They Don’t All Like You

There’s something that’s been sort of swirling around in my personal sphere lately – in myself and in several people I’ve encountered online, in person, on the phone, pretty much everywhere. So I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to feel it out, give us some space to look at it.

I’ll start with me, not just because I’m self-centered, but because that’s the story I know best. Many of you probably already know that I have a mailing list and that I send out a missive pretty much every week (summer has its own calendar and while my intentions are pure, they are not always timely). In the past my weekly offering was accepted either with enthusiasm or neutrality. Some folks would write back with questions (LOVE) or praise (SUPER LOVE – I’m not immune people). Others would just tacitly approve by staying on the list (YAY!).

alone-away-back-view-274712Lately, things have been different. I know my writing has been different. Some of my offerings have been different. There’s been a more spiritual bent more of the time. There’s been a little more cursing here and there – a strange combination for some, but hey, this is me. And lately when I send out my message in a digital bottle, I’ve been getting a little wave of unsubscribes. Like that language? “A little wave,” the wording shows you exactly where I am with the whole thing. I want to be okay with it, so I call it little, but I feel every single one, so it’s a wave.

It’s perfectly natural that as what I’m doing changes, there will be people who no longer dig it. It’s totally sensible that as I become more myself, there will be people who find that I’m no longer a good fit for their selves. It’s reasonable that with crowded e-mail inboxes those who don’t LOVE what I’m doing should unsubscribe. My wise and practical mind knows this.

But that girl inside? She’s 12 again and all she wants is for everybody to like her. I bring this up NOT to get you all to sign up for my newsletter, but but because this happens to all of us. It especially happens as we change and become more honest, more whole, and more authentic. THIS is what Brene Brown means by vulnerability. When you are real, you take the chance of finding out that not everyone likes HER. We so want to be liked and we so want to be real. And so we juggle and which of those balls we pay the most attention to depends on so many factors.

No matter how we slice it though, we’re going to come across people who just don’t like us or don’t like what we do. My response tends to be: “Wait a minute. What did I do?” I want to investigate to see exactly what was different this time. I want to know why they are leaving. I want to be able to ask them why they don’t like me anymore – and that’s all coming from the 12 year old.

And she only asks for one reason: she asks because she is willing to change in order to keep all of those people. She is willing to be someone else in exchange for approval. She is more concerned about what everyone thinks of her than what she thinks of herself. She actually NEEDS them to like her because she thinks if enough people like her, she will then finally get to like herself.

Ugh. Brutal.

I see it. I see it in a way I was not able to see it in the past. I see it because over the last few years I worked really hard at reversing that direction.

I started with liking me, no not just liking me, LOVING me.

I consciously began to notice the things I love about me – and I mean that on ALL of the levels: in my head, in my heart AND on my body. (I have an amazing d├ęcolletage by the way.) I also began treating myself with love. I sat down and figured what that looked like and while I worked on developing the feelings, I began taking the actions. It has changed everything.

And yet, that 12 year old is still around.

That’s right. She’s still there, because here’s the thing about dragons. You don’t have to slay them to make peace.

I know what she’s about. I see her emerge. I catch myself before it all gets so serious that I make someone else’s opinion of me WAY too important. I check in – am I cool with what I said/did/created? Am I proud? Was it me? Yes, yes, yes.

And as I check in with myself, I realize how very okay it is that not everybody likes me.

Truthfully, I don’t like everybody either.

And that’s not what really matters anyway.

What really matters is how I feel about me because even if everyone else thinks I’m great but I don’t like me, I will feel no better. I will feel like a fraud. I will feel lonely and empty.

blur-body-care-161608When I love me, I get to feel real. I get to feel full. I get to feel better. They don’t like me, and that’s okay because I love me (cue the Megan Trainor song now).

If this message was for you today, I hope you’re hearing me, that I’ve found the right words. If you have children, especially teenage girls, I hope you’re hearing me.

If you stop reading my stuff five seconds from now and never come back, I hope you hear me when I say that you are worthy. You ARE special. You do have something to contribute. YOU are the only you we have and if you aren’t doing you right now, maybe it’s time to try to find her, ever so gently, and with great love.

So be it.

 

The Sting of Rejection

“No, thank you,” she said and even though I know better, I STILL felt a little sting, that sting of rejection. When I think about it in my wise brain, I know that not everyone will like everything I do. In fact, I’m quite sure there will be plenty of people who won’t like anything I do and my wise self tells me that’s okay. That last bit there, that’s the part I struggle with sometimes.

And I think that struggle is interesting for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that, just like most humans, I want to be liked. I want the things that I do to be liked, and I want to please the people around me. I am a recovering people pleaser (with the caveat that there are some people who I’ve never once tried to please and I’m sure they would have liked a little more than that). I think I’ve moved steadily from wanting to please others, be the good girl, shine like a little star sticker in a piano music book TO just wanting to not be actively disliked (like it’s okay if you don’t think I’m the bees knees, but please don’t hate me or be mean) TO realizing that how you feel about me is your business and I and everyone around me are best served by my staying out of that and being the best me I can be. Sounds like a nice steady progression, right? But just like any growth, the motion is not always purely linear. We can be mostly mature about something and still have flashes of 7 year old. I really still would like a gold star every now and then.

The second reason I think my reaction to being refused is interesting is because in that reaction I show that somehow I’ve made everything I do/create/write/make the same thing as me. If someone rejects, dislikes, doesn’t LOVE something I’ve put out in the world, they are rejecting ME (in this way of thinking). That’s ridiculous. When I turn the tables, I can think of plenty of people who make/write/create/share things that I’m not wild about even though I really like the people. I’m sure they have an audience for their stuff; I’m just not a member.

So given that my wise self knows better, why the sting of rejection?

