We are all born with a vice. The worst of us are born with several. Or maybe like college we major in one area but minor in others. What I know is that dealing with rejection is a major challenge for me and it always has been.
The first major moment I really remember was about middle school. Probably 6th grade or so? There was an "I hate Heather Nuttall Club'. It didn't last very long, and today many of those who were members are some of my closest childhood friends. Honest, hardworking women who contribute to their families, their communities, and give of themselves selflessly. When I wrote my book, I went to one of my them and told her that would be a chapter. She squinted and groaned and paused - but then she said "Heather you HAVE to, I can only imagine how awful that was and I hate that I was a part of it." So much respect for her.
For whatever reason, the perfect storm arose and the I Hate Heather Nuttall Club was formed. Near as I ever figured out, there was a birthday party that I didn't attend. On the sleepover, they watched a movie where something similar happened. I wasn't there so I became the headliner of the club.
During this time, I tried to talk to all of them repeatedly. There were some who weren't really into it. They gave me a wilting smile - kind of like "I'm sorry but ..." and then the slow roll of the shoulder and walk away from me without acknowledging my approach or question. Others were all in. A very vicious "mean girl" smile and the same slow roll of the shoulders as they walked away. They had a notebook where everyone was instructed to write down what they hated about me. It hurt.
But what I realized later is that the event wasn't nearly as big of a deal as the destructive self-talk that I took on. I began to hate every physical feature I had. Big gaped teeth, my knees were shaped funny, my laugh was weird, my freckles were ugly ... whatever they wrote in that notebook, my brain latched onto and made a dumb 11-year-old move to dive into a lifelong belief about who I was.
This set up a pattern for my life. Every moment of rejection or perceived rejection my mind would take on whatever had happened and make it into a traumatizing paralyzing thing.
Something my mom said to me at 18 hurt me for years. It downgraded my personal worth. But when I was 27 years old, I dealt with it and realized again, what I had done with her off-handed remark was the absolute debilitating trauma. Not what she had actually said.
My husband battled a decade of substance abuse. Every time he was messed up I took it as rejection. I wasn't good enough to choose over a stupid pill. Pills are more valuable than me.
Four years ago, I gave him a very personal gift. Let's not go into what it was. LOL But he rejected it for his own personal reasons. The second it happened, I spent years spiraling out of control in a lot of ways. He tried to explain that he loved me, but it was just something in him (from his childhood) that caused him not to be able to receive this gift. His explanation didn't matter, I turned all of it inward and spiraled out of control.
Can you imagine the turmoil in my heart when I finally decided I wanted to write a book? The possibility and almost certainty of rejection had kept me from trying it for years. I knew that it didn't matter who supported and encouraged me and cheered me on, that the negative voices would be louder than anything and hard to turn off. Once I committed to that process I knew there was work to be done if I were to survive this thing that was actually my dream.
I've learned that if I can turn my rejection into compassion, I don't inwardly kill myself a little each time. The middle school girls, my mom, my husband, friends ... they all had personal inward reasons why they reacted to me the way they did. It was a turmoil inside of them that caused them to do to me what they did and it really was more inward focused than it had Anything to do with me. In the last year while writing my book, I've had several rejections. I've learned a few coping skills.
Here are just a few.
Immediately take a step back.
Search inwardly to see if I really am at fault for any of the things said. Apologize for them.
Talk to your trusted inner circle. Get some guidance on how you're handling it. I have my husband, a trusted friend, and two of my daughters who are very good at helping me navigate these waters.
Assess what I know about them, or what they may be going through, because let's be honest, anyone who has the power to hurt you is someone you've put in that position because they are important to you. Therefore, you know things about them. I may not always know WHAT they are battling. But I can and have been able to tell they are wrestling with stuff before the incident occurs.
Take the time to understand, someone might be incredibly senseless, in-compassionate, or just rude but you were not the root of their problem, you were just an easy target (do some personal work on how, why you helped yourself be an easy target).
Build compassion for others. I used to not have much. I was more concerned with getting justice and having my wrongs righted. Now I can look at an "offender" and say ... This really isn't their heart, whatever is eating them away inside I hope they defeat it.
Remove yourself from responsibility for being the one to lead them to healing. This isn't going to happen. If you're the straw that broke the camel's back, you're probably not the one God is going to use to get through to them. Let whoever is that assigned person get next to them and walk out their calling without you getting in the way.
Life is a marathon not a sprint. A friendship/relationship lost today has the rest of your lifetime to be restored. Remove yourself from needing closure at their expense.
Focus on ways to build yourself up, analyze how you handled this rejection, acknowledge where you need work. Work on yourself. It always takes two to tango. Give yourself that pat on the back for not reacting like you used to and then make an intentional plan for how to move forward next time and conquer new ground.
Never give up on making yourself better.
I know in today's world it's so much more chic and convenient to just grab the backpack of being a victim and pack it as full as you can, but living in your traumas and carrying them with you everywhere you go doesn't bring any freedom or internal peace. The more you give yourself to something, the bigger it becomes in your life. Trust me I know. I have taken my walking stick and started trudging through all of the things that always hurt my relationships or held me back and I'm climbing that mountain. Maybe I should have done it long before being 51 but I'm doing it.
Honestly that is what my book is about. How I lived a life of consenting victim-hood to rejection and have begun to conquer it. I cry less at perceived rejections, I don't start negative self-talk nearly as often, and I have much more compassion for my "offenders" who are merely dealing with their internal junk. I'm happy with that much progress. There've been way fewer tears. I'm still not immune and maybe you can't ever truly become immune, but that's my goal. It keeps me working.
Link to purchase Growing Old: One Lucille Ball Moment at a Time