admit to morphing into the Incredible Hulk! And I realised that she was talking about emotional strength, not physical strength… but then, so was I. I left the hotel feeling even lonelier than I did when I arrived, and it took a little time for me to understand that whilst it was my problem, it was also my opportunity: life had put something in front of me, to figure out. I certainly didn’t want it, and I really didn’t like it, but hey… when did medicine ever taste like chocolate fudge cake?
So, what has this got to do with the world of attraction and dating? Plenty, actually. Rejection has the power to shape and form the way we perceive ourselves, and what we allow ourselves to accept. By the time we enter into an attraction, many of us will already be staggering under the weight of unexplored and unresolved rejection… and you can guess the rest. And, those who are struggling with layers of old rejection won’t necessarily appear to the outside world as downtrodden and sad; they can just as easily present themselves as strong and confident individuals. Repeated rejection tends to lead us to keep focusing on all of the times we have been let down, or, to defensively and defiantly throw up a protective wall – especially where dating or new relationships are concerned.
Looking back, I can see that my childhood was awash with genuine rejection – as was and is the same for billions of others. I have spent much of my life feeling ridiculous; too this, too that, and too the other. I was never a conformist, and somehow just didn’t feel as if I fitted in or truly belonged anywhere. Most of the pain I experienced emanated from within my inner world, and from my own perceptions… from the way in which I processed my experiences. I expected rejection, even though I didn’t relish it. I learned how to survive, and was often forceful, determined, headstrong, and unwise. I put myself through some real crap, almost seeking rejection out, as if to pre-empt it. I even chose to work in industries that were guaranteed to invite rejection. The world of advertising sales, the arena of intuitive consultancy, and now, self-published writing! I was good at selling; I put my heart and soul into it, and endeavoured to provide the best service I could, but it was always going to deliver a far higher number of no’s than yes’s! Intuitive consultancy is always going to produce some degree of conflict and disagreement, because it centres around and focuses on people’s problems, ego’s, emotions, disappointments, fears, hopes, wishes, and dreams. I have periodically been publicly dragged over the coals on the internet, as well as being accused of being a con artist and a charlatan (by people who don’t know me, and are unlikely to ever meet me). And, as for writing and self-publishing, it is a highly competitive market that requires not only blood, sweat, and tears, but also endless amounts of patience and self-belief… with a sky-high potential for being completely ignored or badly received! If you analyse your own life up to this point, you will be able to recognise some of the ways in which rejection has influenced your thinking, your beliefs about life, and your decision-making.
So, we can see that it is clear that feelings of rejection start in childhood, and continue to present themselves throughout our lives. Rejection can lead us to repeat the same old patterns again and again, without recognising that we are doing so. And, it can cause us to close off to anything that we fear could render us vulnerable. However, we could always choose to learn from it and grow. When I started to accept and appreciate myself more, I noticed that I felt the pain of rejection less. I reasoned that if I stopped automatically criticising myself, then maybe life would, too. Of course, that doesn’t mean I was saying to the world “hey, this is ME, take it or leave it!”, letting myself off the hook for everything. I still have a desire and a duty to continue to grow into the best possible version of myself. But, I accept myself more now than I used to (my rebellious nature and strong personality, my restless mind, and my outspoken and expressive way of communicating), because I know that I am coming from a well- intentioned, positively-motivated place… well, most of the time, anyway! I still hurt; I still feel wounded when I know that I have given my absolute best, only to have it thrown spitefully back at me – but, I have learned that there is no way of avoiding that, for any of us. Even the thickest of skins has the odd weak spot!
Going back to the subject of love and relationships, throughout the years I allowed myself to become programmed to believe that it was me who was responsible for someone else’s misery, lack of fulfilment, and success. I was the reason that their life wasn’t all moonlight and roses. I wasn’t perfect, of course, and I did make mistakes and bad decisions. But, I also tried my best, using the knowledge and the resources I had available to me at that time. Bearing the weight of blame for someone else’s dissatisfaction and frustration – year after miserable year – created a set of beliefs that were incredibly hard to shake off. I carried them forward with me, and I allowed the pattern to repeat, jumping from the frying pan into the fire. I can now see that the kind of men I consistently involved myself with – who found it so easy to dump the blame for their own inadequacies and perceived lack of achievement onto someone else’s shoulders – were unconsciously reacting to their own past experience of rejection. We all blame, and some of us accept blame for stuff that has nothing to do with us; in an ideal world we’d be aware and strive to find a healthy balance! Unfortunately, there are those who consistently refuse to accept any responsibility at all for their own beliefs, feelings, and actions – the ‘blamers’. And there are others who unhealthily accept more than their share of responsibility – the ‘blamees’. If we enter into an attraction as a seasoned blamer, the odds are that the one we are to attracted will end up disappointing us, just as all the others have done. If we enter into it as a battle-scarred blamee, the chances are that the one we are attracted to will end up treating us badly, whilst assuring us that it’s all our own fault. The cycle continues, piling new layers of rejection onto the old, confirming our worst beliefs about ourselves and others. The best thing that we can do is to recognise that we have developed an unhealthy emotional habit… and begin to consciously work on healing it, one step at a time.
