Last September my boyfriend took me to dinner and told me he wanted to marry me.
Two weeks later he broke up with me.
One month later I found out he broke up with me for his ex-girlfriend. AND there may even have been some overlap.
7 months later he proposed to her.
I spent a lot of the days in between all of this crying, ruminating on things I may have done wrong, and praying for God to turn things back around. The weeks following the break up I had to drag myself to work behind a pair of foggy tear smudged glasses quite often.
“I am supposed to have my shit together,” I thought. “How can I help people navigate through their trauma when I cannot even keep my mascara from running down my face for more than an hour?”
The fact is I had been rejected. I don’t think there is really any other way to put it. This guy saw my heart, held it in both his hands, and gave it back willingly for something he wanted more.
What do I know about being rejected? Well, for starters:
- No one is immune to rejection. And it doesn’t just show up in romantic relationships.If we are really showing up and being seen, if we are truly taking risks, if we are truly going after what it is that we desire most in our lives- rejection is bound to happen. If everything is going right in our lives we are either stuck or not being honest. AKA lying. . . and no one likes a liar.
- Rejection initially sends us on a mission to attack our self-esteem.The most damaging part of rejection is self-inflicted. Just when our self-esteem is hurting most, we go and damage it even further. And here is why I believe this happens: The same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. Our brains also send us a shot of dopamine when we figure things out. You now why having an AHHA moment feels so good? Because you release hormones that soothe your body when it happens. Well, our bodies and minds are incredible things and we are smart enough to put two and two together. I am in pain and I need relief + I receive relief when I figure things out. If I could give a reason for why I was rejected I can relieve some of my pain.
Because of this just about every spare moment I had during this time I was fighting with statements like:
I am not good enough.
There is something wrong with me.
I am less than.
I was too stubborn.
I am not wanted.
You know what this didn’t do though? This didn’t make me feel better. It separated me from one of the most basic human needs. The need to belong. If I attack myself around my worthiness of belonging all I am doing is destroying the opportunity to experience one of the most precious parts of my journey.
If we want to make meaning and understand our rejection it needs to be rooted in truth. And here are three truths of rejection:
- Rejection is a gift we are not meant to understand in the moment. The director of where I was working at the time sent me this quote the day I spent crying my eyes out in the therapist lounge about two days post break up: “Someone once handed me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too was a gift,”Mary Oliver. I read it everyday waiting for it to make sense. One day it finally made sense. I thought I needed answers NOW to feel better. And I made up a lot of the answers to fit a narrative that is just that. . . made up. What isn’t made up is that I will probably never really know why “he who shall not be named” dumped me and it doesn’t matter. Why he broke up with me wasn’t the point. We are a cohort obsessed with figuring out the ending. The internet is flooded with fake reality TV spoiler pages and heck. . . I even will google the end of movie AS I AM WATCHING IT. But watching the climax of a movie after you already know what happens actually just ruins the experience. Which brings me to. . .
- Rejection is more of a map and less of a dead end. When we can see rejection as an indication of what’s not a yes yet, we can view it as a motivator to get us to what’s around the corner. Steve Maraboli says it best, “Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” I cannot say we are promised happy endings, but I do believe that we are promised a hell of a journey. Our restless instincts to figure out the end of our story drives us away from this. The journey is often the best part. By needing to know the why in our moments of desperation around things that do not work out we are risking spoiling the climax of our own story. There is magic in the wonder of what will happen next, we have to allow ourselves to experience this.
- Rejection lets me know I am working towards something I give a damn about. Like I said before nobody who is showing up honestly to their own life is immune from feeling rejected. It happens in our jobs families, friendships, hell it happens every time we look at social media. Feeling rejected, though, is a full indication that you are encompassing passion and a desire to want more for yourself. Sometimes I wonder what my life would look like today if I knew that 10 years ago. If we used 1/3 of the energy we put into tearing our self esteem down to offer ourselves some self compassion I think we could change the a lot of messed up things in this world.
Eventually, I started to look at the truth of my own life. I stopped trying to figure out why and started being present with myself. I offered myself self-compassion and opened up space for me to feel hurt, sad, angry, and fear without trying to numb it with made up stories. I looked at the reality of what was in front of me. I didn’t get what I wanted in the moment- but I had no data to back up that in time I wouldn’t get something I wanted MORE. The transformation I went through following the breakup was the point of the rejection in this part of my story. The greatest thing this guy has ever done for me was break my heart- the inhumane way he treated me was a gift; because when my world with him shattered a whole new universe opened up for me not only personally but professionally and spiritually, as well. I came back to the truth that I was created for more than I was able to believe with him.
I’ve learned that rejection is really just redirection onto the path of our own stories. However, the only way to know this is to stay in the arena with yourself and your whole heart.
And you know what. . . I have no idea where I am going right now but I like it a lot more than where I came from.