Cambrian: Slice of Life

Feeling rejected? Sometimes, it's not all about you

Kathe Tanner
Kathe Tanner

We’ve all experienced the hurt and pain of rejection, of being left out, ignored.

The big rejections are the worst: You’re fired. Your spouse wants a divorce. A relative betrays you, or a friend mocks you in a public way and then abandons you.

A daily-variety rejection, however, is like a paper cut to the soul, just one more slash that sends your good mood plummeting and your self-esteem into the dumpster. Again.

It takes time to pull yourself up by your mental bootstraps after you’ve been rejected. But we want those feelings to go away now, because we hope that then, it won’t hurt so much.

Doesn’t work. I guess you can’t attack knee-jerk emotions with logic.

Recently, a friend posted one of those deep-thinker-type statements on Facebook, and it really hit home.

As reported on, love can indeed hurt, and there are many different kinds of broken hearts (for more, go to

For instance, according to an article, studies and tests show that “being ignored causes the same chemical reaction in the brain as experiencing a physical injury.”

We’ve all been rejected, aka ignored, many, many, many times. In our stiff-upper-lip, John-Wayne world, we’re supposed to deal with it and bounce back.

Not so fast, pardner. It may happen that way on the big screen, but in the movie scripts we each live every day? Not so much.

And it’s harder for some of us than others. Young people not only star in their own life movies, a lot of them don’t yet realize that other people’s movies even exist.

So apparently, it can hurt them extra hard when a toddler finds himself with no playmates at day school, or a grammar schooler is the last one selected for the tetherball team, or a middle-school girl isn’t asked to dance, or a high-schooler is shunned for no obvious reason, or an away-from-home-for-the-first-time college student never has a date.

As commonplace as those hurts are, they never really go away. We can shove them under the emotional rug, but when something in your life shakes that rug out again, the pain can slingshot back to the forefront, at least for a while.

Thinking about certain events in my life can still bring tears to my eyes, even though they happened decades ago and, if life was fair, time should have erased them from my memory bank.

When those thoughts surface — unbidden and seemingly of their own volition — I know something related is going on in my life. Something I need to identify and deal with. Even when it’s something I’ve done to myself. Or maybe, especially then.

Recently, I chose to not attend an out-of-town function at which some honors were being doled out. I had good, solid reasons for not being there, but I could have gone. I didn’t.

Later, when I learned I was one of the honorees, I found myself feeling like the high-school girl who’s home in her jammies on a Saturday night — just me, the TV, the popcorn and the Häagen Dazs. Everybody was having fun but me.

If my lower lip had been extended out any further, I could have used it as a knick-knack shelf. Except it was quivering.

About a month later, I learned that a very significant person in my life is moving on. While I’m delighted about his new opportunities and challenges, the little girl in me feels abandoned.

When I started brooding about other times when I’ve felt (or was) abandoned, I metaphorically “slapped myself upside the head,” as my Texan-trained stepfather used to say.

My friend is the star of his own life movie, I lectured myself. I’m just a bit player.

I’m not being ignored. I’m not being abandoned. His decision had nothing to do with me. He’s not vanishing. He’s simply moving up and moving on. As he should.

Challenges are part of living, and so are the uncertainties that go with those changes. That’s how we grow. Change is good.

Repeat after me.

These days, I’m not a wallflower waiting for a dance, and people actually do want me to join the tetherball teams of life.

Now all I have to do is persuade myself.