This month, I got dumped. Confession? I’m not good at it.
I know, some of you are reading that thinking, “Who is?” Fair, but I have enough self-awareness to know I have rejection issues – which is also why I’ve bent myself into twisty-shaped pretzels for both past romantic and professional relationships to avoid it. At the core of it, I am probably just like everybody else – just want to be needed – and it cuts when I realize that, in some situations? I’m not.
On a personal level, this means I’m usually the one to end a relationship and when I do? It’s done. Over the years, I’ve had companies ask me to return to their employ & guys come back and want to try again – with rare exception, I just don’t fall when they come around. I was thinking this evening about the exceptions & realized that they were the ones that I didn’t close the door on… they closed the door on me. Great example of this is my ex-boyfriend. We’ve dated on and off at various levels of intensity for years. I’m relatively positive that the only reason I continued to communicate with him is because he was the one that ended it.
Being rejected feels shameful – as though it’s proof of our own inadequacies – a public branding of not being good enough. Talk about a confidence killer! For many, there’s also the misguided belief that the rejector is automatically set above the rejectee.. a perception that exists because the rejecting party has the control.. they have CHOICE the rejected doesn’t have.
We would all like to say that’s bullox and exists only in our heads. It’d be nice… but it’s also not true. The reason those cognitive distortions exist – the shame, the perceived inferiority – is largely because of the way it’s messaged. Think about it: when you hear someone was dumped, laid off, or fired, what tends to be the response? “What? Why? What did they do?”
That can lead us to a place where we want to ‘prove up’ our worth to the rejector or hide the situation to the world if we can’t. I’ve been working through this for some time; but really only fully made my way through it after dealing with professional ‘rejection’ when I separated from Ajax.. which is where we pick back up on “I was dumped.” I know that employment relationship ending had nothing to do with my competency, nor worth & everything to do with business contraction due to what was a slightly over-aggressive, though well-intentioned, expansion schedule.
We’re still friends, they’re still clients & still? The shame I felt was, frankly, a little overwhelming. I’d just barely become an employee & practically as soon as it had started? It was over. So, it had to be me… if I were really as good as I thought I was… wouldn’t they ‘want me?’ Try to keep me? Shouldn’t I have seen this coming? It took days for me to realize they had tried to keep me – probably longer than I would have were situations reversed. When I stopped over-personalizing it, what I have known for years came back to center: this is the risk of working with small companies & start-ups.
That it didn’t work out is not a reflection on me, at all… nor is it typically of anyone whose role is eliminated or finds themselves swept out in a layoff. Major decisions are made – who to date, who to leave, where to work, who to hire – based off the data we have at the time & situations at hand. Each situation is distinct, unique, and while it’s tempting – we can’t lump ‘rejection’ together as a cumulative proof of our worth (or lack thereof). What we can do to avoid falling when rejection comes around is balance the need to be liked & wanted with our understanding of the realities in each situation by:
- Identifying Your Feelings
- Validate them Against the Situation – What’s ‘real,’ what’s emotion?
- Decide What ACTUALLY Matters: aka the “Lasting Litmus Test”
- Refocus & Move Forward
In the next and final installment in this series, we’ll further explore each of those areas as it relates to rejection & the rebuilding of confidence so feeling like you will fall becomes the wrong song – one we just don’t need to play anymore.