Tough Lessons

It’s pretty natural as human beings to want to be liked.  We are social creatures by nature, so fitting in is practically a genetic priority.  We also learn at a young age that not everyone is going to like us.  And it’s such a fun lesson, we get to learn it over and over throughout our lives!

I can remember a dozen painful rejections from childhood off the top of my head right now: the party I wasn’t invited to, the boy who didn’t want to date me, or the popular girls who didn’t welcome me to their lunch table.  I’ve seen my kids go through similar situations already at their young ages.  As an adult, the rejections can be personal or professional, but the hurt is often still there.  It’s never easy to be left out, judged unfairly or treated meanly no matter how old we are.  My tendency in these situations is to question myself.  What could I have done to upset them?  Did I say something wrong?  How am I to blame for this situation?  I know I’m not alone in this pattern because I meet a lot of people in my line of work.  Even the most confident individual will doubt themselves in the face of social rejection.

Every time it happens to me, I have to remind myself of a few things.  First, I cannot control other people.  I can’t change their behavior or their thoughts, and they get to choose their own opinion of me.  Second, more often than not, someone else’s opinion of me has very little to do with me.  Think about all the reasons someone may not like another person.  There’s jealousy, blind prejudice, and simply meeting them on a really really bad day.  People also come carrying their own baggage, and past relationships may influence how we feel about present life, whether we like it or not.  Think: I don’t like you because you unconsciously remind me of my really mean second grade teacher.  None of those reasons have anything to do with me as a person, so I shouldn’t allow a rejection to fuel self-doubt.

The last thing I try to remember is that all I can do in any social setting is to present my best self.  I can be aware in every conversation and look for cues on how to connect with the person across from me.  I can try to meet their needs by listening at least as much as I talk and by staying mindful with my speech and behavior.  Lastly, I can speak the truth in all situations, from my heart.  If I’ve followed all of these principles, I’ve acted with integrity.  Then I never need doubt myself, no matter what the outcome.  If someone else doesn’t appreciate my best self, then it really is their problem, not mine.

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