‘Ten thousand people can say a football is square. It does not make it so.
Ten thousand people can say you are worthless. It does not make it so.’
Everyone is going to have to deal with rejection at some point in their life. Some people have more disadvantages than others and will be rejected more – but everyone has to face this demon at some point.
Whether it is being turned down for a job, having a manuscript returned unread, failing to sell anything at a market place, getting turned down by a woman – rejection is inevitable.
For years I was raised to place my self-esteem in the hands of others; to seek affirmation from them. I believe this to be the ‘default setting’ of our social species.
However it is a destructive setting – the more so if you are starting from a disadvantaged position where you will face more rejection than most.
I have repeatedly been given the same bad advice to deal with this – keep on trying and eventually you will succeed.
This is possibly worse than telling someone to give up!
With every rejection I faced, I subconsciously internalized my own lack of self-worth. I placed my self-worth in the hands of others – especially in the hands of women who we, as men, are taught we need to chase and pursue and be affirmed by. Bit by bit I had my soul taken away from me, until only a hollow shell remained.
Like a coastal shelf slowly building up at the bottom of the sea; like limescale growing in a kettle; like mould growing on a window sill, my mind was clogged up by feelings of total hopelessness and worthlessness. I tried and tried and tried to succeed, but I did not deal with rejection effectively. Eventually I was feeling the rejection before even trying; a whole complex of neglect and abandonment was taking over my mind.
This is where affirmations come in to turn the tide.
With affirmations you can turn ‘She isn’t interested in me, that means I must be worthless’ into ‘Its my loss but its also her loss. Lets process the disappointment and move on.’
By recognizing that the other person is also losing out – by not hiring me, by not reading my manuscript, by not wanting to go for a date – I am telling my subconscious mind and ego that I am valuable; I have something to offer the world and this isn’t changed by another person’s rejection.
I am not internalizing rejection but rather the opposite – internalizing self-value.
It really is that simple. Every rejection is an opportunity to re-affirm your own self-worth and highlight how the other person is missing out.
Now there are a few more points which need to be covered for the sake of elaboration.
Firstly there is the question of ‘what is rejection and what is just circumstance?’
Sometimes you will not be accepted because it just isn’t the right time for you to be, not because someone else thinks you are unworthy.
Many years I ago I was hanging out with a woman for the first time. We had a great time and were getting on like a house on fire. About three hours in to our meeting she launched the B-52 of life and dropped the B-bomb: ‘So me and my boyfriend…’
Instantly the mood of the meeting changed and I had to suddenly deal with intense feelings of disappointment. A traumatized part of myself might have recognized this as rejection.
But this was not rejection, it was circumstance.
It is important to think logically about encounters, to identify when someone is actually rejecting you.
I imagine that by dropping the B-bomb she was indicating the boundaries of our relation as a friendship.
I recognized that I am not obligated to be ‘just friends’ with anyone, but this woman was warm and funny and intelligent. I wanted to be her friend.
We continued texting until she suddenly stopped responded. I tried a few more times, then realized she had gone. Loads of men complain about being placed in the ‘friendzone’. I just got put in the ‘ghostzone’!
Am I going to feel a sense of rejection from this actual rejection of friendship?
No. It was her loss as well as mine. The disappointment is processed and I long since deleted her number.
Lastly there is the question of ‘When I am affirming myself, how much do I need to recognize that I am not perfect and still need to improve myself?’
There is a danger in self-affirmation that you are assuming you are god’s gift to humanity and everyone should fall at your feet. This is unrealistic.
In a free and decent society individuals have choices and no one owes anyone else their love, a job, their friendship, to publish their book, and so on.
Rejection is built in to this system by virtue of what it is. In other words, freedom necessarily entails rejection.
People are entitled to their own opinion. They can think my writing is bad it they want, they can think I am not suitable for their shitty little job, they can think I am not good enough to be potential partner material. That is their opinion, I am not going to internalize it.
I am not going to give people platitudes of ‘You will meet someone eventually’, because I know there are no guarantees. Life will reject, reject and reject again.
But that is fine. That is the very essence of life. Some of us get more rejected than others, some of us are completely undervalued, but this is our struggle.
The challenge is to recognize what is valuable in ourselves but also be modest and reflective enough to know where we need to change and grow.
Self-affirmation doesn’t mean ‘I am perfect’ it means ‘I am good enough to be worthy’.
Ten thousand people can say a football is square. Their opinion is false.
Ten thousand people can say I am not worthy of them. That is quite simply their loss.