The light was dim, the bedroom was messy, and if I’m not mistaken, I hugged the nearest shoes on the floor and cried my eyes out.
That night, which happened many, many moons ago, won’t be easily erased from my memory. It was the night when I literally acted like a six-year-old girl. It was the night when I slept on the floor until my then partner opened the door and found me unable to walk or talk.
I was so full of anger, shame, sadness, and insecurity that I couldn’t bring my arms or feet to move. Two days before that dismal night, I discovered that he was cheating on me—again. Looking back, I feel sorry for that young girl who shouldn’t have reacted the way she did. My current 33-year-old self would have told her to just leave that f*cking house and never return his calls ever again.
Instead, that scene was repeated—again and again—for many more months to come. Me on the floor, crying, and him apologizing. One night, toward the end of our relationship and after crying for so many hours, I had an epiphany. With red, swollen eyes and a mind that was too tired, I randomly asked myself, “What the f*ck did I just do? Why am I crying like a little girl, yelling at him, making him feel guilty, hating on him, yet here I am, exactly where I was 18 months ago?”
There was no light bulb going on over my head or a big flashing sign that read “hah!” But there was an understanding.
Slowly and carefully, I understood that my toxic behaviors had nothing to do with him. It wasn’t about him cheating on me or our failed relationship. I was pointing the finger at him this entire time when in reality I should have pointed it at me.
As Eckhart Tolle says, “If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”
Despite all the suffering I went through, I didn’t remove myself from the situation, I didn’t change it, and I surely didn’t “accept” it. Instead, I was frozen in time. I was stuck. I kept repeating the same reaction over and over again yet choosing to stay—knowing that I did want to leave.
Why did I stay? Why did I exhibit the same toxic behaviors instead of taking more reasonable actions?
Because I was scared of rejection.
Because by staying, I was hoping to get love, validation, and attention. I thought my toxic behaviors would grant me a happy relationship. And sadly, I thought that by playing the victim, by being constantly sad and angry, by being powerless, by wanting to change my partner, I would get infinite sorrys that could make me feel slightly better.
It’s crazy the many forms that our fear of rejection can take. Thinking about it now, my destructive behaviors spoke louder than any words I may have said back then. And although my story does make me look weak, I know some of us have been there. I’m positive that most of us have been in relationships where we are “perfect” at the beginning but then become clingy or “unbearable” when the relationship starts to get more serious. And I’m sure you, too, have asked yourself at some point, “What the f*ck did I just do?”
Having to deal with a fear of rejection is tough because we might not always know we have it. “I’m scared you might leave. Please don’t leave. Don’t reject me. I want this to work out,” said no one ever on a first date. Consequently, we display this inner (hidden) fear of rejection through our behaviors.
We might become clingy or needy. We might get overly jealous and insecure. We might react badly to silly situations. We might pull up a wall to protect ourselves. We might accuse our partner of being distant, unloving, or “cold.” We might start an argument for no apparent reason. We might seek constant reassurance. We might go out of our way to please our partner. We might feel lonely or depressed when they’re not around. We might change or “fix” our partner so they become more agreeable so we can feel more safe.
We might, in fact, transform into someone we don’t recognize just because we are afraid of rejection.
We might do all sort of crazy things just to keep that person close because they’re our only hope and our sole source of love.
The sad part is, oftentimes, we leave relationships only to enter new ones and repeat the same pattern. While we think we are attracting the same kind of (bad) partners, the truth is we are still dealing with the same emotions that have caused us to be in these relationships in the first place.
We have a lot of healing to do if we want to break this toxic pattern. We have to face our limiting beliefs and change the narrative we are telling ourselves. What are you telling yourself? Do you think you’re unlovable or unworthy? Do you think your value is highly connected to other people? Do you think other people can dictate who and how you are?
Change the story. Change how you see yourself or think about yourself. If you were abandoned or rejected as a kid or even as an adult, know that right now is a different moment—a new one, in fact.
Your past doesn’t define you or your future; and it doesn’t define the people around you either. Read that again.
No matter how wrong or bad we think people are, remember they are merely mirrors, bringing to the surface what we should be working on.
So many times we sabotage our relationships by trying to save them. We change, we fix, we leave, we come back, we stay, we leave again…please stop. Please know that what’s yours will find you. Consequently, don’t be scared of rejection or loss because whoever and whatever we lose today will come in another shape or form. And if you were rejected, rest assured that it doesn’t make you less beautiful, less worthy, less significant, or less lovable.
When we find the love we so need within, we change, and oddly enough, people around us change too. When we are confident and trust ourselves enough, we stop putting so much pressure on people to stay or to love us the way we want to be loved.
Because, at the end of the day, if we love ourselves enough, we don’t really mind if this or that person walks away.