Rejection

What We Need Are More Women, Fewer Girls.

The contestants on Bachelor I begrudgingly watched The Bachelor last night and shuddered at how quickly girls sized each other up and put each other down. Hoping they'd feel more cool, more amazing, and more chosen in the process.  Ignorant still to the truth that we can only receive what we're willing to give.  Their immaturity served up as entertainment.

Immaturity is sometimes about age-- it simply takes some life experiences before we can have wisdom.

But the difference between a woman and girl isn't in a birth date, but in a state of mind.  I've seen young women love those around them with health and joy, and I've seen older women so practiced over the years in their victim narrative that every event is seen through the filter of perceived rejection. Maturity can go either way.

Undoubtedly, we all behave like girls at time, in different areas of our lives.

  • Maybe it's in your finances-- waiting for someone else to "fix" them, living in denial about the gap between your spending and earning, or mistakenly thinking that buying things improves your worth.
  • Or maybe it's in your romance-- falling for the myth that you need to be chosen by someone to prove your value, repeating patterns you haven't examined, or holding grievances against someone for not living up to your expectations.
  • Or maybe it's your health-- how you're sabotaging what you say is important to you, living with both too much restriction in one area only to not discipline yourself in another, or holding stress/fear around that which we cannot control.
  • Or maybe it's in your spirituality & personal growth-- in your tendency to throw out the metaphoric baby with the bath water, the judgment and cynicism you hold around belief and practices that aren't already yours, or the busy-ness you're not stepping out of to hear your own voice.

But for the purpose of this blog, I want to talk about how I see our immaturity showing up in our friendships.

We are called GIRLfriends, But We Must Still Show up as Women.

We act immature in our friendships when we feel insecure about ourselves.  Which we tend to do more often than most of us care to admit.  Here are some scenarios I repeatedly see:

Fear of Rejection: We go to a ConnectingCircle-- then feel hurt that others didn't follow up with us afterward and conclude either that they are selfish/arrogant/non-committal people OR that we are unlikable/loners/un-interesting. Notice in both cases we are holding attack thoughts toward others or toward ourselves.  We feel rejected.

Girls want others to initiate, choosing to live with the fear of rejection instead of the possibility of connection.  Women know that they have every responsibility to initiate also, choosing to do what they can and not hold the results as an affront to their ultimate worth.

Fear of Not Feeling Good About Ourselves:  With all this language around toxic relationships, we seem to be giving each other more and more permission to cut people out of our lives that don't make us feel good.  The problem with this often is that it's not always because the other person is toxic that we don't feel strong. Sometimes that voice of insecurity can reveal powerful information that indeed we have personal work we want to do. We can feel bad toward someone because they have something we want, something we're jealous about, or something that we think makes us look less than to not have it (i.e. more money, new relationship, a baby, kids she's proud of, career success).

A Girl gets off the phone feeling yucky and mistakenly assumes the other person is the problem she feels bad about herself.  A Woman asks herself how she can cheer for her friends excitement, and use that to help reveal to herself what it says about what she ultimately wants.

Fear of Judgment. On a similar note is our immediate tendency to judge others. Fast and harsh. It comes out in our decision to RSVP for a particular event-- convinced we are good judges of deciding whether we'll like the other people based on a photo! It comes out in meeting each other when we find ourselves judging their behaviors, dress, stories, etc. We have such a hard time just letting people be themselves... and by extension giving ourselves that same gift. Our ego's feel momentarily better about who we are if we can tell ourselves we're better than her.  But that's immaturity at it's height of ignorance.

A Girl judges others so that she feels better.  A Woman accepts others so that she feels better, knowing she can be powerful without devaluing another.

Growing Up.

It's time to grow up.

It's time to show up facing each other as women.  Women who deserve our utmost respect.  Women who have inherent value whether you can immediately see it or not.  Women who know that they will eventually feel about themselves whatever they feel about others.  Women who know that they don't have to be better than thou to be their best.  Women who feel hopeful when they see others succeed.  Women who trust that as they love, so will they be loved.