The agony of rejection also has the capacity to turn a usually rational and sane individual into an illogical, emotional mess. There is a situation I come across again and again, often involving the slightly older female (as opposed to those in their teens or early twenties), in which she has fallen for a man with ‘issues’ – usually anxiety, depression, and a fear of commitment or intimacy. He has pursued her with every ounce of his being – only to suddenly back off and close down, leaving her confused and devastated. She becomes fixated, trying to figure out what went wrong, what she did that was wrong, and what she can do to put it right. She convinces herself that this man is the only one for her, that no-one ever made her feel the way he did, and that if she just loves and understands him enough, she could be the one to fix him. She lets him know that she will always be there for him, and he either ignores her, or tells her that he just needs a little time, and that he will get back to her – when he has sorted himself out (which rarely happens).
She gets up each day, and goes through the motions. She does what needs to be done, smiling for the benefit of the outside world, whilst sobbing silent tears inside. She believes that the cause of her pain is the loss of this emotionally damaged man, but I believe that she is wrong; the cause of her pain is rejection. To receive love and appreciation is heart-warming and uplifting; to then have it suddenly snatched away is heartbreaking. Intellectually, she knows better, but emotionally, she starts by blaming herself, and then progresses to feelings of resentment – bitterness even, if it is allowed to drag on for long enough. She feels as if she is existing in a kind of emotional limbo, and that is the illusion that rejection creates – it lies to us! It can persuade us to hang onto an attraction way beyond its sell-by date, and to yearn for someone we probably wouldn’t even want to be with, if we actually got to spend real time with them, in the everyday world. And, most of its power comes from the fact that the rejector usually has the last word, leaving us with not only a sense of unfinished business… but also with one agonising, unanswered question: WHY?
And one ‘why’ usually leads to another, especially if rejection has previously left its mark on us. Why did my mother love my sibling more than me? Why did my father abandon me? Why didn’t my schoolmates accept and include me? Why was I overlooked and unappreciated by my employer, failing to be given the promotion I deserved? Why did my ex let me down, so badly? Why did my new love interest appear to be so keen on me, only to dump me as if I’m nothing? Why, why, why?
The frustrating fact is, there are questions to which we can never receive an answer or explanation – that will make any sense to us, at least. We can drive ourselves crazy, we can bang our sore and sorry head against every wall we come across… and still be none the wiser. People who reject others because they themselves are screwed up are never going to be able to explain their behaviour – and they certainly aren’t going to admit to being screwed up. We need to be able to recognise that what is often hurting us more than the loss of the affections of our rejector is the rejection itself – if that makes sense! We need to save our mental and emotional energy for our own healing, dust ourselves off, and move forward. It might not seem fair, and it certainly isn’t easy, but it makes more sense than allowing ourselves to remain trapped and alone within the sticky walls of rejection, watching as our unpredictable love interest slides away in the opposite direction.
Almost everyone who has entered into any kind of relationship has experienced rejection. And, those who are particularly emotionally raw tend to either jump in to a new attraction with both feet, eager to prove to themselves that this time it really is love, OR, have their protective force-field firmly locked in place, ready and waiting for the ‘inevitable’ rejection! Neither are ideal. It is impossible to feel consistently good about ourselves and our lives when the hungry wolf of rejection is permanently at our door. The first step toward freedom is to acknowledge just how much the pain of old rejection is continuing to affect us, and ask ourselves if we are really willing to keep living in its shadow? Whether it was our parents, our teachers, our school friends, our colleagues, an ex (or series of exes!) who’s attitude and actions created within us the belief that we aren’t good enough, or worthy of love, respect, and loyalty – they no longer possess the right or the ability to immobilise us! We can’t change the past, or how we experienced it; it is dead air, a still-frame in time, a shadow within which nothing new grows. There is nothing there that we now need. Right now, at this point in our life, we can do one of two things: a) choose to remain attached to it, holding ourselves prisoner, or, b) we can look at the facts and the figures (rather than the old emotions), and make new sense of it all. If we choose b), we will see through the b******t that our worst critics have piled on us, and recognise that they probably behaved in the way they did because they too had been screwed up by their own rejectors and blamers. However, they aren’t our problem, and it isn’t our job to fix them. We are only acknowledging it so that we can begin to release ourselves from those old, inaccurate, destructive beliefs – and to prevent ourselves from becoming bitter blamers; let’s face it, ain’t a good look, it ain’t sexy, and it ain’t rock ‘n’ roll!