How I feel when I feel rejected

Family gatherings and office situations are the main areas in life where I have to deal with the kind of people I find most difficult, and as Christmas is approaching, I am trying to mentally prepare for this. These people aren’t mean, crazy or unusually aggressive. They are very normal people that most people seem to like, but with me something is just always off, and I cannot avoid them. This stresses me far more than people who are openly hostile or annoying to everyone.

While I would like these people to like me, and get along with them, they have an almost allergic reaction to me and just do not like me whatever I do or say. Since they do not really have a clear reason to dislike me, because I am not behaving aggressively towards them, they do not usually show this openly, but I notice it in details, like how they look at me, how they react to things I say. I wish I would not even notice that they dislike me, but I do.

Nobody stresses me out as much as them. They make me feel like a freak, like something is completely wrong with me. I see myself through their eyes, see somebody unlikable, and I feel so off and unbalanced that I am losing contact with myself, and when I leave the table and look in the mirror I almost do not recognize myself. They make me feel guilty, ashamed and angry.

I recognize that I am the one who overreacts, but this does not really help. Most people probably are able to simply accept that there are some people around them that they do not especially get along with. They just brush it off, cool down their tone of interaction and are in equilibrium again.

I on the other hand immediately assume that I am at fault if a relationship feels weird and uncomfortable, and I have the strong urge to try to fix it, by being extra nice, interested, and in general submissive to them. Has this worked even once? No. And yet I am trying again and again.

These last months, I took a mindfulness class. We especially trained being mindful during social contact. This means feeling your body, your feet, your hands, while in conversation with someone. At first, this felt very weird, really rude, to leave the conversation for a millisecond and feel my feet, but with time, I got used to it and I noticed something changing. When I apply this technique while I am listening to another person, the other person often seems to relax. The connection becomes more natural, and I feel more accepting of myself and the other person. The teacher claimed that this is because we can only really understand, and relate to others through our body, where we mirror, and thus empathize with, what the other person tells us with words and with body language. What surprised me is how the conversation partner seems to notice this change in me almost immediately, although I have the impression that nothing on my outside has changed.

I am usually very tense in social interactions with people who seem to dislike me, and my brain is working very hard. When I feel my body during the interaction, it is impossible for me to also simultaneously listen and think all the typical things I am thinking about while I am in conversation, which is mainly about what the subtext of the conversation is, what the mood of the other person is, and, most of all, what the other person might most want me to say or do. Praise, understanding, supportive words, encouragement. I noticed this very strongly during the exercises in mindful conversation.

Of course, in this way I am not really relating to the other person. Everything the person says and everything I say seems to go through an analytical filter, and because analysis is slow, this often goes wrong, and I say something that in retrospect sounds off and artificial. I dislike my voice in these conversations. I notice that my hands are incredibly tense, and if I have some object nearby that I can secretly destroy with my hands while talking, I will do it.

So what I am going to try this Christmas is mindful conversations even with people in my most difficult category, the category of people that I want to get along with, but that somehow do not seem to like me. This is very hard. I tried it only once until now, and it made me realize my physical discomfort around this person even more, which was incredibly tiring. But maybe it is good if I recognize this strong physical discomfort, maybe that is the right way to finally letting go and accepting that I will not get along with someone for reasons completely out of my control. I did already notice a small difference in how this person reacted towards me, too. Very small, but it was like this person had discovered, on some level, that I am present as a person and not only as a shadow. And again, this is not surprising: when you do not feel your body, you are a shadow.

The thing that I have to learn is not turn into a shadow if I feel rejected by someone, and not frantically try to fix the relationship, but just accept how I feel when I feel rejected, look at it like I would look at an oddly shaped stone that I found in my pocket, instead of fearing it like a landslide that knocks me off my feet.

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5 Responses to How I feel when I feel rejected

  1. ridicuryder says:

    Merry Christmas Zinemin,

    I’m getting more out of mindfulness lately, although I suspect I will still goof around way too much…I do like the ability to emotiolly regulate better.

    As always, your vulnerability and honesty are very admirable

  2. xykademiqz says:

    I related strongly to this post. It seems we have very similar personalities.

    I on the other hand immediately assume that I am at fault if a relationship feels weird and uncomfortable, and I have the strong urge to try to fix it, by being extra nice, interested, and in general submissive to them. Has this worked even once? No. And yet I am trying again and again.