Unlike age that just happens to you whether you want it or not, maturity comes when invited.  It comes when you hold the possibility that there might be a better way to approach life.  It comes when you admit enough humility to recognize that just because you think something doesn't make it fact.  It comes when you know your own worth enough to not need to see everything as a reaction to you.  It comes when you say that small prayer: "Mature me. Grow me."

We are not competitors.  We are allies. (Even if any of you eventually becomes a contestant on a show where competing to win the affections of one eligible bachelor... even then you need not devalue.)

This 2012, I hope we all hold the courage to grow up.  Facing each other as humans. With dignity. The world needs more Women.

The Mistake That Cost Me a New Friendship

On Saturday morning, a beautiful girl stood on the Spark & Hustle stage.  She was the only speaker of the 3-day conference to wear tennis shoes and jeans.  Her stylish t-shirt proclaimed "Save the Ta-tas." Julia Fikse

Julia Fikse's presentation, which was to challenge the 100+ female business entrepreneurs to consider how their companies could contribute to non-profit causes, began with words of vulnerability.  She applauded the attendees for their courage in coming to a conference, admitting how hard it can be show up in a room full of strangers.  To illustrate that point, she shared an experience from the evening prior that happened to her in the hotel restaurant.

It’s a story I regret to share.

Julia’s Honesty

Upon her late arrival to the conference, she approached a table of three attendees during their dinner to inquire about the conference schedule, since registration had already closed. She wondered what other programming was happening later in the evening and what time the conference started the following morning. They answered her questions. She thanked them and went back to her table for one.

What they didn’t know, and what she didn’t say until the following morning, was how much she had wished those three women had invited her to dinner.  In that moment of not being included, she joked about feeling like she was back in junior high school days with the sting of wanting to fit in.

My Honesty

The story obviously touched me.  Indeed, two days before, in speaking at the same conference, I had shared similar words. Hoping to normalize the experience for all attendees, I acknowledged the courage it takes to come to conferences where we always wonder if we'll fit in. The two of us were the two speakers to acknowledge that fear publicly.

That's what makes this next ironic sentence hard to write:  I was one of those three women at that table that triggered her feeling of rejection.

Three Reminders I Take Away

Ugh!  I feel embarrassed to admit it.  And certainly don't have to, but obviously feel that the learning potential of the moment outweighs my own regret.

  1. It’s Always Better to Give Her the Option. After she returned to her table, the question was asked at ours: "Should we invite her to eat with us?"  We turned around to look for her and saw that she had a glass of wine in front of her and that she was scribbling in a notebook.  We concluded "She's working on her talk for tomorrow morning" and decided to not interrupt her.  We assumed that we’d be a distraction or that she wouldn’t be interested. In hindsight, what would have been the harm in us asking her anyway? How ironic that she wanted to eat with us and we wanted it too—and yet it didn’t happen for lack of asking.
  2. Feeling Rejected is Rarely About Us. You need to know—Julia seems like one incredible woman. The kind of person I would definitely want as a friend.  I mean, anyone who is so passionate about a cause that she’s willing to sign over half her paycheck to making a difference; and do so in a humorous and fun way—I’d count myself lucky to know her.  So here is a clear example that while she felt the rejection, I can assure you, being the other person, that it was nothing about her.  It was our own distractions and assumptions that prevented the moment.  I know what it’s like on the other side, taking it personal, so it’s good to have reminders that our feeling of rejection is rarely about us.
  3. Defaulting to Yes! Akin to walking by a brand promoter on the street, only to realize I don't even know what I just refused, I realize that sometimes my default response pushes me to say no before I even evaluate the option. It's often only after passing the moment that I realize I never even asked what they were giving away. We say no so easily. I, in essence, said no to someone I very much wish I had said yes to.  My default needs to be yes.  My default needs to be looking for people to meet.  My default needs to remind me to have eyes to see the potential around me. I wonder how many of us miss moments with new friends for lack of simply not jumping on the moment?

