Most of us have experienced the pain of rejection at one time or another; let’s face it—it’s terrible. Even when we don’t even like the people rejecting us, it can still hurt deeply. You see it in schools all the time as insecure kids establish the pecking order and dole out their acceptance to a few chosen recipients, leaving the others out in the cold. The feeling of being on the outside looking in can follow someone into adulthood leaving you wondering, What’s the magic sauce? What’s so different about other people and what’s wrong with me?

And of course that last question is the wrong one. It’s natural to ask it, but wrong nevertheless. What I’ve observed over the years is that those who struggle are really not any different than others—there’s nothing actually wrong with them. They just never learned the ropes of how to have their needs met. And very often, many of their attempts to win the acceptance and love of others are actually getting them the opposite results.

Do You Reject Yourself?

If I’m describing you, listen up. I want to share a few observations and suggestions that can help you. 

First, and this is the most important step—you need to decide to like yourself, right now, just as you are. Make a conscious decision to be your own best friend. Easier said than done, right? There are strong voices in your head telling you otherwise. What’s happened is you’ve internalized the voices of others and have made them your own. Kick. Them. Out.

Or perhaps we should approach this another way. God made you, he loves you and he died for you, not in spite of your sins, but because of them. Now, if there are things you’ve done that you’re ashamed of, bring them to confession, put them under the Blood and leave them there. God is Mercy. He redeems. You get a new start. Accept and believe that.

Now take a good look at your negative self talk (we all do it to one extent or the other) Is it actually about what you’ve done or about who you are? There’s a difference. Saying things like “I’m such a loser” or “I’m so unlovable” or “No one likes me” indicates a sense of shame about who you are. And I’m going to tell you a secret. That’s always a lie—straight out of the pit of hell to keep you in chains. And it’s a lie you’ve been believing for a very long time that you need to look straight in the eye and reject. Your sins, your mistakes: Jesus paid for them on the cross. But who you are—the unrepeatable miracle that is you—that is good and you need to start claiming it.

There’s a saying that truth doesn’t cease to be true if no one believes it and a lie doesn’t become true even if everyone believes it. God didn’t make any junk; if you’re here, if he breathed life into you, he has a plan for your life, a plan for love and joy and happiness. You need to start believing that. Like Susie in Miracle on 34th Street- simply keep repeating “I believe, I believe. It’s silly but I believe.”

Ok, now for some logistics on how to turn the tide on rejection and arrive safely on the other side.

To the Observation Deck!

When someone is unaffirmed and insecure, there’s a temptation to “perform” in social situations, to draw attention to yourself somehow to get people to like you. But until you actually take the time to observe and be present to the people there and the feel of the gathering, you won’t likely succeed.

Invest some time just observing people in social situations. Take the pressure off yourself to “do” anything. Just sit and observe.

There’s No Present Like Presence

So what do I mean by being present? You’re there after all, isn’t that enough? Nope. It’s not. Being present means actively listening, opening your heart to others and allowing your heart to be moved. Now if you didn’t receive enough of that kind of affirming love and presence as you were growing up—and many people haven’t—this may be harder for you. If that’s the case, observing and learning to be present to your own feelings first is especially important.

The first feeling you may become aware of in such a social situation is your own discomfort. That’s to be expected. Let it be. Just accept it. It’s normal…but it doesn’t define you. It’s just a feeling. Try to become aware of your physical feelings as well— are you cold or too warm? Do your feet hurt? Are you hungry? They’re all just feelings.

Then with the pressure off to do anything or to perform, try to just observe. Is someone telling a joke? Allow yourself to be moved to laughter. Don’t feel like you have to tell another joke to fit in. You don’t. Just enjoy yourself. Everyone appreciates a good listener. 

Examine Your Beliefs

What do you actually believe about others and about relationships? Be careful here—I’m not interested in what you profess. What do you actually believe?

Is that confusing? Well think of this…you may profess that you deserve better but if you constantly put up with abuse, if your self talk is negative and you’re always bracing for rejection, then what you’re living is key to what you actually believe. Conversely, what you believe is what you will always live.

Lord, I Believe—Help My Unbelief!

Ok, so now what? Work on your beliefs. Read Scripture and good spiritual books. Ask the Holy Spirit to come in and illuminate your heart and mind with Truth and ask for the grace to change your heart and truly believe in God’s love for you and to forgive and love yourself. Spend time with Jesus, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament and allow his presence to heal and transform you. 

Our beliefs have power. Consider this…if you believe strongly that you will be rejected, you will subconsciously gravitate toward those that are more likely to reject you. It’s your way of maintaining homeostasis and control. Taking time to observe and to work on your own inner beliefs are the first steps to reducing your risk of rejection. 

In part two I’ll outline a few practical do’s and don’ts that you can put into practice. Stay tuned!