You express romantic feelings to a friend who lets you know they’d like to keep you in the friend zone.
You tell someone you’re sleeping with that you have strong feelings for them and they say “I don’t feel the same way.”
You’re in a new relationship that you think is going pretty well, and suddenly your mate tells you they want to break up.
You’re likely to feel lots of things, including shame.
Shame comes up and says something mean. It tells you that you’ve been rejected because you’re not enough. It might say you’re not smart enough, cute enough, important enough, or that you’re just not worthy enough.
The first thing you should do is somewhat counterintuitive. Fully feel your feelings. Brene Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, talks about how one woman deals with shame. The moment she feels it, she says to herself, “pain, pain, pain, pain, pain…” over and over until the feeling begins to subside. This is a brilliant technique because it allows her to deal with shame head on and watch it pass. Another way to deal with shame is to observe how it feels in your body. Follow the feeling as it curls around in your stomach or tightens up your chest. Allow the shame to move through you rather than pushing it away. Notice how it subsides. Notice how your breath becomes deeper and slower as you let it go.
After you’ve felt the feeling yourself, reach out and share it. Shame tells you that you’re alone. When you share what you’re going through, you’ll hear from others that they’ve been there too. Shame can’t survive that kind of company.
People who deal well with rejection know that after the initial terrible feeling is over, you’ve gotta be proud of yourself. Your willingness to put yourself out there and ask for connection is powerful.
People who get rejected have been brave enough to be open.
The next thing to do is acknowledge that it’s ok that things didn’t work out with this person. There are a thousand reasons why someone decides not to take you up on your invitation for connection. Not one of these reasons is about YOU not being enough. You don’t want to waste your precious time and energy on someone who isn’t open to you. They have done you a favor by letting you know that it isn’t going to happen with them…. And I know it doesn’t feel that way yet.
It’s tempting to get angry and begin putting down the person who rejected you, telling yourself that there’s something wrong with them that made them reject you. Your best friends may support this and say, “They’re not good enough for you.” This only works as a temporary band aid. That still keeps you stuck in the same conversation. You’ve just reversed it, and made them into the one who isn’t enough.That conversation distracts from your real task: healing and feeling whole again.
A faster path to feeling whole again is to say, “that felt awful. I’m hurt and disappointed that it didn’t work out.” Blame doesn’t let the experience of rejection move all the way through you and out.
Blaming is like being emotionally constipated. It doesn’t feel good.
Get around people who can remind you that you’re enough. Soak up their love. Allow yourself to vent or cry if you need to. Take in physical affection.
Remember that you’re in good company. Everyone has been rejected. Open-hearted people who reach out for connection are the most likely to end up in satisfying relationships. They’re also very likely to be rejected a bunch of times.