My fellow Distractoids —
Are you down on yourself? Are you constantly telling yourself what an ugly, horrible, no-good person you are? What about rejection? Does rejection (and perhaps perceived rejection) throw you for a loop? Do you stay in your comfort zone to avoid situations where you might be rejected? Do you try to avoid rejection by ingratiating yourself with others, people-pleasing, and sacrificing more than your fair share? If so, you are not alone. ADDers on average are highly sensitive to rejection, overly sensitive, sometimes to the point of Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria. Let’s take a closer look.
Distractoids are full of unexamined negative self-talk, negative self-judgment, and shame. Fear and negativity are like invisible bars that hold them in place. Masters of Distraction, on the other hand, have learned how to practice positive self-regard no matter what, to deploy courage in the presence of fear, and to see the world’s feedback simply as valuable information that points to a next step forward. What’s their secret sauce that makes such a difference in life?
Here’s the good news: the change is your choice. It’s up to me to determine how I see myself — or rather my Self. Behind all the ever-shifting thoughts and emotions that come and go, behind the choices I’ve made and consequences I’ve suffered or rewards I’ve enjoyed, and behind all the things that have happened or been done to me, there is the Self. The Self enters and leaves this world as it is — wise, loving, worthy of love, and free from judgment of any kind. The value and goodness of the Self, which is the Real Me, is not contingent on anything: the value of the Self is inherent, and does not depend on what I have or have not done or won or achieved. It is what It is, and It is good.
How do I know this is true? It doesn’t matter for our purposes today. That’s a different conversation and debate. For now, all I ask you to accept is that we know the value of a thing by its fruits — that what produces good results is good. If I adopt the unshakable belief that, behind the ever-changing surface features of life, that I am fundamentally good, loving, and deserving of love — that my essence is good, loving, and deserving of love — then I will be invulnerable to the poison of negative Self-judgment, shame, and fear of rejection. If I reject no part of myself — my Self, nobody can make me suffer the pain of rejection. It’s all in my hands. How does that affect my behavior? It allows me to live more freely and to become more of the person I am meant to be.
Nobody can make me feel ashamed or rejected without my consent. I remember once when I was just out of film school I wrote a screenplay that I had invested with all the value of my Self-worth. I gave it to someone important to read, hoping they might buy it, and soon heard back they thought it was great. I was elated, to say the least. A huge rush of euphoric emotion flowed through my body like a surge of electricity. But that was a false alarm. A few days later when I heard it wasn’t being bought, I suffered an equally major surge of negativity. Instantly, I was filled with self-loathing and anxiety. I wasn’t myself for weeks and weeks.
But what had really happened? Nothing. I was the same person whether the script was bought or not. That’s not what I told myself, though. And not how I reacted. I told myself I was a superior being and felt on top of the world before I told myself I was worthless and should never write another word of anything ever again. Both things were equally untrue.
This kind of thing happens all the time with clients. If they get the job, or an A on the test, or accepted into the school: elation. If they don’t get the job, or the grade, or the school: despair. The emotions come from attaching one’s Self worth to this or that outcome rather than sticking with who you really are — the fixed, unchanging self or consciousness behind all those results. Instead of looking at a yes or a no as some kind of true judgment of you — validation or rejection — look at yes or no simply as information that says nothing about the real you. Yes you can do this thing or no you will be choosing something different. Information, and that’s it.
But having a big emotional reaction to rejection is not the only flawed way relate to rejection. I’ve had clients who would rarely leave the house because outside those safe confines they might experience the word “no”. I remember many times in my life when I was too afraid to ask for help, take a chance, or put my hat in the ring. I look back and wonder what in the world I was afraid of. I was afraid of activating the harshly negative thoughts in my head, that’s what. I must have seen myself as a fragile, powerless, unworthy — because I was not thinking of the real me, my unchanging, original Self.
Sadly, we take other self-defeating, self-limiting actions to avoid rejection. We become people-pleasers so everyone, we hope, will like us. We sacrifice our needs and desires in relationships in order to please or appease our partners. We cut off parts of ourselves that we judge to be intolerable or unacceptable, rejecting ourselves before we can be rejected. Do any of these behaviors spare us from the pain of rejection? Of course not. They just take us farther away from who we really are.
Okay, you might be thinking that it’s easy to talk about rejection in this way, but not so easy to deal with rejection in real life. I agree, letting go of our ideas and attachments to rejection is often times a process. It’s something we are working on. But even a little shift in the way that we relate to our True Self goes a long way in how we experience “no” when we are hoping for “yes.” The shift allows us to look at and consider what has happened with more perspective and nuance, and that’s a good thing. So good luck in your efforts to consider the words yes and no as information ….