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Rejection and Self-Worth

Posted Oct 19 2010 7:09pm

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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  1. SRgirl:
    This post is really resonating with me right now - after 'losing' the ex 6 weeks ago, then losing my job 1 1/2 weeks ago, I am feeling the hurt of two rejections and not being 'good enough'. It is hard right now not to take it personally. But, you are right - just because I wanted that relationship does not mean it was the right thing for me; or he was just unable to appreciate all the things I would have brought to his life, and I do not need to be in a relationship where I am not appreciated. I am getting better, although the job loss has set me back in my recovery. Now I am fighting through the thoughts of what is wrong with me that I cannot keep a job or a relationship, and needing to do inventory on both. Oh yeah, and find a new job. :(
  2. Boon:
    I'm with you SR. Within a three week period, I no longer had the ex or my job. It was easier to accept losing the job, because I knew that I had busted my ass for years and the higher ups just didn't know me or my abilities. The ex was much more personal, but actually, she didn't know me or my abilities either. I busted my ass for both, gave up myself and sacrificed much. I never said no to both, and extended myself waaaaay past what was good for me. What did I get in the end? A big, fat zero. I see the lesson here. I see that what I gave was not appreciated by either entity. Even with my issues, I AM a good thing. And I did the best I knew how. I just had a conversation with an ex of the ex. I learned that the ex was unemotional with him as well, so it wasn't just me. He said he had story after story of her disrespectful behaviors, behaviors that I thought were directed at me. This dude stuck around for five years, in what he termed a "very business-like relationship", until he just couldn't take it anymore. I got out after only four months. Yay me! I know what I did to hurt myself in the relationship, and right now, the rejection doesn't hurt. I am a good person, I am perfectly imperfect, I am doing right by myself now. If some BH doesn't want me or appreciate the good things I have to offer, than too bad for her. And my good things FAR exceed my "bad". I no longer think there's a "perfect match" for anybody anymore, so just because this didn't work out, doesn't mean it's the end of the world. Do any of us actually realize how many possible matches exist out there? I'm on the job search too. I received a rejection letter today, stating that I didn't meet their qualifications. They didn't say what their qualifications were, but it doesn't really matter. It's just one job out of many, many possibilities. I need a job in a bad way, but I pause to consider what do I REALLY want to do. It's the same thing with a relationship, if you think about it. What do I REALLY want in a relationship. Ok, so I definitely need a job, but I certainly don't need a relationship
  3. happylulu:
    What a great post. I wasn't legally abandoned but was abandoned informally. My parents couldn't handle raising me with all their own issues, so by elementary school I stayed with various relatives until college. Out of all those caretakers, only one grandparent truly loved me, everyone else did not and I couldn't get over that for the longest time. I craved unconditional love that was all around me but never directed at me, I'd watch Disney movies or families in the park and cry. I loved it when I started having romantic relationships with the opposite sex. Even though I have a few good friends of my own gender (thank heaven for them, by the way), of course no one can pay attention to me and "love" me like a romantic interest. But all these romantic interests end eventually and I was crushed. Finding Susan's blog and book two years ago really helped me. I started to be aware of what was going on, I could identify my own mistakes. I'm not "saved" yet because even after 2 years of hard work, Susan's good sense reached my head but my heart is still a mess. I've improved to the point where I have no trouble with NC, I never act in crazy or futile ways anymore, yay. But inside I'm constantly crushed when faced with abandonment, betrayel and rejection, which becomes more frequent recently due to the economy and everyone feeling down because of it. I wear my mask well, I fake it until I make it. But I don't know when I can truly fix my inside and not cry at night, not feel angry and scared, almost on a daily basis. I do my affirmations, I believe in myself, I incorporate fun into every day, but I'm just not there yet and sometimes I am tired of still not being there. Reading Susan's posts here really help me not feel alone at least, thank you, Susan!
  4. delotus:
    Good luck with the job search Boon.. it can be tough I know..
  5. brummelisa:
    I too lost my job a week after my X ended the relationship. At the time I was so devistated and wondered how two such tough things could happend to me at the same time. Now, ten months later, I'm thankfull that it did happend. Sure, it's not fun to loose the partner I had for 16 years (and we have children, so I have to comunicate with her) and the job that I had for nine years. But now I have understood and accepted that my X is not a person suited for me. I deserv better and will eventually find one better. I found a job that is still as good as the old one. So, to me both loosing the job, the X and some old friends really made it much easier to start a new empty chapter in my life. And do you know what? I, and only I will be the author of that chapter... / Marcus

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