I am working my way towards writing on the topic of conflict. Each time I sit and think about it I find there are so many layers. Last week I talked about inner conflict. This week I want to talk about a big challenge for many of us, the dreaded, fear of rejection. It's a barrier to speaking truthfully and risking conflict.
What is your earliest memory of being afraid of rejection? I remember mine vividly. I was around 9 years old. I was in the school library. I was one of those kids who loved the library. I would choose a book, find a quiet spot to sit between the shelves and escape into an imaginary world. (I haven’t changed that much although I prefer a comfy chair now.) The ‘cool’ kids also liked to find places in the library to hang out. But they weren't there to read. They were doing cool kids' things.
So, there I was on one side of the shelf when the king of the cool kids, Gary M. and his posse settled on the other side. I could hear their conversation and Gary was telling ‘Newfie’ jokes. The kids were laughing hysterically about the stupid Newfoundlanders. I was raised in an era where people weren’t concerned with being politically correct. In my home, racial jokes were often told. This time though I was the subject of one of those jokes. My dad was from Newfoundland and I instantly became afraid that if the kids found out that my dad was a Newfie I would be ridiculed and rejected. I became very sensitive to both racial jokes AND I started to hide that my dad was from Newfoundland. It wasn’t like the kids could tell by looking at me.
Not only was I part ‘Newfie’ I had other deep-rooted insecurities. I was sexually abused growing up and I felt flawed as a result. I was the middle child in an unstable home. I didn’t really ever feel like I fit in - at home or at school. In fact, I didn’t even try to fit in, I went with the tactic of just blending in, being invisible, not being noticed. It felt safer. If no one noticed me I could avoid bad things.
And then puberty hit. And along with all those hormones came a desire to be noticed by boys. It was a lethal combination. I worked very hard to be one of the popular kids. I decided security would be found socially in being part of the 'in-group.' I had a hot boyfriend. I had the cool friends. I made sure I wore the right clothes. I did all the things to make sure I felt secure socially. At the root of it all, I was hoping to be liked and that led to becoming a champion people-pleaser.
We had a dinner party this week and enjoyed some good conversation that touched on group dynamics and the fear that can come along in tight-knit communities (work teams, church, circles of friends) of saying something that others might not agree with or embrace. So many of us, especially women, have had similar stories. We are afraid of rejection. We are afraid of being on the outside. We want to be liked. And the way we ensure that we are liked is by silence. We stop speaking up. We don’t speak our truth. We don’t say what needs to be said because we fear what will happen.
Thankfully the grown-up version of puberty happens aka perimenopause /menopause. We start to hear the rumblings in our soul. We start to listen to what is being said in the deep places. We find safe places to give voice to our questions. And then we begin to speak our truth. It’s an awakening.
I’m starting a small group coaching program in April. I plan to work with six women to walk through this journey of hearing, listening, voicing, and speaking. Email me if you are interested and I’ll give you the details. I’m just in the planning stages right now. Some of the topics we will explore will be discernment, decision-making, boundaries and people-pleasing. I want to create a safe place for you to share your story, find a supportive community and discover the confidence to speak truthfully.
Take that Gary M.