"I sat in my room feeling lost and lonely and a million miles from home. In fact I was only two hours away from home and my family had only been gone for half an hour after dropping me off, but I hadn't been alone like this before. I wished I had a friend to meet up with to share this experience, I wished there was someone there that I knew already. I consoled myself by thinking that I wouldn't be the only one feeling so lonely and I'd soon make friends. I had two hours until the Introductory Meeting, what was I going to do with myself until then?
Then I noticed voices coming from next door which was the communal kitchen area. Suddenly I fancied a nice cup of tea, what a better way of making friends that joining them in the kitchen for a cuppa and a chat. I started to shake I was so nervous, how could I walk into a room of strangers and speak to them, it just wasn't something that I was used to doing.
So I sat there with my mug in my hand arguing with myself. "Did I want to spend this week all alone not speaking to anyone?" Eventually I plucked up the courage to go and make a drink and hopefully some new friends. The muffled voices from next door sounded cheerful and friendly, this was not going to be as bad as I imagined. I could do this.
I clutched my mug, painted on a smile and breezed into the kitchen. I don't remember exactly what I said but I knew it had been friendly and I said it from my heart. I was met with barely a couple of glances as the group of women carried on chatting, ignoring me. I stood there for a while then walked over to the kettle where another woman was already making a drink. She offered me one of her tea bags and we made tea together in silence while the others carried on their happy conversations. I went back to my room, feeling so rejected and even more alone and drank my tea blocking out the chatter from next door.
Later, when I emerged from my room to go to the meeting I was met in the corridor by the other lonely tea lady. "Shall we walk across together?" She asked."
This was more than twenty years ago, but as you can see the story is ingrained in my mind. It wasn't the first time I experienced rejection and it certainly wasn't the last but it was something that shaped me and taught me to fear rejection.
More recently I was at a large convention, again alone. I looked around and saw a table of ladies that I recognised. I didn't know them well, but I'd seen and spoken to them before. I was sure they wouldn't mind me sitting with them. They barely spoke to me, I was not included in their conversation despite my trying. At one point the woman sitting next to me actually turned her chair so she had her back to me. Ok, she was having quite an intense conversation with the woman next to her, but still I felt that rejection sharply.
My instinct now is to avoid rejection and just convince myself that I'm ok to be alone. In fact I probably ooze that 'don't talk to me, I'm not interested' type of non-charisma. In my head I'm telling myself over and over it's better this way and I don't care that other people either ignore me, or feel sorry for me but don't want to approach me. My confidence has taken a bashing and I'm filled with a false sense of security. This is much better than rejection, right?
No, it's not right. It's never too late to change, from now on I will not take any form of rejection personally, I will not allow it to stop me from talking to people, from trying to make a connection. I really wish I'd learnt this sooner, by now I might have been totally over this hang up. I guess you do get wiser as you get older. I certainly don't want to be stuck in my old ways. I know I'll never be popular, or ooze real charisma, that's just not me. But I can take the bullet and not be scared of rejection. It won't be my loss!
Everyone needs to feel loved and accepted, that 's why rejection feels so harsh, but if you fear the rejection then it will stop you from finding out how different things could be if you were accepted. I don't have many friends, the ones I do have are the ones that have made the effort to be friends with me. I've never actually initiated friendship myself. I consider myself to be a kind and friendly person, but it's that initial step that I find difficult.
There are two important lessons here I need to learn (And anyone else needs to learn if they too fear rejection.)
- Don't take rejection personally, it's not necessarily your fault
- Learn how to handle rejection effectively so it doesn't create such a negative impact on your life.