Why I Trust Rejection

You should see the looks I get when I say this:

"I trust rejection."

Whew, they run the gamut, from flabbergasted to skeptical to admiring to (dare I say it?) rejecting. Most people frankly can't quite process it at first, probably because it sounds so self-defeating and un-American. Americans don't know the meaning of the word rejection! Rejection is our cue to try harder, work more and chase faster. And if all else fails, you cannot reject me because I reject you! Ha, it sounds silly when I put it that way, doesn't it? Like life is a comic book instead of a precious gift. Rejection to most of us feels like a signal to ramp up the Smash! Pow! Bam! in our comic book lives, and really show them! Really show them that we are not rejection material, especially if we can lose some weight, start working out or maybe somehow become more lovable.

Groucho Marx once famously said, "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member." This is a humorous illustration of the sad fact that many of us don't believe who we are and what we have is good enough. That is why we spend so much time (and money) acquiring things: a bigger house, a nicer car, clothes with fancy labels, Facebook "likes." We want approval and proof of our value, like somehow a human soul is a quantifiable commodity that can be measured by external standards. Rejection is an unacceptable experience, a judgment to disprove, something to overcome. But I lived in L.A. For years and in case you have never had the pleasure, let me tell you L.A.'s bread and butter is rejection. If you live in L.A., you are constantly receiving the message that you are not good enough; you are not talented enough, pretty enough, thin enough, cool enough. Your boobs are too small; your nose is too big; your script is too indie; your song is too country; your audition too out-there. Whatever it is, you just know you are fundamentally not right. Until the day you decide that you are.

Because life is not a movie, there was no big moment when this happened for me; no parting of the clouds, no mystical wise person to guide me, no life-changing relationship, job, or accomplishment that taught me to love myself as is. It happened over time in a million moments; I had to learn some lessons a hundred times before they stuck, while a few came like a lightning bolt. But even the lightning bolt realizations had to be reinforced. I gradually came to understand that not only do things "happen for a reason," but also don't "happen for a reason" and this reason is the best reason going: It is not right for you. Most of us have been dumped by a person we thought we loved. We learn that when love is not a two-way street it may still be love, but it is not a relationship. Most of us have lost out on jobs we thought we wanted, houses we tried to buy, maybe even clubs we yearned to join. In many cases, time teaches us that there was a better job, house or club for us. So why not skip waiting to know that, and just assume it immediately?

When you lose a job that is supporting you and possibly others, it is hard to wrap your head around the idea that it is for the best and there is something better out there for you. But the fact that income is necessary to life makes it impossible to wallow for too long; you call headhunters, you look on Craig's List, you hit the pavement, whatever. And generally speaking you find that next job, whether sooner or later, and all's well that ends well. But relationships are trickier, aren't they? When we get dumped, left, rejected we tend to sink into it. And people will support us in wallowing in a way they never would if we did it over a lost job. This is kindness. But we hear a lot of the same things we would hear about the lost job: "You are better off, because you were not appreciated/valued and you deserve more." Yet we have been programmed to believe that it is in fact the club that rejects us that is more desirable. That the rejection proves they are "too good" for us and therefore we need to fight to prove our worthiness. I say this is more comic book logic. There should be nothing less interesting to you than a person who isn't interested in you. Really.

We have all read accounts of people who seem to have it all yet are clearly not happy, however this manifests. Divorce, addiction, violence...People are attracted to stories of woe involving the rich and famous because they tell them something they want to hear but can never quite believe: fame, money, beauty and recognition are not magical elixirs. These external markers cannot quiet the internal voices. If you are not fundamentally happy with yourself, there is nothing you can add to your outside that will make you so, nothing. But if you are okay with who you are, there is nothing that can happen to you that will convince you otherwise, nothing. That is why I say, I accept rejection and can even be grateful for it. You are saving me a lot of paddling upstream and banging my head against a wall. If I don't seem like a good thing to you, if you are not interested in me as I am, then that is okay. I am glad to be myself, with or without you. But I do love a club that will have me as a member! That's when I know I am where I belong.