My friend’s husband is leaving her. He used to have more interest in her and the kids, but then his work and his golf game took over. It was obvious to everyone, including her, that his priorities were misaligned. When he left her, she thought It’s me. What’s wrong with me?
Then there’s Jill. She was laid off from her company after several takeovers. She was already in an industry that was fraught with layoffs, and her stress was compounded when a nasty subgroup of workers went on a Survivor-esque rampage and secretly had her ousted. That made the layoff feel even worse. They were a crazy group of hungry, vain and personality-disordered gossip girls; yet, their rejection and the subsequent ousting left Jill at times wondering, What’s wrong with me?
We have all been there—and remember what teens are going through. There’s a good reason we have books like Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and Best Friends for Never.
First comes trust, then comes betrayal
Why does it happen like this? We get treated poorly by someone or something (like a company, a spouse or significant other), and we can’t shake this feeling that something could inherently be wrong with us. Positive self-talk and intellectualizing can help, but sometimes they don’t.
What to do
- Know that rejection feels bad no matter what. Some people are better at dealing with rejection than others. They don’t feel it so deeply and they don’t let it get them down. This probably means they are biologically a little different from you. It doesn’t mean that you are not thick-skinned or that you are weak. Accept that you are struggling right now and that is okay.
- Try not to beat up on yourself. I suspect there are some evolutionary and adaptive reasons why people get down on themselves when they are rejected. For whatever reason, you may be feeling down. Talk kindly to yourself, give yourself a warm bath, treat yourself to a good book and some warm tea. It’s okay to cry. Watching movies and shows and listening to songs that make you feel happy help too.
- Feelings are feelings, not truth. Just because you feel like there is something wrong with you doesn’t mean it is so.
- Control issues may get triggered. If you have control issues, you may be bargaining in your head: What if I had done X, instead of Y. Realize that you cannot control much in this world. You can’t go back either. Accept this. Have faith that you will end up in a better place eventually. I have seen it too often as a counselor and friend to believe that where you are is where you will end up!
- Know that you may have some past trauma that is getting triggered. For those who really get steeped in this, it could be some past rejection or past grief that needs to work its way out again. It is probably a good idea to unload with a licensed professional if you feel like the self-loathing or the negativity is going on too long. You might be stuck on the same song in your head, and you may need help reworking this song into more useful, hopeful and positive lyrics.
Eventually, your grief and hurting will pass. If you get stuck, get some support in helping it to release. I believe that in many circumstances, rejection is God’s protection. At least, it has turned out that way in my life.
Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, a new book about developing healthier relationships with yourself and others. The Stop Giving It Away movement aims to stop the detrimental level of self-sacrifice in which many women live and work. For more insight, get a copy of Stop Giving It Away.