My earliest memory is realizing that the family I lived with wasn’t “my” family and that my biological mother had placed me there, visiting very seldom. When she did visit me, either there or at the offices of the Catholic Charities in Manhattan, she was cold, distant and not very interested in me.
Other adults thought I was cute and smart and well-behaved. So why didn’t she want me? As a five year old I had to wonder what intrinsic, fatal flaw did I have that rendered me repulsive to my own mother?
I was adopted at the age of 8 and a half. My adoptive family wasn’t exactly warm and welcoming. My parents’ marriage broke up 2 years later and my father called me names and blamed part of the evening that had gone awry on me. What was so awful about me that my adoptive parents would reject me?
As a teenager, I continued to gravitate to people who mirrored what I knew. I would unconsciously pick people who were COMFORTABLE (as in familiar as in family) to me. People with their own issues who would reject me for no apparent reason. People who would abandon me when I needed them the most. People who would treat me badly and reinforce the message that I was worthless and deserved to be rejected.
Later on, when I decided to turn my life around, after I had been beaten and bruised both literally and figuratively, one of my first tasks was to overcome a lifetime of rejection and abandonment.
Battling back from years of rejection by unworthy people wasn’t easy. Whenever a friendship or a relationship didn’t work out, whenever I didn’t get a job or asked out on a second date I would think it was me. The old “I’m so reject-able” would come through.
After a few years of practicing positive self-talk and affirmations I began to reject the rejection. It wasn’t about me. They didn’t appreciate who I was.
My birth mother had 3 boys and didn’t want a cute, well-behaved, smart girl. Some parents would have killed for me as a child but she didn’t want it. Over the years I’ve come to know her and to think she’s just weird. There is SO much I don’t understand about her. She simply doesn’t conduct her life the way I do. AND: her rejection of me? I’ve come to realize after MANY painful years: It’s not me, it’s her.
My adoptive parents tried but were not equipped, because of their own traumatic childhoods, to nurture a child and build self-esteem. To them I should have been grateful they took me in the first place. For me, that wasn’t enough and the “not enough” was a flaw in them, not in me.
Friends and boyfriends who didn’t appreciate me, were wrong. I am a good friend and sometimes a good girlfriend (okay for some of those relationships, I could see why the rejection because I was still raw and still un-healed and still a NUT ).
When people didn’t ask me out on a second date, maybe they were right, maybe we wouldn’t be good together and I couldn’t see that or they just didn’t appreciate me (or both) but that doesn’t mean I’m not fabulous because I am. I used to HATE the expression, “It’s not you, it’s me.” But now I think, “Yeah it is.” Because it is.
When I was looking for a job I wanted to work in a place that would appreciate me and didn’t want to work anywhere that didn’t. In other words, the decision was in their hands, but if they chose wrongly (not hire me), I didn’t want them anyway.
The first requisite to a relationship with me is you have to be smart enough to want me. Sometimes people, like my biological mother, are simply INCAPABLE of knowing a good thing when they see it. They have other agendas, other issues, other unfinished business that has NOTHING to do with you, but unfortunately you get to bear the brunt of it. Embrace the rejection from those people. It saves you YEARS of being the unwitting object of their unfinished crap.
I wrote a post on here about famous people who have been rejected and told they had no talent. From Shakespeare to Elvis Presley to the Beatles and just about every currently successful actor. People who have the power to reject someone are NOT always right. They’re just not.
Don’t take rejection hard or personally. It happens in life. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It means the person, the job, the situation is not right for YOU. Even if you want it to be right…even if you really want that lover, that friend, that job, that house, that apartment, that whatever….doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you and maybe they see it clearer than you. Or maybe they don’t appreciate you and you don’t want that in your life anyway.
It’s hard to put yourself out there. It’s hard to put the power in someone else’s hands. It feels like leading with your chin.
But you can overcome rejection, whether present rejection or long-ago rejection. Just keep the positive self-talk going, do your affirmations and know you are worth it and deserve all the good things that life has to offer.
Most of all you deserve to be surrounded by the right people and the right situations where your intrinsic goodness and high value is appreciated. Give yourself your own approval, give others the right to accept or reject you, and then bask in the glow of those who accept and value you.
Pay no attention to rejection. It doesn’t matter. Stay positive. Stay focused on what you want.
Susan J. Elliott, M.Ed., J.D.
Author: Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Da Capo 2009).
To order the book click HERE
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