The truth is that we all want to be accepted.  No one wants to risk feeling rejected.  We often think that it's the shy-est, most vulnerable in the room that we need to be sensitive to, when in fact it's also the well-known speaker who is out saving the world and running an impressive company.  No matter who we are, we want to be included.

Julia, I am so sorry.  It is my loss.  You are the kind of woman I want to know.  I'd be honored to take you to dinner the next time you're in San Francisco or I'm in L.A. Or, should we ever find ourselves in a hotel restaurant again-- please know, you are most welcome at my table.  :)

Pushing Through Nerves to Meet People

Trying to fall asleep last Thursday night, I felt like a school-age girl on the eve of a new school year.  Intimidated. Excited. Fearful. Hopeful. Insecure. Anxious. The cause of my tossing-and-turning? A three-day conference starting the next morning where I knew no one.

On the one hand, its kinda silly to feel that pressure.  I mean, it wasn't like I was the keynote presenter or anything!  All I had to do was show up, sit in workshops and learn. Nonetheless, I felt the anxiety of possibly feeling left out because I didn't know anyone.

On the other hand, those insecurities make perfect sense. Walking into any group, crowd or community where you're not sure you'll fit in is the perfect backdrop for our greatest fear: rejection.  We all want to feel chosen, to feel likable, to feel known and to feel like we belong.  To not know if those needs will be fulfilled, it's normal to feel hesitation.

And you've got to know that I am a confident extrovert who likes people. And more often than not, they like me back.  Nevertheless, I felt nervous. So I can only imagine what it must feel like for those who are shy, who aren't practiced in meaningful conversations, who are drained by interaction, or have felt previous rejection or ostracism.  It's safe to say, we all know the insecurity when we don't yet know if we belong.

Why the Fear is Important

I jokingly said to my husband "Do I have to go?"

To which he replied "No, you don't.  But is it important to you to go?"

And I knew it was.  I wouldn't have signed up otherwise.

In fact, I'd argue that we feel nervous because it does matter to us.  The fact that you feel the fear is a sign that you want something.  The fear serves to remind us that we want what is on the other side. The fear inspires us to recognize that what we're stepping into is indeed significant.

  • We feel fear before a date because we value the possibility of love.
  • We feel fear before a job interview because we value the possibility of finding a place to contribute our skills.
  • We feel fear before a business risk because we value the possibility of success.
  • And, in our cases, it would be natural to feel fear before meeting new friends because we value the possibility of participating in consequential friendships.

An Invitation to Push Through the Nerves

Many of you, my readers, are currently trying to foster more friendships which means there will be quite a few strangers and awkward conversations on the road ahead.

I invite you to not allow fear to prevent you from stepping into what you crave.  We can't wait until the fear subsides to move forward, as it never will.  Courage isn't the absence of fear but the awareness that something else matters more than the fear. And friendship should be one of those things.

Take the risk! Show up for a ConnectingCircle, attend a Speed-Friending event, or simply initiate contact with a woman you want to get to know better.

I'm not saying it's easy.  I'm little Ms. Outgoing who frequently feels shy and uncertain about walking into groups of strangers.  Fear aside, I made a new friend and looked forward to seeing her the following morning for Day Two.

May you feel inspired knowing that the following night when I went to bed, there was no tossing and turning. Only excitement to get to know her more....

Our Greatest Fear: Rejection

A few nights ago I attended a lecture by Rabbi Harold Kushner, who's probably most well known for his best-seller "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" but whose subject this evening was his most recent book release: "Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World." The introduction caught my attention when it was said that more people have died of fear caused by 9/11 and the idea of terrorism after the fact (anxiety produced complications and deaths) than the number of lives actually lost by the events that day. Wow.

Our Greatest Fear: Rejection Interestingly, terrorism is not our greatest fear. Nor is the economic recession. Nor is it the reality of aging or the thought of someday dying. We hear a lot of about those things; the news is consumed with those subjects. But, truth be told, the most paralyzing fear we experience is rejection.

