Day 3 - Who Would I Be if I Never Knew Rejection?
This is a question I've been pondering for the last week or so. I was talking to one of my counselors over the weekend about the struggles I feel in relationships... generally feeling alone, unseen and unknown mostly. Never quite feeling safe with people or like I can totally be myself (except with a VERY few people). All because of a nasty little monster called Rejection. Rejection introduced itself to me before I can even remember and has pretty much been a constant companion of mine. This may sound SO SAD, but I actually have a lot of HOPE in this area now. Before I get to that, though, let me show you the dark underbelly of Rejection.
Rejection sells us the line that we aren't "good enough" the way we are, so we start to put on masks or coping mechanisms to become more acceptable to the world around us. One of the victories of healing is that I've become healthy enough to recognize when I'm putting on a mask or when the self protective part of me coming out to play, but I'm still on the journey of what it looks like to live without those masks. So many of them are tightly intertwined with very real, important pieces of my personality... like my love of laughter and joy. That's a very real part of me. I can find the funny and the ironic in just about anything. But it's also a coping mechanism. I look back at some of my old journals from when I was a teenager and the amount of "Suzy Sunshining" that was going on almost makes me nauseous. I was taking crap and pretending it was filet mignon and that NEVER does anyone any good... even the person trying to serve you the crap. It's DENIAL. And here's the truth about our emotions... As long as we are denying ANY of them, none of them can be REAL. We're blocking ourselves from experiencing very large pieces of our own lives because we won't just be REAL. Again, I think that has been one of the hardest pieces of recovery for me... coming out of all of the denial and just letting myself be sad and messed up for a bit. Without judging or trying to FIX myself before anyone can perceive a sign of weakness and reject me. Which brings me back to the original question... Who would I be if Rejection never entered my world?
Saturday, my counselor asked me if I believe Katherine is lovable. Not the churchy "correct" answer, but what do I actually believe and how do I operate? My honest answer had to be "No." That's so hard to admit when you walk around with a smile pasted on your face, trying to show the world your good side. But the truth is, when I stripped it all away, the reason I feel so alone sometimes is because I don't actually know I'm lovable - just the way I am... without any fixing or repairing or primping or looking the part. If it was just me, sitting in a room or dancing wildly at the top of a mountain, would I be lovable? I'd love to say that the instant she asked that question I broke the power of that lie over my life, but as with everything else... it's a process.
She did ask me a really good question, though. "Where did you learn that Katherine isn't lovable?" I laughed sarcastically and said, "My smart ass answer is - how long have you got?" See, I've got a lot of history in this area... years and years of experiences that back up this belief. Kids in school bullying me, getting pulled into the girls bathroom when I was 11 and told by all my classmates that no one liked me, being ignored by men - or used and then rejected by them. But to really answer the question I had to go farther back...
As long as I can remember, there always seemed to be this knowing deep inside me that my existence was at the whim of my mother. I was on this planet because she brought me here and she could take me out. I'm quoting. These words were said in jest later in life, but when you're 5 years old they really leave a mark. Especially if they are paired with the silent treatment when you're a "bad girl", denial of simple human needs like food until you fix yourself and the training that it's your job to love your Mom unconditionally FIRST so that she is then freed up to love you unconditionally. It's a toxic cocktail.
That last one - the needing to love my Mom unconditionally FIRST before I could be loved was the most painful one and the belief that was driving all the self-rejection. The idea that I had to love my parent FIRST before they could love me is SO BACKWARD, but it has translated to every single one of my relationships... including my relationship with God. I've been walking around all this time trying to love Him first, serve Him first, do the "right thing" first so that I could live and breathe and take up space on this planet. And showing up that way in all my relationships. I had to be the adult and give love where it wasn't given and act like I enjoyed it... the only thing about that is that it defines LOVE and intimacy as a violating experience.
Let that really sink in... the very thing that heals all of us and brings us most fully into the light. LOVE - the force that makes us all feel seen and known is what feels the scariest and most dangerous for someone who has been abused in this way. (It's called Emotional Incest and it's a killer. I may get into that more in another post, but if you're resonating with what I'm saying, do yourself a favor and Google that term.) The TRUTH is that we love because God loved us FIRST and Love lives on the inside of us so we're NEVER alone or unloved. That's the way it really works... Rejection lied to me.
