Day 135 - To Reject or Be Rejected...That is the Lesson...
I threw this out there yesterday but I feel the need to expand on the topic because it is fear of being rejected that I think messes up most relationships.
When I was a kid, the worst thing that could happen to you in the romance department was to like someone and have them not like you back. It was such a stigma. This is where it started, for me, the practice of keeping my real feelings about boys and then later, men, to myself. If I liked someone, then I did not tell anyone, least of all him. All to save me from rejection.
Now I had no intention of continuing this practice as my life progressed but unfortunately, it is what happened. It had become hard wired and I didn’t even know that I was avoiding being rejected anymore, it had just become the dysfunctional manner in which I attempted to build loving relationships.
You can imagine how that all worked out for me. What is most painful is how clearly I can see it now. See all the ways in which I lied, didn’t tell the truth (they are different), hid, pretended and refused to be intimate in what I wanted and needed, all to protect my most fragile ego. Except it isn’t just ego, sure that is the surface, no one likes to be hurt or rejected. No one wants to put themselves out there and then fall flat.
For me there are layers:
The Ego Facade:
I did not want anyone else to know that I liked someone or cared about them and then be rejected less I feel stupid or foolish. I wanted to maintain my standing. I wanted to appear harder and more impenetrable than I really was. This was really course 101 in facade building. I watch my 12 year old daughter and her friends do this all the time. They like a boy but they won’t admit it. They will not own it. They are just buying their time until the guy is interested in them. One day my daughter’s crush texted her (they never actually use a phone to talk), the text said that he liked her and wanted to go out with her. She being naturally skeptical, texted back “is this a joke?” To which he replied that it was a dare. To which my daughter replied nothing.
Let’s break this down because I see 50 year old people doing the same shit.
So from my daughter’s side - the fact that a boy would reach out and ask her out was such an anomaly that she was immediately suspect. She didn’t believe it though I am sure that her heart sped up at the thought of this boy that she liked reaching out. Her pride and ego and intelligence overrode her heart and told her to beware. She felt pushed so she pushed back. It was all a large cat and mouse game. When she pushed, he caved and admitted it was all a joke. I am sure she was somewhat crushed. I am sure that I called him a coward and mean spirited even though I am not sure that he even knows she likes him.
What would have happened if she was honest? What would have occurred if she would have said “yes, I would love to go out with you...” In the instant case, I asked her this. She said "I would have been such a fool and everyone would have laughed at me." Then she recounted a tale where that happened to a friend of hers. The worst thing in this debacle, losing face in front of the peer group.
But I wondered...was it really a dare? Did the boy ask as a dare but was secretly hoping she would say yes? Was the dare aspect a cover for him being rejected?
Now how the hell is anyone ever supposed to be together and have any kind of intimate relationship when neither party is ok with being vulnerable enough to even be honest about the fact that they like each other!? Makes complete sense to me as to how the divorce rate is 52% and there are more break up stories than really good love stories.
The Fear Facade:
I behaved like my daughter for years because I was afraid. I was terrified to like someone, put myself out there and then be REJECTED. But it went deeper than that because I allowed a deeper meaning to be attached to it. Being rejected had to be avoided because if I was rejected, the rejection devalued me. Reduced me. Altered my worth in some way. No one else had the ability to actually take away worth...only me. So I willingly and intentionally avoided situations where I would be forced to lessen myself.
Now this makes sense...why would anyone ever enter into situations where they are going to come out the other side, feeling like their worth as a person is less? Wrong question! Why would anyone ever not be authentic and honest about how they feel and then honor that feeling above all others? Why would we not value the honesty and authenticity more than what value some other person would give to us? Habit. Conditioning, Fear.
See I did not get my self worth from me. Not until very recently. I got it from you. All of you. Important players in my life, store clerks, dating partners, friends, co-workers. Self esteem was something that I lacked, you had and I was completely dependent on you and your opinion of me, for my own value and worth. A horrible yardstick for life but it was the one that I had and used for most of my life.
The Cover Facade:
To hide this vulnerability, I became a great pretender. I lied, shifted, morphed, changed and pretty much did everything I possibly could to keep you guessing. I would play games...like this one. If I really wanted something, I would pretend that I wanted something else so that the universe wouldn’t really know what I wanted...all in a most ridiculous attempt to shield myself from getting fucked. It went like this...
I really want a Jeep Cherokee.
However, I have a fundamental belief that the universe is out to get me so I will pretend like I don’t want a Jeep Cherokee, that I instead want a Wrangler so that way when I don’t get a Jeep Cherokee I won’t be disappointed! I KNOW! Fucking crazy...(There is more to the Jeep Cherokee story...I will relay that particular nut job story tomorrow.)
Unpack that one. It is hard, complicated and would result in a 60 minute read for you, so I won’t...but we can boil it down. All of the dysfunction started with a fundamental belief that I cannot get what I really want, and that came because I had already established as a way of being, lying and pretending about who I was, what I wanted. And I did that all to not be rejected. Fucking big, giant circle. AGH!
Fast forward forty years.
Everything I did and said in relationship was designed to keep myself from being rejected. I also really worked hard to not reject you either. I didn’t want to inflict upon you that which I was so afraid of...
It was all bullshit. I see that now. You have to decide what you want and then reject all other things that are not the thing you want. That is how you get a life that is full of things that are meaningful to you. When you jump down the rabbit hole of only selecting things so that you won’t be rejected, you find yourself in the labyrinth of the rabbit warren below ground, confused, unhappy and desperately wondering how the fuck this happened to you.
In short, you did it. I did it. All because we were afraid to say what we really wanted since 5th grade.
I think that I have to be willing to reject and be rejected if I am ever to have any meaningful partner in my life. I have to offer myself up for you rejecting me in large and small ways. I have to put myself out there in real form and stand bare while you make up your mind if you want to join me for a hike next Saturday or crush me with other plans that may or may not be a cover for your own fear of rejection...
I have decided to say fuck it. I am tired of the fear and who really gives a shit...reject me. There is actually a lot of freedom in that. I will know sooner and in a more honest way how you feel. I can’t control if you are doing shit to cover up your own fear of being rejected...but perhaps if I am ok with it and I don’t make such a huge deal out of it, maybe that can create a place where you can learn to be ok with your own fear of rejection.
I am also going to start rejecting things that I don’t want with abandon. How much stuff have I done in my life that I do not want to do, not even a little, but done it because I was afraid that my rejection of what you wanted would cause you leave, or be mad, or upset? Fuck that too. Nope not going to do it anymore.
This does not mean that I am not willing to compromise. No one can get their way all the time, nor should they, even if they could. But I am going to spend more time figuring out what I am being asked to give, why I am reluctant or not to give it and then attempt to have an honest conversation about it with you. Who knows whether you will get what I am laying down...the point is that I am willing to share it all with you, no longer tied to your approval or disapproval. What I am really trying to do here is to create a revolution of rejection. Let’s all embrace it. It is a vital and important skill. Reject all that does not light you on fire and be willing to be rejected for anyone that can’t handle your flame. Seems pretty fucking basic...yet, so very, very hard. But what I have found is that it is the hard stuff where the value lies. It is my walk into the fear that holds the key to freedom. Rejection just another doorway to the other side.