finding freedom from the pain of rejection: guest blog on Elephant Journal
This blog was originally published on Elephant Journal on 01.29.14.
A question: When I feel rejected and as though someone is treating me like dirt, does it serve me to take it personally or to let it go?
Well, of course, I know it serves me to let it go.
If only it was that simple.
When I feel rejected or hurt, I tend to focus on what I did wrong or all the ways I’m inadequate. It’s hard-wired into my middle-class, Italian Catholic upbringing. Sometimes, I find myself thinking that I deserved the treatment.
Negative thinking runs wild, and I get wrapped up in story after story about how there is something wrong with me and if only I could win that person’s approval, I’d be whole.
The cycle continues: I beat myself up and lower my vibration to sadness, rejection, regret, and feeling isolated, separate and even envious of all the other people I think this person accepts.
I stew in those emotions for longer than I should and find every reason to loath myself. Then, as the law of attraction works, I think about hurtful past experiences where I was rejected, and ultimately draw in more emotionally unavailable people. I hold on to high expectations of how people “should” be treating me and feel disappointed if they aren’t following those exact notions I have built up in my head. Lost in self-loathing thought, I convince myself there truly is something wrong with me.
Let go of the “why.”
I get easily wrapped up in the ego, comparing others’ actions to mine, wondering how a person could be so jealous, self-serving, callous, unsupportive or mean. The old record of “I thought we were friends” spins continuously in my head. I let this person’s actions and words—both of which are completely out of my control—consume and drag me down…but why?
Why is my mind focusing on the person that treats me like garbage instead of the people lifting me up? Why do I so desperately want to belong to a place that clearly wants no part of me? Why do I desire friends that have turned their backs on me in my most difficult, as well as my most joyous, times? What is this need to fit in to a place I don’t belong? Why do I keep going back for more rejection? Why can’t I let go of the people that don’t want to be held?
I’ve learned that figuring out the why is a relentless road of self-discovery that may not even bring satisfaction or relief once discovered.
I have spent many hundreds of hours on my yoga mat and in meditation figuring out what my “why” is, but honestly, it’s inconsequential.
What’s more important than figuring out the why is realizing that the more I thought about it, the more pain I felt. The more I tried to “figure it out,” the more I suffered. It was only when I let go of trying to figure out the “why” that I found acceptance and freedom. Along my journey back to health, I have learned many amazing things about yoga, meditation, nutrition, others and myself. On this path, I have connected with some wonderful people and some not so wonderful people.
Each person in our life and each experience we have is a lesson for us; it’s up to us to be open to receive.
As I opened myself and shed my painful past, I made some powerful connections with others whom I thought were like me. I believed I was connecting to others on a path to self-discovery; others with a willingness to go deeper, work through their own pain and hurt, and become who they truly were.
Sadly, I was mistaken and felt deeply hurt when the truth was made clear. Because of my willingness to confront my own fears and boldly walk through them, I mistakenly believed that others would do the same.
What I found was that most see the fear and run in the opposite direction or use that fear to manipulate and take advantage of those in a more vulnerable place than they are. I’ve learned that the only way to shed our painful past is to courageously confront it and move through it. There are no shortcuts on this path to self-discovery. We can’t sidestep or pretend the fear doesn’t exist. We can’t aimlessly follow someone claiming to be a guru or claiming to heal us.
Through personal experience of hurtful deception and manipulation, I finally realized that only I could lead myself on the path to heal. Not all believe they have the power within to do this, even though they do. I know now that I needed these experiences for my personal growth, but the lessons were agonizing.
I see now that going into a friendship, I expected a two-way street.
I expected a give and take friendship but soon found I was the one mostly giving.
I held the space for friends to fall apart as I listened, made plans and calls, baked, cooked and opened my home. I made sacrifices to connect and help, dishing out the compliments, sharing experiences and over-extending myself every which way I could to be a “good friend,” not only for them, but to soothe my soul. Then, when my life fell apart and it was my turn to be held, all I found was silence and voicemail.
Time and time again I would set myself up: get in a relationship with someone that was completely emotionally unavailable, be there for them 100%, and get hurt when they bailed on me. I would crash and cry from the pain of rejection that stung so deeply and wonder what I did wrong.
The only comfort I ever found was through the release of wanting to figure it out, and the ability to accept the emotionally unavailable people, exactly as they are.
Stop rewinding the tapes and let it go.
I dried the tears and began to witness the tape of old thinking replaying in my head. I decided it was time to no longer believe it and shut it off. I put myself in my “friends” shoes and accepted their actions 100%, again surrendering the “why.” I tried to tell myself that it may have nothing to do with me and it was just their issues.
Though it was painful, I accepted that maybe the only thing I did was to expect too much. In this acceptance came a lowering of expectations and more freedom from suffering.
Next, I changed my behaviour. I stopped over-extending and trying so hard. I took great care in my thinking and actions, living from a place of wanting to feel better and be with people that nurtured me. Before I knew it, I had a lot less “friends.” The two-way street that never existed became heart-breakingly clear. In this space, however, a miracle occurred.
In the lessening of false friends came the abundance of true friends.
It became obvious who supported me in my life. I noticed the friends that weren’t intimidated, the ones that were genuinely happy for me, the ones that held me in my sorrow and my happiness; the friends that listened, supported and lifted me up; the friends that accepted me exactly as I was and celebrated our time together, just as I love to do for them.
From the pain came the clear miracle of the quality, genuine people in my life. Slowly, my pain dissipated as I gradually shifted my focus to those individuals.
I accepted the others as they were and let them fade away as they wanted. I worked through the urge to hold on to them and became so curious about why I so desperately wanted to fit in and hang on.
I believe that life is about connection. With that connection, together, we ease the difficulties and the unpredictability of life.
I believe in supporting people in their times of need and truly rejoicing in their successes. We’re in this together and your success is my success. I believe in a world of abundance, not lack. I believe in a world where there is room for everyone to be successful, because we are all individual waves cresting on the same ocean. One person’s success only adds to mine.
Stop trying to hold on to people that don’t want to be held.
To ease my suffering, I had to let go of those that didn’t want to be held. I saw the blessing of the true friendships in my life and nurtured those relationships, rather than seeking acceptance and approval from places I would never get it. Rather than building a wall around my heart, I gave more love to the people that gave more love to me.
The law of attraction working for me once again, I drew in more love and acceptance, blasting out the pain. I slowly broke free from needing to fit in, from needing to be something I was not.
Friendship is a two-way street.
I realize that relationships take work, but it requires the work of both parties. I desire genuine relationships, based on truth and trust, not based on competition, gossip or a façade. Practicing acceptance for others just as they are, each day, gives me strength and silences that cruel voice of rejection in my head.
Through difficult life lessons, I now have the wisdom to put my energy into the people that are genuine and protect myself from getting hurt. I see that shifting my focus to those that accept me brings purpose, peace and joy to my life. Fitting in where I am celebrated is the perfect place to be.