Deeply seeded in each of us is a fear of rejection. We wear it on us like a heavy cloak, constantly feeling its weight on our shoulders. It informs what we do, what we say, and how we think. It is the driving force (or at least one of them) behind how we relate to others, what we think of our leaders, and how we determine our commitments.
We run from rejection like it is a plague. And it is. But it is not as terrifying as we think. It might even hold some important value for shaping who we are.
Rejection hurts. It is perhaps the leading cause of pain in our world. And as such, we avoid it all costs. We’ve learned how to play the games, how to hide, how to overcompensate in order to quiet the effects of rejection and keep the tide of sorrow at bay.
As we traverse our day, we are on the lookout for any signs of rejection. Ready to fend it off. The defensive walls. The cutting remarks. It is all part of our well-honed arsenal to prevent the stinging pain of rejection.
Life is hard. And unfair. And often tragic. This is the arena of existence. The way things are. We can do our best to minimize pain and rejection and sorrow. But we must also be careful that we do not check out altogether, refusing to be, to grow, to learn.
The collateral damage to this careful dance is the truth of who we are. Rejection is not nearly as tragic as the stifling of one’s true self. Rather than handle the potential consequences of risk, we find a way to skate through life via the safest route possible. We can’t even tell where our true self begins and the defensive thought patterns begin.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to be numb, apathetic, or complacent. We don’t have to be crippled with fear. There is a rescue from our fear or rejection, but we are not going to like it.
The solution is simple: we must accept that rejection is a part of life. And as such, it is a unique opportunity.
I’m not suggesting we wallow in self-pity and believe what others say about us. I am saying that others are going to say things about us – some true and some very untrue. The solution is not to disregard all of it; nor is it to swallow all of it. The key is to consider all of it. To not be afraid of it. To discern the truths within and take the power of our choices to react appropriately.
Rejection is a refining fire. It challenges our convictions, our attitudes, and our perceptions. It puts us to the test, so to speak. And it digs at the heart of who we truly are and what really matters to us. There is perhaps no greater barometer for identity than that part of you that you would risk being rejected for.
Being your true self will result in rejection. Not everybody is going to love the choices you make. The challenge is for us to weed through the rejection, shedding the ugly parts of us it exposes and strengthening the parts of us that are the most central, the most true.