I originally wrote this in 2014 and because this theme is coming up for me BIG TIME this week, I thought I’d share it again with an injection of pithy social commentary and new insights from the me who is ten years wiser.
One Saturday morning, years ago, I was outside with my kids when I saw my brand new neighbor running by. I watched as he and his kid ran over to the house across the street. The neighbors came out and they all bounded off together. Looking focused and united.
I immediately thought to myself, “Wow… those guys are close in a hurry.”
And in the pit of my stomach I felt rejected. Worthless. Fundamentally unloveable.
This feeling is not new to me.
For years I had no idea why.
But now, thanks to dream work, I get that this propensity to feel rejected at the slightest provocation comes from abandonment wounding I got as a baby and as a little kid.
Once, years ago, I posted a status update to my wall: “I’m not gonna lie. Facebook is bringing up my shit. Signing off.” After seeing a friend’s post. A bunch of families I knew met a the beach and had posted photos.
Gut punch. Why hadn’t they invited me and my family?
Obvious, I concluded, they deliberately kept the trip a secret from me. See? Rejected again. I have been proven to be, onceagain, worthless and fundamentally unloveable.
I suffer from what psychologists call “Rejection Sensitivity.” It’s a tendency to “anxiously expect, readily perceive, and over-react to social rejection.”
Whether it’s trauma as a kid — a household filled with alcoholism, violence, abuse, all of the above…
Social exclusion at school…
Or within another kind of community…
Or some other kind of betrayal…
It broke your heart.
And so you have become a person who is ruled unconsciously by this wounded version of you who never wants to go through THAT again.
The consequence? Mad paranoia, that, if acted upon, will make you look like an idiot and attract exactly what you fear: Rejection.
Me as case in point… The neighbors, I learned later, had texted my husband that morning which he had missed. Apparently one of their kids had fallen off the bed and hurt their head. The new neighbor was running to their house to help watch their other kid while they rushed to the hospital.
Those friends at the beach? They actually had invited me but I was so busy feeling rejected that it had totally slipped my mind, lol.
(Ironically when I shared this story with a client, she confessed that when she saw my Facebook post [“I’m not gonna lie. Facebook is bringing up my shit. Signing off.”], she thought I was annoyed at her!)
People with rejection sensitivity interpret ambiguous social situations as rejection. For example… You might feel mortified when an old friend doesn’t respond to your friend request.
Or you might interpret a sour look from the guy sitting next to you on the plane as a sign he’s annoyed at your fidgeting.
Maybe you come to the conclusion that your sister disapproves of your parenting because she didn’t come to your kid’s birthday party.
We glob onto these stories as a way to protect ourselves from re-experiencing rejection but what ends up happening is the opposite, we distance ourselves from others and we create exactly what we fear.
Here’s the Fix
So if you too suffer from what doctors call Rejection Sensitivity, I’m not sure they’ve come up with a prescription drug for it yet (” ask your doctor about RejectSens Rx!”), but what you can do is switch your story. Change that rejection narrative immediately!
Your first reaction might be a whiny email to your friends, a sour look back or phone call to complain. Please do not. Your rejection story is making you feel crappy and, if you’re not careful, you might make an ass of yourself. Then the people in your life will want to run for the hills rather than hang out with you.
Remember, underneath rejection sensitivity is a heartbroken child, abandoned when they were most vulnerable.
So when you encounter an ambiguous social situation that makes your brain scream “rejection!,” pay attention to your inner child and give them some extra love. They can’t help but try to protect themselves from that kind of pain — BUT you don’t want a little child running your life, so get yourself a new story that brings you some relief.
Because there are a million ways to interpret a social situation. If you’re going to make up a story about it, you might as well make one up that leads to some good vibes.
That guy on the plane, for example, who gave you a sour look? Maybe he has gas. Or maybe he just got a some bad news at work. Or maybe those Vuori pants are too tight… The point is, you do not know!
When you make the sour look mean you’re fundamentally unlovable, you’re gonna have a miserable flight. If you make that sour look mean something else that makes you feel a little less shitty (Maybe he should have gone with Lululemon… ) you might actually have a chuckle and even feel compassion for that guy.
He might need you to hunt down some Pepto Bismal for him later anyways.
Here’s the cool part. If you keep “being real” about your “stuff” and and by “being real” I mean investigating yourself with curiosity, compassion, and HUMILITY and by “stuff” I mean your emotional wounding, your trauma, triggers, your uncomfortable emotions and your deepest fears, you might even get to a point where the real live rebuffs barely phase you and you stop giving too many shits about what people think about you in the first place.
So…. Does your brain scream “rejection!” or have you reached zen status? Share your experience below in the comments section below. Because I LOVE that!
P.S. I know a great coach who can help with this. Click here to get on the waiting list.