Rejection sold me the line that I have to shove down my needs and care for everyone else's in order to be loved. The only thing is that was always a losing battle. She never turned around and loved me back... not unconditionally. I needed someone to be bigger than me and she just couldn't fit that bill. That's why it's SO HARD for me to show up in relationships with any needs or expecting to be seen and known. Why when I'm "messy" I hole up in my room until I'm "okay" again... and then I come out to play. Why I keep serving myself up on a silver platter - thinking that once you've had your fill you may finally meet some of my needs. I was used by the one person who should have nurtured me and fed me with her love instead of feeding off of mine. That brought more tears (that afternoon and since then).
Again, for the record, my mom is not well and I have a TON of compassion for her. I also have to be honest about what happened or neither one of us will ever be free. One of the things I'm finally coming to grips with in this season is the realization that it's time to stop running from the pain and from the discomfort of the beliefs that have been driving my life. Coming out of denial is painful. Probably the most painful season I've ever gone through... but it's part of grieving and the good news is that when I allow myself to stop, acknowledge the truth of my past and my present and FEEL the corresponding emotion (without trying to escape) I come out stronger and more the Real Katherine. So that's what I'm doing. There have been a lot of tears since Saturday and there will probably be more. But it's okay because true change means to face the truth and bring it before God and let Him do the changing. Let Him do the healing. Only He can't heal what you won't acknowledge. I've been fighting for a long time to deny my reality... and I'm just done.
I wanted to share this part of the journey before going back to the story of what happened after I left my mom because I think so many of us struggle with rejection (no matter what the source is) and I hope I helped you find language for that phantom pain you've grown so accustomed to. And here's the HOPE in all of this... God has given us the ability to love ourselves and to heal ourselves. Yes... He does His part. Most definitely! But there are certain things that only we can do... because ultimately we are the ones who made the decisions that led us to where we are.
For me, I was the one who made the decision to believe I was unlovable. I was the one who decided to hate myself because it was the only sure way to survive the psychological torment of an abusive parent. That's not a judgment against me... it's actually a GIFT. Because if I did this, I can undo it. I'm not at her mercy or anyone else's waiting for a rescue... the power actually lies in my own hands, heart and mind. THERE IS TREMENDOUS FREEDOM IN THAT! Everything I need is on the inside of me. I get to show up and be strong and courageous for the little girl who was never nurtured and loved. I get to be as kind to her as I would be to any child I see wounded on the street. I get to be patient and compassionate with her while she goes on this journey. And you can do the same thing for yourself.
I'll leave you with this... my homework from that session was to ask myself a couple of questions and one of them was, "Who would I be if Rejection never tried to become my teacher?" I'm in the process of asking myself those questions, but here are some of the answers I have so far:
I would be big and bold and loud! I wouldn't always be polite and I would say what's on my mind.
I would feel confident in my ability to make good decisions and trust they are right for me.
I would enjoy my life more because I wouldn't' always be second guessing and micromanaging myself to try to keep "chaos" from breaking out.
I would allow myself to celebrate and have fun without feeling like I need to earn it - or punishing myself because I think I didn't earn it.
I would become my biggest cheerleader and stop expecting perfection.
I would LOVE my own body and stop rejecting it as an outward symbol of what I feel on the inside.
I would stop avoiding certain people in my daily life because what I'm really avoiding is judgment.
I would let people see me in pain and mess and know that I'm worth being loved just like that...
I would walk into a room and know I belong instead of feeling like I need to prove it.
These are just a few... make your own list... trust me, it's cathartic. As a note, I don't feel this way ALL the time. 5 years ago... I did. It was all day, every day. Now, it's better... less frequent, the triggers are less extreme. The ups and downs are less extreme. And that has happened over the years as I've stopped and allowed myself to grieve. Every time I do, it's like some of the crap I was served finds it's rightful home... OUTSIDE OF ME. I say that to cast HOPE again... You will get better. It gets better every day. And the best way to help yourself is to shine a light on what is really going on and love yourself in that spot. You are NOT ALONE.
Love you, friends. <3