How to not be hurt so much by rejectionAnd THAT is when it really becomes intensely personal, which is to say that it is ALL about me and what’s going on in my head. The sting of the rejection has nothing to do with the other person, and everything to do with what it triggers in me. What do I make that rejection mean?

“I knew it wouldn’t work.”

“I was afraid of this.”

“Nobody’s going to want this thing.”

Those are just warm-ups; hang on for the big guns…

“Why can’t I get this right?”

“Why did I think I could do this?”

“I’m nowhere near good enough to pull this off.”

“I think I’ve made a huge mistake.”

“Maybe I should look into grad school…”

And still better…

“Nothing I do works out.”

“Everyone else has it all worked out. I never will.”

“There must be something wrong with me.”

“I am not enough.”

If I let it, my brain can go from offering someone my work to crippling self-doubt in three steps. And the most important part of that sentence is the first part, the “If I let it.” A mentor of mine refers to the unobserved brain as a toddler with a knife. That brain will think and think and think and think, and it will think you into very safe corners that you most likely have no desire to inhabit, if you let it. If you choose to let your brain interpret the world as it chooses rather than the way that you choose.

When I choose to observe my descent into self-doubt, I can see it with compassion. And then, I can challenge it. “Really? One ‘no’ is evidence of your lack of worth?” I get a little loud with my brain sometimes. Other times: “There, there. I see you’re upset and I know this all feels big and real, so go have a cry if you need to and then we’ll talk about what’s actually going on here. Just take a minute. I’ll wait.” There will be plenty of opportunities to use both of these approaches.

Rejection is not deathBecause rejection comes in so many shapes and sizes. And it can mean everything or nothing. It is so rare that the person who delivered it is still thinking about it at all, because to them, it was just a “no,” a “no” that they have a right to deliver, to express, to use to dole out their time and talents in the way that is best for them. It was just a no.

You’re okay.

Rethinking Rejection

Ugh, the R word, rejection. When I talk to friends and clients, and when I dig down to my own motivations and rationales, so often there is, at bottom, a fear of being rejected, of not being liked, of being left, or being laughed at and thought foolish, or being deemed unlovable, unworthy, or thinking those things ourselves. There it is, right? One of the big ones, the big fears, the ideas that keep us up at night and make us want to stay in bed in the morning, just the same in adulthood as they did when we were in middle school. If I dare to ____________, I will be rejected.

Slide1We don’t want that – and hey, we’re only human. Our need for inclusion in the group is totally natural, evolutionarily reasonable, time tested and thorough. And so when we sense that possible rejection (whether we are right or not), we shrink. We shrink from possibility. We shrink from inspiration. We shrink from the limitlessness of our capacity because we are afraid we will no longer be loved, be included, be deemed worthy, be part of the group, be allowed to sit by the fire when the nights are cold and the days are difficult. We shrink from who we could be. We shrink from who we would be. We shrink from who we ARE already.

I heard a story on the TED radio hour (during a long car drive, so I didn’t get all of the details) about a man who decided he’d had enough of his overwhelming fear of rejection. He set out to intentionally get rejected, as an exercise of facing his fear and reducing the meaning of each rejection because he knew that many more had already happened and many more would come. What he discovered is that rejection was not nearly as wounding as he thought, and that when he was SURE he would be rejected, his request was met with curious agreement. In other words, he got a WHOLE lot of what he asked for, even though he really didn’t expect to. But those surprises really weren’t the point. The point was to reduce the sting of rejection.

Our reaction to rejection is complicated, and it is SO far reaching. She said she wasn’t interested. She didn’t ask me to collaborate. He didn’t call. He didn’t laugh when I thought I was funny. We take ALL of that and we make it mean the worst things we can think of. We interpret their “no’s” as more than just: “No, not that specifically, not now.” There are a variety of problems with all of this interpreting.

Firstly, what if most people are being upfront and honest and what they really mean is only: “No, not that specifically, not now”? What if we took the risk of taking adults at their word so that we can get on with things, so that we can be told “no” without it shaking us to the core, so that it doesn’t have to mean that lack of interest in one project is a statement about worth and value? What if we just decided to ONLY hear what is being said without filling in all of the spaces? If that’s a groundbreaking idea for you, I suggest you run at it full speed right away.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, what would happen if we remembered that, as Brooke Castillo says, adults get to do what they want? What does this mean in this context? It means someone gets to say “No” to you without it being a major drama. And you know why that’s really great? There’s more than one reason: 1) it means you won’t be stuck in some weird relationship or project with someone who doesn’t want to be there; 2) it means when someone says no, that’s the end of the transaction, no leftover trails or wanderings – it’s just a simple no; and finally 3) you also get to say no when you want to and therefore you get to curate the way you spend your time, the projects you are involved in, the e-mails you receive, heck just about anything – without, that’s right WITHOUT drama or interpretation on the part of the other adults involved. If we decide that saying NO doesn’t mean everything when people say it to us, it’s reasonable to conclude that it doesn’t mean everything when we say it to them.

Slide2The interesting thing is that stepping out enough to risk rejection might bring on some rejection – I don’t want to lie about that – but it also brings SO much freedom. You can be yourself. You can see who stays, who goes, and you can take some of those “No’s” as surface, minute, and temporary, just as they are meant.

You can take the chance on showing up, showing you, being seen, and in my experience so far, the people who matter most will not only sill be here, but will be delighted to SEE you. And others will show up; your tribe will find you. You will not have to sit away from the fire, in the cold dark night. You will be at home, as yourself, with people who love who you really are. What are you NOT doing because you’re sure you’ll lose them all? What are you still doing to stay safe and warm, even if it means you are not even a little bit yourself? What would it take for me to get you to try a little rejection? I’ll talk you through it.