One of my biggest fears in life is being rejected. Sometimes I have been so scared of being rejected that I have:
Stayed in relationships I shouldn’t have stayed in out of fear of being rejected by new love interests or friends
Procrastinated over anything and everything for fear of being knocked back, even sending a simple email or signing up to an exercise class puts the fear of dread into me.
Holding back my ideas out of fear that I will be told no, they aren’t good enough, and why should anybody listen to what I have to say.
So as you can see, rejection and I have a very destructive relationship to say the least. We go back a long way and only now am I beginning to end my ties to this monstrous beast.
Yes I did just refer to a complex emotional state as a monstrous beast, but I digress.
However, to begin to understand my association with rejection you need to look at the picture below.
This is my grandi (pronounced grand-ee).
His name was Victor, he was a Londoner and fought in the Second World War, quite possibly in Normandy. He may well have been involved in the D-Day landings but we will never really know. He started smoking when he was 15 years old, loved to watch Carry On films and eating Dairy Milk chocolate, and had shrapnel in his left leg from his time at war. He died at the age of 75 when I was 8 years old. This is my favourite photograph of us together.
Now at this point I’m sure you are wondering what on earth this has to do with rejection and my relationship with it.
So I’ll let you in on a secret, a bitter sweet one that is.
I never knew the man in that photograph, or at least I certainly don’t remember him.
I wish I could recall the times when he looked at me with adoration and affection that Grandfather’s often bestow on their grandchildren, but the simple truth is I can’t.
I wish I could remember the times we played and laughed together, but when I try I find I have nothing to pull from.
The simple truth is this, while I absolutely love this photograph and I adore how it captured the unconditional love between us that our relationship began with, I also on the other hand feel extremely detached from it. There’s just nothing. I didn’t even cry at his funeral.
Now I am not for one second saying I didn’t love my grandi. I did, and I still do, but it is difficult to describe the love you feel for someone you don’t remember meeting. But our relationship was complicated to say the least, mainly because of things that I did not understand (not that it was ever really explained to me either). Only with the hindsight I have attained as I’ve gotten older have I been able to get my head around what happened.
You see, my relationship with rejection started at a young age, probably around the age of 2 and half to 3 years old. Around that time my grandi suffered from a suspected stroke and the man you see in the picture above ceased to exist to me.
He stopped speaking to me. He stopped smiling at me. He never laughed with me.
We never played together again.
The fact is, from the age of 2.5/3 my Grandfather (through no fault of his own of course) forgot who I was. I simply did not exist to him anymore. All I remember was a man who ignored me, or when he did pay me attention it was to shout at me from the window when I was playing in my Auntie’s garden.
It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that it finally clicked in my head where my gnawing fear of rejection had begun. And even though I can’t pinpoint the exact day or month that the relationship between my grandi and I changed overnight, I know deep in my heart that that was the day I first met rejection.
When I first started thinking about this, I wondered to myself how horrible and confusing it must have been for me as a young child to witness such a transformation in character. I had no comprehension of what was going on, I couldn’t understand why my grandi was acting like this.
I must have felt incredibly sad and lost, and I think on some unconscious level I blamed myself. I must have done something wrong to make him not like me anymore. To forget me. To not even remember my name.
The more aware I became, the more I connected my inner survivalist thoughts of not being good enough, that nobody would want me, that nobody likes me all stemmed from this one, yet pivotal situation.
Unfortunately, and I think this was partly denial on my families part as no one wants to watch their loved ones disappear before their eyes, the truth about what happened to my grandi was never explained to me until the damage had already been well and truly done.
If it had would my life have been different? Possibly.
Would I have realised that it was not about me, that I had done nothing wrong, that he didn’t hate me? Maybe.
Would I have all these horrible, destructive thoughts in my head that have caused me to hold myself back and stay stuck in a place of fear? We’ll never know.
What I do know is this. I don’t blame my family in the slightest, I’m not even angry. Well...maybe sometimes.
Would I have done things differently? Absolutely.
But at the time my family did the best they could with the knowledge that they had. Although I would be lying if I said that I don’t sometimes wish things had been different. In my darkest moments I do.
However, I would not be the person that I am today without all the experiences I have encountered throughout my young life, both the good and the bad. I would not be on the path I am currently on that is leading me to constantly grow and evolve into my best self.
Everything happens for a reason, and everything unfolds just as it should.
Making peace with that fact however can be a tricky process, but that’s a story for another time.
As I moved through the limbo stage of my academic career – from Masters to submitting my PhD application – a process that involved, that’s right you guessed it, REJECTION, my fear moved more prominently to the surface. It is only now that I am beginning to unravel the complexity of my connection with rejection (ha that rhymes – song lyric anyone?).
That has resulted in me, at times, (I say at times but it’s actually quite often at the moment!) caving into the fear and procrastinating. Sometimes even the most simplest of tasks has become daunting. But even though in some cases I am genuinely terrified of the outcome, I eventually manage to push through it.
Now I am in no way an expert on overcoming rejection. As you can clearly see, I still struggle immensely with the issue. But the point is this – I keep trying.
I keep pushing because I know I have to.
And so can you.
So if you have an overly complicated relationship with rejection like me, and you are in the beginning stages of conquering it stay with me for part 2 where i will share my tips on how to work through it.