Guest blog by Kate Olson, CHt
I had the pleasure of meeting Kate Olsen when she interviewed me for her radio show, Soul Fire Wisdom. If you would like to listen to our engaging discussion, here is the link: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/finding-resilience/id1482864740?i=1000529520595. For now, here is Kate!:
We have all confronted rejection and still it is one of the hardest and most commonly traumatizing experiences we go through. Most of us learn to deal with it, but some never do and the results can be quite devastating. A client recently told me about a family members’ inability to deal with the trauma and subsequent suicide after feeling excluded. This is an extreme and heart-breaking outcome, but I am guessing there are very few people who cannot relate to the emotional pain that rejection and exclusion can cause. Acceptance and validation are basic to our needs and few of us get enough of these to build our self-worth, self-love and resilience to a level of confidence where we are truly secure and rejection-proof. At least, we seldom get it in childhood and without a lot of introspection, awareness and self-esteem-building work.
It seems to be the nature of humans to try to build their own self-worth at the expense of others when they don’t know more healthy ways of doing so. From childhood into adulthood, we see it. Two friends make themselves feel superior by talking about what they see as the shortcoming of someone else. Many times, we don’t think this is a big deal until we are on the receiving side. The people that are bonding and feeling superior, often lack empathy for the person they are diminishing. That is sometimes because they do not really know the person and sometimes because they do and want to purposefully exclude or diminish them for their own benefit.
I am going to share a story from my own childhood that had a huge impact on me. While today I consider it a blessing, it was difficult then. I was always a fairly kind and inclusive child with a strong sense of fairness, so excluding others or making them feel bad was never something I did. In fourth grade, a classmate had a bird that she brought to school and that bird became the class pet. She was very attached to her bird. She shared the bird with the class though and allowed others to care for it. Over one weekend, something happened and the bird died. The whole class mourned the loss, but it was really hard on the owner of the bird. I had empathy and felt very sad for her. I had an idea of getting her another bird. I organized a group of her other friends and we all planned together to raise the money, get the bird and give it to her. I thought everything was going quite well and was excited that we were going to able to do this as a group.
I had no idea that there were any problems brewing. One day, just a few days before we were going to give the bird to our mutual friend, one of girls asked me to meet her down on the baseball field after school. I didn’t really think much about it and went to meet her and saw that the rest of our group was also there. Still, I thought nothing of it. I had never been bullied or had enemies for the most part, so nothing occurred to me. Suddenly, the group formed a circle around me and skipped in a circular motion while chanting “we vote you out!”
I was taken completely off guard and it took a few minutes to even figure out what they were doing and what it meant. And then, one of them explained that they were excluding me from the group. I would not be allowed to participate in the plans for giving the bird to our friend. My stomach felt like it dropped to my feet and I simply couldn’t speak. I was hurt more than I could have expressed and no words would come out of my mouth. I looked at them trying not to let myself cry and then I walked away as fast as I could. When I got out of their sight, I ran all the way home before I cried. The feeling was horrific and I had no idea why they had done this. I did not know how to deal with the feelings.
I had a hard time going to school the next day and really couldn’t look at any of the girls. It hurt that my friend did not know that her new bird had been from me, as well as, the other girls and that it had been my idea, but I didn’t say anything. It seemed like months, but it was really only days, when some of the girls in the group started coming and apologizing and telling me that one of the girls had instigated what had happened telling the rest them that I was too bossy and didn’t deserve to be in the group. She was jealous and wanted to be in charge of things.
Eventually, all the girls except the instigator apologized and even the girl who got the bird told me she had been told it had been my idea. That helped, but the feelings and mistrust hung on. I avoided the girl who instigated things for the rest of the time we were in school together. I am not sure if she knew that I knew about what she had done. She still talked to me and acted friendly from time to time. I had not realized how insecure and insincere she apparently was, but of course, I knew I couldn’t trust her. I did forgive her. I never wanted to experience anything like that again, however it strangely made me stronger.
It would be decades, more experiences and much self-reflection and self-acceptance before I would feel healed and truly put it behind me. It was the start of a very important lesson on dealing with rejection and exclusion. A lesson I am very thankful for, despite the pain involved. I also gained a sort of “Spidey-Sense” for picking up the energy of people who, due to their own needs, would be inclined to throw me under the bus. I have learned to opt out or avoid them, without malice. I have come to realize that they are doing the best they can with what they know.
I did encounter the instigator of that trauma again on a break after my first year of college. I went into a local store on a visit home, when I heard a voice excitedly call my name and turned around to see the girl who had caused me that pain, with a big smile on her face. She grabbed and hugged me, saying how happy she was to see me. I was in momentary shock. She had surprisingly gained a good 40 pounds and looked a bit different. We talked and caught up on what we had been doing since high school. I was surprised to find out that she was on a break from college and working full-time at the store. She had dropped out of school during freshman year after having an emotional break-down.
I listened to her story and empathized as she told me of her feelings of not fitting in, being excluded and having trouble keeping up academically. She seemed to feel better as I empathized. I asked her about her future plans and encouraged her, reminding her of the skills and abilities I knew she had. There was that moment where I felt a twinge of revenge brewing, but opted for compassion. She went back to school in the fall to a Mid-West college, where she still lives. She graduated, married and has a beautiful family. I wondered if she ever thought about her actions, but realized it really didn’t matter, as I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I was happy I had chosen to react with compassion and knew it was the better choice.
There are many types of rejection that bombard us throughout life. We do need to feel and process those emotions, no matter how painful. In the end, I took the lessons and moved forward, a little bruised, but stronger and wiser. The gifts far outweighed the rest. Use the lessons to buoy you up, rather than make you bitter. Rise above the negativity and know that only you can define who you are and what you deserve.
Kate Olson, CHt, is a Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner & Trainer, Reiki Master, Life Coach, Author, Speaker and Radio/Podcast Host of Soul Fire Wisdom. She calls herself a “Change Adventure Navigator”, because she loves guiding clients through obstacles and adversity to find their path, purpose and peace. www.soulfirewisdom.com
Lise Deguire's multiple award-winning memoir, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience from a Burn Survivor, is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Newtown Book Shop and The Commonplace Reader