    Oh, man… When I was in college and a few years out, I dated a guy (total around 7 years). This whole time, his sister was unbelievably unpleasant to me. She disliked me from the get-go, and as much as I tried my best to be nice and helpful and attentive, but nothing helped. It was so bad that after every time I met with her, I left with a crippling stomach ache. Her brother, my then boyfriend, always thought I was overreacting, and that I should just shrug it off. But I saw her all the time and she was pretty invasive… Honestly, when boyfriend and I broke up, one of the first thing was “Thank god I don’t have to see his sister ever again.”

    However it is that I act or whatever it is that I do, there are people who immediately take to disliking me. I think it happens considerably more to me than, for instance, to my husband, but the thing is I engage in social interactions whereas my husband avoids them (he really dislikes to socialize), so it probably also has to do with the numbers of people we encounter. Through years of such experiences, I have come to think of myself as someone who ticks people off for no reason. This has been exacerbated by my living in the US and thus not really fitting in, because I will forever have the slight and ambiguous accent that immediately freezes many of the locals off. So now there are a whole bunch of people who add this foreignness demerit to whatever other annoying qualities I have.

    Another example is a very toxic colleague who has been in my way since I was a graduate student (he’s about 8 years ahead of me). I spent a lot of time trying to appease him and make him see the error of his ways. Not any more. Now, I am doing whatever I can to protect myself, and if his work ever crosses my path, I will treat it how he’s treated mine.

    Bottom line is that, like you, I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to kiss up to people who dislike me god knows why (I have a whole bunch of new examples of parents of my eldest kid’s swim team mates; it’s a veritable passive-aggressive-palooza). the kissing-up only makes it worse, they only think you are fake and pathetic on top of whatever reasons they have for hating you to begin with. I am not giving anyone the satisfaction any more. You dislike me? Well, I might well give you a reason. If I feel weirdness, I will ignore you; if you are passive-aggressive, I will be aggressive.

    The thing is, it took me a loooong time to realize is that I am a good and worthy person; I will do anything for the people who are close to me. Now my goal is to minimize aggravation and discomfort that the people who dislike me cause me, so I can have the energy for the people who do like me.

    One good thing about all this: I was able to teach my eldest very early on that there will be people who will dislike him for no reason. It’s not his fault, there’s nothing he can do, he should just try to purge them from his life if possible, if not, minimize interaction. He’s done a beautiful job of internalizing it, as I have heard him say in recent years as he described dealing with certain difficult people.

    • zinemin says:

      Thanks a lot, it feels great to have someone understand what I mean. Some people ARE allergic to me. Maybe you are right that there might be some similarity in our personality that causes this, and probably the urge to appease them does not help. If I try to explain these situations to my boyfriend, he says that I must be imagining it, but I am not; maybe I (and you) just notice these things better than others. I guess part of my problem is that I have a hard time in just writing someone off because they are not nice to me, if otherwise they seem like decent people. Then I just feel like I have to find how to make them understand that I am actually quite normal, and by doing so I feel progressively less normal. 😀 It is really incredible how much energy I have spent on such people in my life. Probably enough to have done some huge project that I would liked to have done, like write a book, instead.

      It is fantastic that you are teaching your son how to deal with these situation. I never had someone explain this to me, and somehow I probably haven’t fully understood it yet, and I am sure this is very much related to my upbringing.

  3. Ecograd says:

    Interesting and honest discussion! I have definitely experienced this also.

    ” I never had someone explain this to me, and somehow I probably haven’t fully understood it yet”
    One thing that helped me is admitting that I do take a dislike to people sometimes, although I like to think for good reasons and it is very rare, I am usually open to people. But it helps for thinking about the mechanism. And to be honest my reasons are probably not as rational as I think they are (I am specifically talking about people who are ‘good people’).

    Every now and then someone will really annoy me, just their very presence, and when they seem to sense it and to try to ‘fix things’ it is very maddening, almost enraging, I think because it feels intrusive, almost aggressive that this person you already don’t like is trying to insert themselves even more into your life and consciousness. After a while it does make me dislike them even more! That makes me feel guilty which means I also feel stressed.

    That could explain why they seem to relax when that is turned off. Because ironically even if the person trying to fix things is making a good case, it will not be successful because of that feeling of intrusiveness.

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