Rejection is one of my hot buttons.
I was about eight or nine years old and I was invited over to a friends house, a girl I really liked, and thought was a good friend. When I got there, we’d been playing for about an hour or so and she looked up at me with this kind of twisted smile and said, “You know, you’re lucky that you came over today. You are the fifth person I asked.” I still remember the huge pit in my stomach I got that day, like I swallowed acid. Makes me a little nauseous right now, even to remember it. Sure, sometimes plans don’t work out and sometimes you ask someone else. But she purposely and gleefully told me to make sure I knew my place.
In high school, I never really felt like I had that best friend. You know, the one you stay BFFs with, like, forever. Part of it, I’m sure, was that normal teen ethos of not being worthy and my own insecurities that kept me from feeling like I truly fit in. But then there were specific things that happened that definitely reinforced why I felt left out. Right around the time that I got my driver’s license, I had two close girlfriends and we had a very fun summer – feeling that first taste of freedom. Into the fall, they got their licenses and the circle was complete. Any one of us could drive in circles around the McDonald’s parking lot! One night they were supposed to pick me up … And they just never did. They simply never. came. to. pick. me. up. I called their houses and tried to talk to them at school to find out what happened but my worry quickly turned into hurt because it was clear that they did what is now called ghosting. I suspected it was because there were two older boys that they liked and I didn’t fit into that equation: in numbers and looks and popularity. The idea that friends who were so close would just never bother to talk to me again still blows me away.
I’m away at college and trying to figure myself out in a new state. I found some friends that felt like sorority sisters even though my college was so small there were no sororities. It was a new experience for me to have this big group of friends that ran in a pack. Maybe this would be the type a place I could fit in? Sadly, I saw their machinations too late. One day, I airily went to check if anyone wanted lunch and as the door slowly opened, it was almost a scene out of a movie. The lead mean girl (who interestingly enough was not named Heather) scowled at me a revealed a bunch of girls sitting on their beds, clearly angry. I was bewildered as The Heather slowly closed the door right in my face. I later found out that she had spread some lies about me to cover her own tracks. I tried to clear my name and shore up friendships with at least a few of the girls in the group, but they had all turned against me. In the end, it was their loss, but it still stung.
To this day, fear of rejection haunts me. It’s been said that I vomit out details of my life at the beginning of a relationship just make sure that people know the bad stuff. If they know all that, and still like you, that’s good, right?
This type of rejection also makes me insanely aware of making others feel included. I am always the one to introduce others to the group even though I struggle with trying to remember everyone’s names. Because I always want everyone to feel included.
So, sometimes I look at these rejections from my childhood as a gift – because I’d much rather welcome people in than shut them out.