depositphotos/72soul
Source: depositphotos/72soul

Do not waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Getting Back Out There ("GBOT") talks about rejection (one of the 5 R's).  One thing it says is "Don't take it personally."  In the media interviews I've done since the book was released, the most common question is:

HOW DO YOU NOT TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY????

When you have a history, as I do, of being abandoned and rejected early, the sting stays with you for the rest of your life.  When I was younger I gravitated toward men who would reject and abandon me and treat me badly.  That is what I knew and that is what I was comfortable with. 

I had to learn to treat myself well and think well of myself. You teach the world how to treat you. You need to teach them you will not be bowed, cowed, or defeated.

Many of my clients get out of bad relationships, others get out of mediocre relationships, some get out of good but not good enough relationships.  Others thought things were good and the partner went poof.  When a partner goes "poof!" things were not good.  One of you didn't know that. When you go through a devastating breakup, your self-esteem and self-image takes a hit. Dating puts it at risk again. It can be brutal sometimes.

Changing self image and rejection takes a lot of hard work, affirmations and positive self-talk (as both GPYB and GBOT lay out in detail.)  But putting it to work when you're dating is where the rubber meets the road.

I believe that one of the reasons GPYB has been so successful is that I went through the breakup from hell, recovered my senses, discovered/created my life, changed EVERYTHING, and found the love of my life who, unfortunately, passed away from cancer.  But I put so much of me in the beginning of the book, to let my readers know, I do and have done everything I ask of my readers. 

While some critics and reviewers have thought there was TOO MUCH of me in my book, others take comfort in the fact that I'm not just a talking head with a degree and a roster of clients...I've actually been where you've been. For the most part, in my books and on my blog, I speak only of things I have experienced and worked through first hand.

So when I say in GBOT, "Don't take rejection personally." I am NOT in any way shape or form being flippant.  I know how hard it is to do that, I have done that.

So while I'm not dating, I did date for a long while between committed relationships so I do know how it goes. And I do experience rejection and/or dislike for no apparent reason on occasion.  I will share a recent experience with you (recent as in the past few years but so bizarre, it stung a long time) just so you know I am not crazy, I do know how much rejection/"I dislike you for no reason" feels, and I know how to get pummeled by it, take the fall and get back up again. And then I will share how I worked through it and GOT OVER IT.  The reason I use this example is because it was pretty atrocious and I had to face it every single day for a couple of years.

The "Mean Girls"

I worked in a firm where my office was, unfortunately, in a part of the building that had been exclusively the territory of a practice group that I was not a part of. My office was not only in the group, it was smack in the middle. And in front of my office sat the administrative assistant that we all shared. I didn't choose any of that. I was assigned that office. From the very first day, when I wasn't welcomed by the lawyers in the offices around me, I felt as if I needed to apologize for it.

The thing was that I had come from a firm where I was friends with everyone. Some people didn't like others, but I got along with everyone and think I was friendlier with a greater number of people. That's not to brag but to explain how unfamiliar I was with this icy reception I got at my new firm. I simply wasn't used to it and it took me a while to "get it."

Because I was so closely quartered with the practice group, we would sometimes have to actually talk to each other to prioritize the assistant's work flow, but one day it started to dawn on me that they just didn't like me. Not only did they not like me, but they were actively making fun of me. Like mean girls in high school, there was the ring leader, and she goaded the others. I could almost hear snickering from behind closed doors. And my assistant, lovely woman though she was, clearly was taking their side and laughing at their jokes. I dressed understated as any other attorney would, black and grey suits with black shoes. My hair was professionally done.  I bathe every day. I could not figure out what in the world they could possibly say about me or why.

I had never done anything to these people.  We were grown ups, we were PROFESSIONALS, we were ATTORNEYS.  And yet this went on every single day. I never experienced this in HIGH SCHOOL or any other time in my life when bullying is typically displayed, so it really upended me to be facing it in my 40s, in a professional setting, and in a law firm at that. 

One day they sent out a firm-wide email asking if anyone could do this rather onerous thing for the group and I wrote back immediately, "Sure, I'll do it." I was trying to put aside the fact of how they treated me and not trying to ingratiate myself with them. I was right there, in the middle of the group, so it would make sense that I could do it and communicate with them easily.

She wrote back, "Thanks, but let's see who else answers and then we'll flip a coin or something."

What that sentence really said was:  anyone but you can volunteer for this because even though this is a somewhat sucky task, whomever does this is going to get some recognition of being a team player and someone who steps up to the plate.

I was hurt, angry, bewildered. I had no idea what I had done. I spent the next few days truly going over my positive self-talk and my affirmations and the "What you think of me is none of my business" mantra. She was renting tons of space in my brain...in fact all of it. I would think back to what she possibly have against me. Wrack, wrack, wrack.  Wasted days and wasted nights. Like I talk about in GPYB, she wasn't thinking of ME, I was thinking of her. Salt in the wound.

The bottom line is that I KNOW it is horrific to be rejected by someone who doesn't even know you! After that email, I felt smacked in the face. I spent the next 24 hours on the "positive self-talk" bandwagon while still recognizing that it hurts to be rejected by someone for no apparent reason. 

At the time I was teaching affirmations and positive self-talk at least once a week and doing workshops on the weekend and doing the exercises I assigned my students. Most of the self-esteem exercises in the GPYB workbook come from those classes, so you know we were working hard. I had good self-esteem and self-confidence. For most of the previous years I was TEFLON where people's opinion of me was concerned. You couldn't touch me...until this crazy lady came along...probably because I had to see her every single day.  Be grateful you don't have to see your date every day (unless you work together and then it's harder but you can do it.)

