Rejection has been the driving force behind my choices for as long as I can remember. Of course, I wouldn’t have been aware of this three years ago as it was the silent driving force in my life. Much like the process of breathing, I would react to rejection instinctively without a thought. My modus operandi? Not particularly unique or creative – run before they run. And if physically removing myself from the situation was impossible, the mind wall would be erected and there was no scaling its lofty heights.
The rejections that have truly affected me have rarely been the clear examples of rejection one might face in their life. When Robert, after a month of dating, decided we were better off as friends, it didn’t sting so bad. When, what appeared to be my dream job on paper, decided to go with a different candidate I felt able to dust myself off and hold my head up high. With obvious rejections, it felt like water off a duck’s back. I was able to regroup and decide that it wasn’t for the best anyway so life would move forward and better things would be waiting. There was also a part of me that never fully believed these things were mine to begin with. You can’t feel sad at losing something that was never really yours.
However, the rejections which leave you wondering if they are even rejections – those carry the real sting. The rejections that lead to questioning if the others’ actions were even a rejection or whether you were just being sensitive. The sorts of rejections that aren’t so black and white. Who is the hero? Who is the villain? Those are the rejections I spent years avoiding like the plague.
Of course, rejection only comes about as a result of asking for something. For a while my mantra was don’t ask and they won’t say no. Alternatively, expect the ‘no’ so that anything else would be a happy bonus. As much as I thought these strategies were working just fine, I was unaware of how numb I was to my reality. It’s easy to convince yourself that you are unaffected by rejection when you’re constantly looking towards the next big buzz and the next shiny distraction.
Presently, a sober woman approaching her 30th birthday, rejection can present itself in subtle ways. The friend cancelling plans for the third time this month, the sibling unable to get a date in the diary for a long over-due catch up, the partner who doesn’t call. Whilst none of these are examples of a clear, straight-forward rejection, my mind reads them as such. The friend no longer wants to be your friend, your sister is only in your life because you’re related, your boyfriend is bored of you and will soon move on.
But what is really going on? This discomfort that sits in the pit of my stomach or just behind my eyes, causing them to water a little, isn’t as a result of permanent rejection. So what is it? The fear that this micro-rejection will lead to future rejection. The friend will disappear, the sister will disappear, the boyfriend will disappear. I will be alone and without anyone. When plainly stated, the result of rejection is being that person, place or thing. But what is so upsetting about that? Will I survive the reaction – that’s the real fear. Will I survive this pain and discomfort if this person were to permanently exit my life.
For so long, the fears of these people disappearing, kept me in a lonely life. I would rather sit on the outskirts of connection, watching and wishing, than be willing to connect with others myself. I would rather have superficial connections than give others a part of me. Is that the life I want to live today?
So why do I feel called to reflect on rejection today? Rejection haunts me and my thinking to this day. Micro-rejections can feel like a thousand tiny sewing needles being poked into my calf. It hurts. And this week has been particularly rife with micro-rejections. But that is okay.
The common recovery turn of phrase – this too shall pass – feels particularly fitting this week. When in the depths of my misery as a result of these micro-rejections, things felt impossibly dark. But today, a day or so later, things feel a little lighter. Tears were shed, pizza was eaten, netflix was binged. I did not need to pick up a drink or pick up the razor. This too passed.
If you’re struggling to cope with micro-rejections you are not alone, you are not overly sensitive, you don’t need to get over it. Just breathe, keep yourself safe and it will pass.