The thing about rejection is that it’s a matter of perspective. The rejection is usually not about you, it’s just there offering you a lesson – usually the lesson has something to do with realizing that when someone doesn’t want you it’s not a comment on your intrinsic value or worth. Your logical mind probably gets what I’m saying, maybe you even nodded your head in agreement, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to remember this when you’re writhing on the floor clutching your stinging ego. When your child rejects the meal you just spent your last bit of energy making for her, when your teenager rejects your clothes, values, opinions (and everything else about you except your money and car), when your family rejects your suggestions, your child rejects your hug and kiss… ow, ow, OWWW, I know. But it doesn’t mean you are any less worthy or valuable. It means they are in their own process.
What I mean is, when they reject you; they are figuring out how to say no, how to find their own identity, how to express anger or deal with hurt – or very often it’s because whatever you bring is making them look at something in themselves or the world that they don’t want to see. That’s not about you is it? Look rejection hurts. It just does. But what’s a little pain? If you stub your toe on the couch you can either, hop around yowling in pain for a while and then hobble on, or you can steam and fume at the couch, at whichever idiot put it there in the first place, at the unfairness of having been hurt like this… Some people can keep this sort of thing going for a lifetime. I’m sure you know one or two.
So how we react to hurt can show us a whole lot about ourselves. Let’s see if we can separate the issues. When we react strongly to rejection it can be either because not being wanted touches on an emotional bruise we already have from some other time in our lives – like how we felt when our parents paid more attention to our baby brother or our friends at school cut us out of the group – or because of how the person did it and what that hooks into for you. If what that person is processing is something with which you also struggle, it can trigger a reaction in you. For example maybe you also have difficulty saying no, or knowing who you are, or expressing your own anger – so when you see them doing that thing which you find hard it stirs you up inside.
If in your woeful state you can try to lift your head above the pain for a moment, ask yourself, “What am I actually feeling right now and why? Am I really reacting to their rejection of me or am I having a reaction to what they are busy processing?” When it comes to painful moments with your child it’s especially helpful to do this because then you are less prone to reacting and then later feeling bad about how you did what you did. “I can’t believe you are saying you don’t like this food. I made it especially because you liked it so much last time. You can’t just not be in the mood for it now. Do you know how hard I work to feed and clothe and look after you and then you behave in this totally ungrateful way! How could you do this to me? You obviously don’t care about me. Not really. Nobody in this family cares about my well-being…” and on and on.
Rejection brings you a moment to stop and become aware. It means you are being made aware of something about yourself. “I’m angry she’s refusing to eat it because I actually knew I should have thrown this yoghurt out! I’m angry that I didn’t listen to myself again. When will I learn to listen to myself?”
Maybe the awareness you’re being offered is about how you do something. Did she say no because you were pushing your own agenda? If you were doing that, then why do you do that? What’s making you so anxious that you want to control this thing? “I think she would be happier if she lost a bit of weight so I used yoghurt instead of cream. Why does my child have to be fat? She won’t have any friends and everyone will think I’m a bad mother who feeds my child junk.”
Or maybe the awareness lies in your reaction to the rejection – do you shout, sulk, accuse, withdraw, manipulate, cajole…? Usually we have some belief about ourselves that drives our reaction so what is yours? And is it really valid or is it an old belief from your childhood experiences? Something your parents said about you or your friends did to you? “I can’t even look at her! She hurt me so much now. It’s just like mom! Nothing was ever good enough for her and I tried so hard. I put my last bit of energy into making that cake and she didn’t even finish her slice. Now even my own child won’t eat what I make. I guess I really am pathetic and worthless. Why do I even bother?”
You see? Rejection is like a pop quiz. Like life saying to you, “Ok class, take out your notepads and pack away your textbooks. Let’s see how much of what we’ve been learning you have absorbed. First question…” No wonder we fight it off like we do. It hurts so much because it offers us a full length, well-lit mirror of ourselves and we can see things we couldn’t before. Yuk.
Ah yes, ‘yuk’ may be true, but when we can see ourselves clearly – that’s when we are empowered. Then we have the chance to free ourselves from hidden beliefs like “I’m worthless if people don’t approve of me” – things that are holding us back from being our greatest selves. Children give us lots of points of opportunity to see ourselves in don’t they? You wanna be empowered? Observe your reactions to your kids and watch how you G R O W !