Sometimes it's hard to bounce back from BLUNT rejection or a message that says, "I don't like you" especially if the person has no reason.  For me it pushes a lot of buttons that I spent years trying to overcome and DID overcome to a large degree. However, sometimes a particularly harsh experience will bring it all back, and I have to work HARD when I take a hit like that...but I do. And that is what you have to do. How?  Do what I did:

Overcoming A Hard Hit To Your Self-Image

1. I recognized my hurt and anger about it. I didn't WANT to have any feelings about it and maybe you don't either. I had to journal about it.  I had to be whiny and have a tantrum as to how unfair this was. I didn't ask for that office. I didn't ask to share an assistant. I hadn't done anything MORE than that for them to not like me. You may review your date and think you had not done anything for them to not like you. Remember the story in GBOT about the woman who had been talking for WEEKS to the guy who ultimately rejected her after the first date?  The guy was a boor and a bit of a jerk. And I do think that part of it was her physical appearance (not her being overdressed but he wasn't physically attracted to her.)  You can't spend days and nights examining your every feature if someone else doesn't find physical chemistry with you. Many perfectly attractive people reject other perfectly attractive people. You're not ugly or horrific looking. DON'T GO THERE.

2. In my case, they were acting like high school mean girl idiots instead of the professional lawyers they were supposed to be. Part of my journaling included how rude, crude and simply not nice human beings they were. They were void of basic human kindness and barely returned a hello to me when I saw them. I know that if you are dating, you may not go through this. You may have had a perfectly nice person who let you know they weren't interested in whatever it is they're not interested in (another date, a relationship, to stay through dessert....). So if you have been lucky enough (I know it doesn't feel like luck) to have a person who doesn't act like a two year old, you can skip this step.  But if you're like the woman in the book with the jerky guy, you have to get clear that their behavior is ON THEM, not you. Although I always stress "focus on YOU," sometimes you have to look at someone who acts like a horrible, terrible person and put the onus where it belongs: ON THEM.  And you can journal about what an idiot or rude, crude, not nice human being this person was. Get a very clear picture, either through journaling or visualization that this is not a nice person. Then ask, do you want to be with someone like that? No, you do not.

3. I lived, ate and breathed the mantras, "What you think of me is none of my business." and "Your opinion of me is worthless. You are no one to me. You don't know me and I don't know you."  These are mantras and you have to get them ingrained in your head. Now and forever. Instead of thinking of that rejecting person, think these mantras. Redirect your thinking. Concentrate on these mantras and not the rejection.

4. It might sound "witch-crafty" (a client I suggested this to told me this) but you can add the mantra, "You are powerless over me and I banish you from my mind."  You can work with that (reword if you like but keep it POWERFUL), but it really helps to BANISH the ugly (ugly behavior) people of the world from your brain and your life.

5. I reminded myself of the AWESOME people who did know me and did like me. This is SO important. The important people in my life thought I was open and honest, hardworking and trustworthy, loyal and smart, a good friend and family member. You have GOT to make this one of your priorities to think about and write about. When rejecting person comes to mind, replace with one of your bffs or a client or customer or boss who said good things about you. When journaling, think of different scenes in your life when you were given kudos or a list of people who love you and would do anything for you. And go there when rejection or rejecting person comes to mind. Stay out of the garbage.  Go walk in the sun where your supportive crew live. Imagine yourself with your closest friends on a warm, summer day.

6. I did my affirmations as GPYB, GBOT and the workbook instructs. Before I met these ladies, I only had to do a few a day and not every day. When my self-esteem took such a hit, I had to go back to basics and really up the number I did every day. I had to develop new ones that had more to do with my current situation but also what it triggered from long ago.

7. I did mantra and acceptance statements. It is so important to accept reality as it is...do not try to get someone to like you...do not grovel..do not try to reel them back in.  Just say, "I accept that x doesn't like me...they don't like me...I accept that and I move on."  I should NOT have volunteered to help them.  It did seem like I was trying to get them to like me. And maybe it really was. Well, never again.

8. Visualize you taking power. Visualization is in both books, but imagine you "owning" the world. I would visualize me coming into work, head held high and walking purposefully down the hallway, not in an angry way, but in a confident way.  And after a few weeks, I was!  I walked with confidence while I went past each office thinking, "You can't have a piece of me" and "You can't have a piece of me." and for the "ringleader" I would go by and think, "Who the hell do you think you are anyway?  No one, that's who." And I stopped saying friendly hellos.

9. Remember who you are and where you come from and what you have overcome. I knew these mean girls had not been through ANYTHING like I had been and probably hadn't done anything for anyone as they were so catty and nasty. When you've lived a difficult life and recovered from it, you are GRATEFUL and POSITIVE.  These people were negative and I knew that they could not have possibly overcome the obstacles I did. REMEMBER WHERE YOU COME FROM. Journal about it, make affirmations about it.  Remind yourself of your strong, powerful self.

After I did all this, it only took a few weeks and the tables had turned...my confidence was back and my "who the hell cares what you think of me because I'm FABULOUS" attitude was REAL.  You might have a setback in your self-esteem but go back to basics and have a bounce back!!!

About the Author

Susan J. Elliott, JD, M.Ed.

Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed., is the author of Getting Past Your Breakup and Getting Back Out There.

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