It’s one of the smallest words in the English language and yet it carries the weight of a Crash Bandicoot boulder (not a 90s gamer? Just know that it’s heavy).
Two tiny letters, quick to say but slow to hear. The side effects can seem permanent, paralysing even – neurologically speaking.
Sometimes it’s indirect (the worst kind). It’s not physically spoken, it’s just referred to amongst the fluff of the unsuccessful interview email etiquette or the passive and unforeseen, ‘I’m just not ready for a relationship’ text.
Jeeps, Nigel it’s only taken you 3 months of dating to reach that epiphany but whatever, at least I’ve played an integral part in helping you realise you’re a grade A arsehole. Invoice you later.
There’s different kinds of rejection. There’s romantic rejection – sore and personal. Career rejection – deflating and exhausting. Dog rejection – savage and humiliating, especially if it happens in public. No, you’re waving at a sausage dog.
There’s also a mum ‘no’ and nothing is more soul destroying than a mum no. No you can’t have a Diet Coke at 10.30am, Lareese. Devastating.
All sub-categories of rejection, though, take on that familiar rocky feeling of unworthiness. And it physically hurts, albeit emotionally.
Research says that the same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain, only when we try to recall a physical pain it’s harder to remember. We’re not attached to that pain because it doesn’t have a hold on us like emotional pain does.
Though I have to say, shaving my fingertip off is still pretty raw and I can articulate that pain very well, should any cognitive behaviour therapist need me for a case study.
It makes perfect sense. Look at child birth, the benchmark for The Pain of All Physical Pain, and yet a conversation with any mother will always boomerang right back to the emotional memory. The gratitude, the love, the new found respect for your body and your baby.
Pain narrates the story simply because it has to but it doesn’t dominate it.
But back to rejection – it destabilises our sense of belonging.
We are all social animals and people pleasers. Even if you profess to be a non-people pleasing person *breaking news for you bud* you’re still a people pleaser in hiding.
It’s just what we do.
When you’re served a no in life, you feel cast out, disconnected and hopeless. It’s the equivalent of realising you’re the last person on the white line waiting to be picked for a team in a game of rounders with muddy knees and a snotty nose to boot.
Before you know it, you’re on a mission to sabotage your self-esteem when it needs you the most.
“The greatest damage rejection causes is usually self-inflicted. Just when our self-esteem is hurting most, we go and damage it even further.” ~ Guy Winch, Psychologist
Initially, we’re incapable of being rational and matter of fact when faced with the ugly R word. Instead we look inwards, bemoaning our faults and zooming in on our inadequacies because it’s the easiest way to find answers and to make sense of our feelings – which is clever in a way because we’re looking for a solution.
We need answers.
Rejection, and the threat of it, is all around us. It’s on dating apps, it’s embedded in Tweets about a blog post you’ve written that someone doesn’t agree with, it’s a blue tick on WhatsApp or an unliked photo on Instagram – the ultimate bff crime. What does it all mean?
In our digital age, our primitive need to feel connected is amplified by the constant ease with which we can both communicate and deliberately fail to communicate.
The very tools we use to communicate can be used to fuel feelings of complete detachment. How meta is that?
But like most stuff we file under the ‘Shit Adult Life Throws At You’ folder, rejection (in all its shapes and sizes) is setting out to teach us something we didn’t previously know about ourselves, nor need to know about ourselves until now.
Getting a thick skin, wising up and discovering the boundaries of your self-belief – you don’t get to possess those attributes without having to kick a few demons right there in the groin.
If you went through life only ever hearing yeses, you’d never really know the true value and importance of a no. How you handle rejection can reveal so much about you but without it, you’ll never meet the person you’re capable of becoming.
Your self-belief is the hardest part of you you’ll ever have to learn to trust but rejection (with a little hindsight thrown in for good measure), weirdly, facilitates the process somewhat.
Resilience is a self-taught skill and there’s not a YouTube shortcut for it, you have to physically sit down and learn it but that’s kind of the beauty of it. It’s evolutionary.
It’s in your hands. You get to determine how rejection makes you feel and like a good foundation, you’ll begin to see that it’s a buildable formula.
Nos *eventually* make you stronger, they make you fight harder, they make you love harder, they make you recognise your self-worth and champion it.
Maybe it won’t happen overnight.
Maybe it’ll take 2 years but the interesting thing about rejection is that it’s nearly always paired with clarity which means, however long it takes, you’re going to look back on this experience – romantic or otherwise – and think, ah, that’s what that was all about. That’s what I needed to learn about me.
Your epiphany is en route. Hold on.
And when you get there I really hope you’re wearing a see-through, labia-baring swimsuit like I was because honestly, it’s fucking liberating.
Love you bye.
Wrap dress: Tobi
Shoes: New Look