NOT my favorite topic, this one.
There are just so many issues with it. First of all, definitions. For instance, defining “rejection.” How does one know exactly that what they have received is rejection?
Or defining “love.” What is love, versus need, greed, codependency, etc.?
Then there is reconciliation – as in, reconciling what are often our mixed inner motives for offering our “love” in the first place – aka, what we were hoping/expecting/feeling entitled to receive back in return for our “gift.” Was it really love at all – what we were offering to the other person? Or was it a bargaining chip, a power play, a quid-pro-quo?
If we can sort these preliminary issues out, we might be on our way to really understanding why giving and receiving love feels so death-defyingly frightening…and often so nearly impossible to achieve.
One of my favorite authors, Don Miguel Ruiz, does a great job talking about these issues – me, not quite so much.
But since a sweet reader commented on a previous post and specifically asked me to answer her question (and I would very much like to answer it for myself as well) I will try.
Her question is, “I am still afraid to love other people openly and generously, because I am afraid that love will be rejected, and I will feel like an idiot. How do I overcome that?”
When I first read this question, I thought, “Good question!”
Then I started to think about how often we relate “love” to “romantic love,” kind of forgetting or discounting all the other kinds of love we feel and often demonstrate with more ease and peace. Love for family members, children, pets, community members, those who have fallen on hard times – all of these kinds of love are equally valid and worth exploring and expressing.
I also pondered that previous post – the one that prompted her question – and remembered yet again how Don Miguel Ruiz says that when we reject ourselves, we cannot offer authentic love to others, because we don’t perceive that what we have to offer has any real value.
So, given Ruiz’ wise counsel, and because I am a linear, flow-chart kind of person and I like step-by-step processes very much, it would then seem we might start to solve the problem by proceeding as follows:
- Practice self-love. If we don’t know what that is, learn. We can start with self-care of body, mind, and heart. We can shield ourselves from unkind people and our own unkind self-talk. We can replace the meanie sitting in judgment on our shoulder with a sweeter presence. We can work very hard at this – because it will take very hard work, especially at first – and notice how our sense of our value and worth begins to slowly rise. In time we will begin to admire and respect ourselves more and we will have more confidence, because instead of an enemy we have a new friend within. So this (at least in my opinion) is where we start.
- Practice loving others in small, safe ways. I used to yell at phone customer service agents. I wasn’t proud of it, but they often said things like, “My computer won’t let me do that” and it pissed me off. So that was where I started with practicing love to others. I made it my personal project to add sunshine, not rain, into the day of any customer service agent who got me on the phone. I then began smiling at store clerks and asking them how their day was going. I went out of my way to radiate a kind smile to passersby on walks – especially when I was feeling like doing anything but. These small acts of genuine love, while self-serving in a way, were also very harmless and never rejected – they made me feel more courageous, confident, and eager for more love challenges.
- Practice loving safe others in bigger, but still safe ways. The next step I took was to begin to repair some close relationships in my life that had become, well, frayed around the edges. There was mutual pain and subsequent neglect, so I decided to be the proactive one and take steps to ease back towards love. Remembering birthdays, showing up at special occasions with a warm hug and thoughtful card, offering to help with tasks where appropriate, treating those people like my newest, closest friends rather than adversaries, gently asking about old unsolved painful mysteries and talking through them with the other person – I noticed that here, too, my small acts of love to others were only occasionally rejected (and often that initial rejection was more about shock or surprise, so it often didn’t last).
- Practice self-love in scary situations. Once I had some positive experiences with both self-love and loving others under my belt, it was time to tackle the big love rejection issue. This, of course, meant going on dates. I am still working on this issue, mainly because I often notice that my inner “politeness person” can easily get into a battle of wills with my “cut and run person” who just wants to see rejection coming at me from every corner. So I have to use my other skills, listen carefully to my inner intuition, remember to practice genuine respect and kindness towards the other person no matter what the outcome is, and remind myself that at the end of the day, I have myself and that is more than I’ve ever had before! What I mean is – it is truly not the end of the world if someone else rejects me, even if I think I like that person very much (and with a bit of contemplation, I might like them slightly less upon realizing they don’t seem to like me as much as I like me). But it will feel like the end of the world if I reject me – because then who do I really have? I am so lonely then.
- Practice remembering that how other people see or treat me is none of my business. This concept is one I learned from another amazing mentor, Byron Katie. She talks about how our feelings, thoughts, emotions, etc. are our business, but others’ thoughts/feelings/emotions are their business. In other words, I really have no idea what is in the heads and hearts of the people around me. I can’t fathom why one person might decide to say or do something in my general direction that might look or sound like what I associate with “rejection.” But most importantly – it is none of my business why they do what they do, think what they think, or say what they say. My business is how I feel about me. Their business is how they feel about me. I can’t mix the two up – not if I ever want to have a prayer of genuinely loving anyone in this world – myself or someone else.
So I hope that is somewhat helpful to my sweet reader and others who may be reading too. I would love to hear your thoughts!
Today’s Takeaway: What helps you deal with rejection? Whether it is rejection you find in work, in romantic love, in other love situations, or elsewhere, what do you do that is soothing and restorative after you have experienced something that feels like a rejection of what you do or who you are as a person?
Sad woman image available from Shutterstock.