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Growing up with the feeling of being rejected over and over again has left me with quite a few scars.
Even if the people doing the rejecting most of the times were not aware of it, or not doing it on purpose.
I didn’t know better then. I didn’t really have anyone to talk about it. Or maybe I did, but didn’t feel comfortable talking about it.
Truth is, I still don’t know how to talk about it, which is why I write.
I also didn’t have any role models—anyone who would show me there was a better way to deal with it. No one who would tell me I didn’t have to go through it. Or maybe people didn’t know I was going through it, so they didn’t know I needed to hear this.
It wasn’t until tonight, when I woke up crying after having dreamed that I was fired from a job, that I realized how many separate situations of rejection I’ve been through in my life. And how I really needed to compile them all together so that I can maybe start getting rid of them. Or learn to deal with this feeling.
Rejection hurts. It’s not meant to be fun, or easily dealt with. But as with all other unpleasant feelings, if we have someone to talk to about them and support us, it’s easier to cope.
Being raised by my grandparents while my mom was at work, and never really going out and making friends, was probably the start of it. It’s what shaped my personality the way it is today. Meeting new people is scary and it’s always a challenge.
Because I didn’t go to kindergarten (I went straight into first grade), I found myself in a huge place with a lot of kids who had already been to school, already had friends, and knew what they were doing.
And I didn’t.
I didn’t have any friends and I had no idea what I was doing. I panicked. When the teacher asked me where I had attended kindergarten, I didn’t even know what kindergarten was, so I didn’t know what to say. I said, “I don’t know.” And everyone laughed at me. And the teacher didn’t stop them.
School life was never easy. I didn’t make any friends there either for about three years. Every time we had to work in pairs or groups, I was always left behind. I was always picked last for sports teams. I dreaded going to school every day and feeling rejected again.
To top it all off, divorced parents weren’t really helpful in this realm either. Don’t get me wrong, they did a lot of things right. I received an excellent education and had all the toys and clothes that I needed. But the emotional part of my upbringing was neglected. My mother never talked about her feelings and never asked about mine.
For many years I firmly believed we were not supposed to share our feelings. I was ashamed of crying—she always told me to “Stop crying because that wouldn’t accomplish anything.”
My father wasn’t great at the emotional stuff either. He told me he loved me, repeatedly, but he didn’t act like he did. I would only see him on weekends. He lived in a different city. He was never there for me when I felt I needed him. And I didn’t get along with the woman he married after my mother.
When I was around nine years old, I made my first friend. As an insecure introvert who did not trust people and did not know how to talk to people, this first extroverted friend was deeply appreciated. She kept me company, did all the talking for me, and was always my group for school projects.
But once we moved to the countryside due to financial issues, my friend was forced to have me over at her place every afternoon while I waited for mom to finish work so she could take me home.
At first we had fun, but then she started dating boys, and I didn’t. I was terrified of boys. I didn’t know how to talk to them. Or anyone, for that matter.
I would just be there in her living room, feeling totally uncomfortable, while she spent whole afternoons on the phone with her boyfriend. Feeling rejected and unwelcome once again.
We eventually joined a group of friends that was a little bigger. Not the popular kids, but there were a few of us. And then this first friend of mine went to a different school. And our “group of friends” simply stopped talking to me. I don’t know what happened. Maybe I did something wrong. Maybe they just didn’t like me. I never asked. They never told me.
My friend started going with me to visit my father on the weekends. We made a group of friends there too, thanks to her. She started dating there too. And then one day, they stopped talking to me too. They completely ignored me and called me names when they saw me on the street. Once again, I had no idea if I had done anything wrong. And no one told me.
By this point, I was so afraid of being rejected that I preferred just staying inside and not talking to people. But in my mother’s place I didn’t have my own bedroom, so I couldn’t really be left alone when I needed to—which was most of the time.
And at my father’s place, I had my own room, but I wasn’t happy there. I didn’t feel at home.
By then I was probably about 19 when I got tired of feeling like I didn’t belong, and like no one cared about me, and I decided to kill myself.
I took a lot of sleeping pills, but woke up in the hospital. No one asked me why I did that. I haven’t told anyone.
I don’t think most people realize how poorly we deal with feelings and emotions. It’s not something discussed at school. Not all families teach their kids to share how they feel. Not everyone asks, and not everyone listens.
And I am not sure people realize how much these “little” rejections can damage a person. How hard it is to be an adult who still can’t properly express their needs. How exhausting it is to always strive for perfection, while deeply fearing any negative feedback…about anything.
Today is the third anniversary of my stepmother’s death. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I had this nightmare and have been dealing with this all night. She died of cancer. When I went to her funeral, I did have a sense of closure and forgiveness.
Merely thinking about the past stirs up all kinds of emotions and messes me up quite a bit. It’s clear I still have so much to work on. I even think my back problems and my slouched posture—that I’ve been trying to fix since I was 12—may be the result of years of rejection and insecurity.
People say I am so calm and centered and self-assured.
The truth is, I can look like it, but only when I distract my thoughts from all of this with books or projects.
But when I stop to think about it and deal with it—which doesn’t happen often, because it is painful—I remind myself I am not there yet.
I still need to keep walking.
While I’ve experienced a lot of pain in my past, I am now married to a wonderful man. I have a job that I love (one I am good at). And a perfect puppy. I am also living in a new and great country.
I can say I have come a long way.
All I want, really, is to get to a point where I can leave all of that pain in the past once and for all. And I hope to achieve this by sharing my story.