Sitting in that auditorium, that observation resonated. How much of my life choices are impacted by that fear? Whether it's doing something to try to get someone to like me or not doing something to avoid someone not liking me. Whether it's not trying for the promotion, the new job, the business idea development or the sale for risk of failure or pursuing them only to try to gain approval. Whether it's acting uninterested when I really am. Or acting interested when I'm really not. How much of our lives are influenced by the desire to be accepted or the desire to avoid rejection?

"Whether it's losing a job or being rejected in a failed romance, it can pull the rug out from under peoples' sense of identity," says Kushner. Indeed. I've been through a divorce. I know it takes a while to rebuild the self-confidence, to hold the belief that someone else could possibly someday like me. And that, coming from someone who considers herself quite self-confident! I can only imagine how difficult it would be to take risks if you've had multiple experiences of rejection that you had taken personally or if you were raised not ever experiencing real acceptance.

How our Fear Impacts our Forming Friendships I came home from that lecture thinking about how important GirlFriendCircles.com can be in this world-- an opportunity for people to connect and build a sense of belonging. Surrounding themselves with friends that remind them of their acceptance.

But on the reverse side, I thought about how hard it can also be to actually take steps to creating that community if one's greatest fear is rejection. It's a double-edge sword. We feel lonely and crave connectedness and yet can't pursue it because we fear no one will actually like us. And so we stay lonely. We hunger for acceptance, but avoid giving people that opportunity.

In our GirlFriendCircles community, there are hundreds of women who have signed up and paid and yet, haven't attended their first ConnectingCircle where they can actually meet friends. For some it comes down to scheduling, but for many it comes down to fear. We wanted friends enough to sign up, but when it comes to actually putting ourselves out there, the discomfort is too great. And so we just put it off.

And for some, we have gone to one or two events, met a few people and used our experience to confirm our fears. Someone didn't write back so instead of concluding that it might be her issue (she's flaky, her spam filter got it) we conclude that it's our issue: no one likes us. And we give up.

Or, worst, we assume someone is going to reject us because we're different and so we self-reject and project it onto them. This happens all the time. We assume since none of them have kids and we do that they wouldn't want to be our friend. Or that because they're older that they probably think I'm too young. Or she's more stylish, has more money, seems more popular, looks more beautiful, etc. so therefore.... you get the idea.

How does fear of rejection impact you in your journey of making friends?

Overcoming Fear For Kushner, conquering fear requires a combination of "rational awareness of potential consequences complemented by the willingness to reach out to family, friends and community for help."

That makes sense to me when the fear is, say, a natural disaster. But it's a tough formula if our greatest fear is rejection. For what do you do if the very medicine (reaching out to friends) is also your greatest fear?

And how I wish I had an easy answer to this. I do not. I only know that in my line of work, I often see people choose the fear of loneliness over the fear of risking rejection. The one thing we crave-- to be accepted-- sometimes isn't a strong enough desire to push us past the risk. And it breaks my heart.

All I can do is try to create a community where you know it's safe to try. Where you are reminded that no matter how wonderful of a person you are, there are simply going to be times where, to no fault of your own, you need more friends. Where you are surrounded by other women who also value friendship and are willing to risk for it. Where you have permission to take your time and do it in your own way. Where you know it's okay that you don't connect with everyone, nor does everyone need to connect with you-- that doesn't speak less of either, it simply acknowledges that the fit wasn't there and it doesn't have to be anyone's fault.

And perhaps that's all we can do-- engage in the fear together, as a community, so no one goes it alone. "If you can't solve the problem by yourself, you do a worse job when you're afraid," Kusher said. "You make things harder if you try to do it alone."

For if we can engage in relationships even in our fear. (Wasn't it Mark Twain who said courage isn't the absence of fear but rather valuing something else as greater than the fear?) Then, we're that much stronger against any terrorist, disease or crisis. And together, there is so much courage we can offer this world.

What is one step you can take today to pursue what's important to you regardless of your insecurities and fears?