This past Sunday, I saw him again! And as I watched him hang up his coat, I wanted to disappear. I felt like a sixth-grader wishing she wouldn’t be seen by someone she “kind of likes.”
So far, so good. He doesn’t know I exist and that feels safer somehow.
It all started a few weeks ago when I was at church and ended up sitting right next to this new stranger. I practically drooled on his hand when I greeted him. Crushing? Yes. After the pastor’s message, I intentionally moved across the aisle and sat with a good friend of mine. I leaned over to her and said, “Did you see that good-looking man I was sitting next to?”
“Yes, stupid,” she replied, “why did you move over here?”
The truth is, I moved because I was afraid of being rejected. I was afraid of being seen and found lacking.
It’s a pattern I’ve identified over the years: trying to figure out who I have to be to win another’s affection and avoid rejection.
At some point in my adult life, I’d come to believe that no one could ever love me exactly as I am. That I would always have to manage how I appear. Whenever I felt attracted to anyone I would immediately begin to think that I don’t deserve someone like that. That I’m too old, or not pretty enough, or not rich enough, or not successful enough…the list goes on…and on.
Almost immediately, the one who thinks she can win at this game begins to consider what it would take…
Well, it has taken me ten years to call bullshit on this pattern! Once I recognized the script and the part I was playing in it, I got wise to how much I was hurting myself and sabotaging my relationships with others. I had to stop thinking I can change or adjust who I am for others. I’ve been working on it. But still there remains a teeny-tiny thought that creeps in every time I imagine someone looking. Who would I have to be…?
I have a laundry list of all the ways I’ve tried to avoid rejection before it even started. It’s dirty laundry I’d just as soon forget. Nowadays, I don’t try anymore to be something I’m not to win the attention of another. I know that Spirit doesn’t want that for me. I don’t want that for me!
So instead, I simply run away.
Because I’m afraid of what I might do given the chance. I tell myself, I don’t need anyone. I’m fine on my own. But these (as you know) also are lies. I use them to armor up my heart against the potential pain I might cause myself while trying to be fake or artificial.
I’m a bit embarrassed. I don’t want anyone to see the pain of my confusion between the all or nothing approach I’ve used in relationships past. But neither do I want to hide. When I try to talk about this with other people (and I have tried), they can’t seem to understand. They want to tell me that my fears aren’t true and that I shouldn’t think or feel this way… all the things I already understand.
If I didn’t get it, believe me, I wouldn’t be talking about it.
I talk about perceived rejection because the way we interact with the story of our trauma is significant.
It’s a lifelong response to the thoughts and actions that trigger our pain points. If we don’t become intimate with how the story yanks our chain then we’ll never be able to challenge the lies or break the spell that binds us to unhealthy actions and reactions.
Believe me, I don’t want to fear rejection. I wish I could stop the thought from entering my brain at all. I’ve tried simply ignoring it, but emotionally charged stories don’t just go away because we want them to, or because we’re aware of them. They want to be recognized and maybe loved just enough to take away the sting. Every time the teeny tiny thought emerges saying I’m in danger of being rejected,… I am, by myself.
And that’s what I need to pay attention to.
So just for this day, I talk my strategist down off the ledge. “Be calm, my friend,” I say. “There’s nothing you need to do or say. The experiences and people truly meant for us will see us clearly. We don’t need filters. You can tuck your masks away. Today we’ll be shining bright exactly as we are.”
There’s nothing to win here; nothing to lose.
Do you have persistent thoughts that plague you? In the comments below, tell me about your lingering fears and what they tell you. Be brave. I understand.
~ A Girl on Her Own, Tracy