Rejection is something we all face at some time or another. Whether it is rejection by a lover, rejection by a prospective employer, or even feeling that a group has rejected us as can happen in high school or even intrude into adult life. When it comes to rejection – nobody is immune. Almost every successful individual you meet has their own personal rejection story to tell. Surprisingly enough, rejection is not only part of our spiritual growth, but it can teach is valuable lessons if we are prepared to take the time to listen and not surrender to the perceived pain! When we are rejected, it tends to push a lot of buttons, our ego can go into crisis and depending on our relationship with ourselves and spirit, we can experience crushing emotions ranging from uselessness to feeling totally invalidated. Our image of ourselves as worthy of love, success, happiness – is destroyed. We see ourselves as failures, our power is taken from us, and we feel that there is no point in trying again.
Rejection has been a major life lesson for me which I have had to deal with from the very beginning. Many people on the spiritual path (and of course those who are not!) have suffered ridicule and rejection for being ‘different’ and usually, this is not helped by the fact that most people on this path are extremely sensitive. Being rejected hurts and the more it happens, the deeper the wound. However when we understand what rejection is and isn’t we are set free of the cycle of pain rejection carries.
When I was a small child, I was shunned for numerous reasons, for the fact my mother was Italian and could not speak proper English, that my brother was adopted and originally from Pakistan, that I was overweight, and because my father had died and we were poor, we dressed in old clothes or hand-me-downs. I was super-aware that I did not fit in and growing up, always felt I was on the outside looking in.
As my spiritual path broadened, I found myself asking not only whether I had done something to create this experience but also how this experience of rejection impacted on my future. Why does early rejection haunt us into our adult life?
When we are young, our brain forms powerful neural pathways from our early experiences and from that point on, we tend to view the world from that perspective. So, if we experience a lot of rejection at a young age, our brains will literally be ‘hard wired’ to expect rejection and each subsequent rejection reopens and adds to the wound. Because we expect rejection we unwittingly become for people who poke the wound! So, how do we overcome rejection? How do we shift our perspective from the disempowerment of rejection and reclaim ourselves?
As I got older, I learned the most powerful lesson that sometimes (and in my case always), rejection was a gift that led me towards the life and the people that were right for me. If you have suffered any trauma as a child, you can spend your life clinging onto any love that is shown to you even if it is abusive – in fact if it is abusive it feels familiar! During my early years, I doggedly clung onto lovers who were rude and abusive as it was familiar to me, and I justified it by thinking I could ‘heal their damage’ – it wasn’t them but their pain that was being so abusive, they were not to blame. However, deep down inside I clung to the thought that in some way I was not good enough and unlovable and deserved it. This is a pattern many empathetic people are familiar with, especially those who are able to spot similar patterns in other peoples relationships but blind to their own! The saying ‘healer heal thyself” springs to mind. You could say we are actually rejecting ourselves when we do this and the healing path is all about finding a way back to our undamaged self. When we KNOW we are lovable just as we are, and that we are good enough it breaks the spell. One of the worst rejections I ever experienced, was applying for a course I wasn’t accepted for. I only applied because deep down, I didn’t believe in myself – despite the fact that at 25 I was successful with my own office in Covent Garden. But I still felt the need to ‘fit in’. When the rejection arrived, I felt massive grief and pain but just two weeks later I got my big break in TV on Channel 5’s Housebusters. If I had been on the course my life would not have taken that direction so in this instance the rejection was a blessing in disguise!
A recent medical paper showed that lack of social support and rejection has a comparable health risk to smoking and high blood pressure and another study showed loneliness and rejection share some of the same neural pathways as physical pain! So, no wonder rejection hurts.
When we are happy we tend to see rejection less in the world around us and when we are isolated we can interpret the slightest look as a scathing rejection – it’s all about our focus.
5 Steps to Handle Rejection
1: Rejection is merely a stage towards ultimate success – one which everyone has to pass through to be successful!
2: If a lover, person or group rejects you – and in a way that is unkind, consider the fact they are doing you a favour. Do you really want people like this in your life?
3: Professionally, treat rejection as an information gathering exercise. Ask why you didn’t get the job. Information may emerge that helps you get the next one.
4: If someone is telling you that you are not good enough, they are usually talking about their own feelings of unworthiness – not yours. But it’s not your job to fix them.
5: Time puts rejection in a different light. The universe may have something better in mind for you. Chances are that rejection will turn into a blessing in disguise.
First published in Soul and Spirit Magazine
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