Last week, I spoke and wrote about a common obstacle to friendship: feelings of unworthiness (i.e. I’m not worthy to have a friend OR I’m not worthy to have that friend). Today, I want to talk about another barrier to initiating or strengthening friendships that is possibly even more pervasive than the first.
It is fear of rejection and it is rampant in our social circles.
Last week, I was invited to speak to a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group to talk about friendship. After my presentation, the floor was open for discussion, and more than anything else I heard, fear of rejection was the MOST common obstacle to friendship.
Below is an excerpt from last week’s discussion:
We all want to belong. We are hardwired for it. So when we feel rejection, it is easy to lash out or withdraw, but today, I want to encourage you to face rejection with resilience and courage in order to build your emotional muscles. Think of it like going to a hard workout class: You know what you’re in for—the push ups, the planks, the jumps—yet you still go and power through. This commitment to getting stronger doesn’t take the pain away, but after the soreness wears off (and you can walk up and down stairs!) you go back to class again, and again, and again. Over time, your muscles recover more quickly and you bounce back faster. So it is with the fear and pain of rejection.
Here’s the lesson: We have to temporarily risk rejection in order to feel long-term acceptance.
Like you, I have felt rejection regularly in varying degrees throughout my adult life. Who else has ever:
Found out a group of coworkers went to lunch and didn’t let you know;
Been upset that your children weren’t invited to a birthday party for a classmate;
Wondered why you weren’t asked to collaborate on a project;
Felt left out on a family vacation;
Seen the playdate on Instagram or Facebook that you weren’t asked to attend.
When we lean into the sting of rejection, we often ask ourselves, Why didn’t she reach out to me? Do I not belong in their group? We may begin to feel discounted, insecure, and uncertain about the friendship. All within about 15 seconds, by the way.
This pain of rejection—real or perceived— originates from fear.
Girls, I would love to get to the place one day when I don’t care what other people think. Until then, I’m going to do everything in my power to help my inner wisdom voice be louder than my inner fear voice.
I may still hear from Fear, but Wisdom is going to be handed a louder megaphone.
Practically, the next time you feel that familiar sting of rejection ask yourself, “Is what I’m feeling real or perceived?” When we dig around the fear that strangles us and holds us back, we are likely to discover that the person doing the rejecting wasn’t intentional about it at all. They very likely had no desire to leave you out.
So before you get upset that your girlfriends went to dinner without you, ask yourself, Do I organize dinner dates and outings with friends? Do I invite people over to my house or ask to come to theirs? Am I consciously making an effort to get to know this person, or am I waiting for her to reach out to me?
I think in many cases you’ll find, as I did, that the rejection you feel lies more in perception than reality.
Still if we want to feel included, we must include. And if we dislike rejection, we must be sure we’re not rejecting others.
///Event photos taken by Capturing Joy Photography