You may recall that last week I decided I was going to make some improvements in my life. Well, I’ve been staring down the enormity of this task lately, and I can’t help but picture myself being chased by three giant, Indiana-Jones-style boulders all at once.
The three boulders represent the following three areas of my life: physical (as in exercise, food, body), career (as in my writing career}, and relationships (as in romantic relationships.) I was surprised to find that these three boulders had one thing in common. They were attacking me using the same route: fear of rejection.
I have learned in the past that usually to get to the bottom of a block you have to go back and see what in the past has blocked you. I went through this process with my creativity and it led me to finally start writing my novel. I thought that the same process would work with these other aspects of my life, so I went back and looked. Here’s what I found:
- Physical: I remember being one of the last to be picked for sports teams on the playground. (Soooo cliché of me, right?). In little league, I could never hit the ball, so the coach would ask me to purposely get myself hit by the pitcher so that I could then walk to first base and help the team win. Haha! Okay, I can laugh at this now, but at the time it really sucked. It was humiliating and I remember being convinced that I just wasn’t cut out to be good at anything physical. My body was just not my strong suit, so I spent years and years cultivating what I thought was my strong suit: my mind. I was incredibly studious and was always at the top of my class. I overachieved and got all the student of the month awards and plaques, etc. etc. Part of the strategy was for my parents to notice my academic achievements and focus on that, instead of forcing me again another sport and risking more humiliation. It worked. They seemed to be distracted by my academic achievement and never forced me into sports. From then on, in my mental capacity I was never rejected, I was always accepted.
- Career: You know how I said that I never tried to advanced my writing career? Well that’s not true. I have. I’ve submitted my work to festivals before, I’ve also earned prizes for my artistic work in the past. But I’ve also been rejected. I think the big rejection came when I didn’t get into a Creative Writing Masters program in 2009. I haven’t really addressed this in a post. Let’s just say it was one big ol’ fat rejection and I don’t think I was the same after that. Never before had I worked so hard and so long for something and had it flop right down onto my face. So what keeps me from moving forward in this area of my life? You guessed it: fear of rejection.
- Relationships: Well, first of all, they always ended a lot earlier than I or the other person expected them to end. When a relationship ends you just can’t help but think that YOU did something wrong. That YOU weren’t good enough and that’s why this wonderful thing you had couldn’t last. That person you cared for left you, so how could that not feel like a big ol’ rejection? If it’s happened more than once, how then can you not fear moving forward with another relationship, if your experience so far has been you always feeling rejected in the end? Who wants more of that, seriously? We all want a relationship to be a fun and fulfilling ride, we don’t want it to crash and burn. So when the ride repeatedly does crash and burn, can you blame a guy for not wanting to get back on that on ramp, where all the love crashes always happen? People who’ve found the right guy or gal on the second or first try don’t seem to understand this. They say, well why don’t you just hop back in that ride? It’s just date, what’s the harm in that? Just have fun! I’m sorry to say this, friend, but it isn’t that easy. It’s not just a “hop” back on a ride. It’s hopping back on a ride that during the last 5 times you rode it broke down on you and put you straight in front of oncoming traffic. You left all five crashes bruised and broken and spent years recovering. You would never expect a survivor of 5 car crashes to easily get back in a car and drive leisurely away. In fact, you wouldn’t be surprised if the person decided to never want to ride a car ever again!
In conclusion, believing that I could never be a good enough athlete is what kept me away from ever enjoying any physical activity. Believing that I was not talented enough to have a career as a writer is what kept me from applying to grants or to writing contests after the MA fiasco. Finally, believing I am not good enough for a potential partner is what keeps me from starting a new relationship.
Say it with me now, I have a FEAR. OF. REJECTION.
I’m not quite over this fear, but a recent e-mail from my sister tells me that maybe an answer lies in this post from zen habits aptly titled “you’re already perfect.” Read it and then come back to me…
You done reading? Okay.
The post makes the assertion that we are already perfect as we are. This is a hard thing for us to accept, I think. It is for me. But maybe that’s just the kryptonite we need to weaken SuperRejection. What is the polar opposite of complete rejection anyway, other than full acceptance?
Maybe in order to get over our fear of rejection, we have to be the very first one’s to finally accept ourselves not only as we are–but to say that we are perfect as we are. Maybe I got it wrong. I’ve been writing up this list of things that need to be fixed and maybe, the truth is, nothing is actually broken. I’ve been waiting for someone else, out there in the world, to give me a break, to give me the chance to prove to them that I am good enough. But maybe what I really need to do is be the first one to give myself the chance to prove that I am already good enough. The very first person that needs to fully accept me is me.
In fact, maybe we are the only person we ever need to prove anything to. After all, how can rejection every damage us if we hold ourselves so dear? If we are perfect, and a relationships ends, we know not to blame ourselves. If we are perfect, and the literary magazine won’t publish our work, then we know it isn’t us. If we are already perfect, and we miss hitting the ball with the bat, we know it isn’t because we will never be a good athlete. We know it’s because we haven’t given ourself the chance to grow up and finally become one.
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