In previous articles, I discussed the therapeutic approach I practice and tools I use to help my clients attain well-being. Now, I will share the details of where I was in my life when I made the choice to become a relationship therapist. Events in my personal life had made it difficult for me to believe in my self-worth as a child and later, as an adult. By sharing my experience, I wish to give you hope during any difficulties you may be experiencing. I wish to inspire you to self-work so that you will truly believe better days are ahead.
Today, I will discuss a subject that affects everyone: the feeling of rejection. We all experience rejection in varying degrees, such as not being accepted into a program of study or not being selected for a job. A break-up, a dismissal, not receiving an invitation to a friend’s event, etc., can be experienced as rejection, which is a very normal feeling. However, when this feeling is present in the majority of your relationships and leads to isolation, behaviour of rejection, avoidance and withdrawal in relationships, it becomes a dysfunction. This was my experience for many years. The first and amongst my most intense memories of rejection, was experienced in my relationship with my father.
I would like to mention that my father is a man of great significance in my life. He taught me values which continue to serve me in my adult life, including the value of work, appreciation of nature, respect for material items as well as the importance of nutrition and physical activity in caring for the body. I am deeply appreciative of him for these lessons, which are resources I keep within me. They are a source of strength which I draw upon and serve as points of reference when life is turbulent.
My father, however, is a very intense and assertive man. As a child, I was hypersensitive, shy and reserved. I was terrified by the idea of being judged by him. To protect myself from this feeling, I became submissive and invisible. Unfortunately, my behavior did not protect me from experiencing rejection and feeling that as a girl, I was worthless in his eyes. The following example demonstrates this dynamic.
I was about seven years old when my father, who was in the basement dressing to go outside and take care of the animals, yelled for my brother to come downstairs and get dressed. My brother did not cooperate because he did not want to go. They began yelling at each other. I could hear them from the second floor. I ran downstairs and enthusiastically told my father, “I will go care for the animals, I want to go with you, Dad!” My father, with his arm outstretched and his finger pointing at me, responded very directly “You go help your mother, you have some cleaning to do.” I froze. I felt rejected. Swallowing my emotions and my words, I submissively obeyed my father’s order. I went to clean the sink.
My silent, inner dialogue rejected my father. I deprived myself of the possibility of ever feeling loved, seen or important to him. Furthermore, I became self-critical and developed a thought pattern whereby I repeatedly told myself that I had no value and did not deserve to be loved. I was, after all, only a girl!
Feeling judged and rejected by my father, I in turn continuously judged and rejected myself which caused great inner sufferance of devaluation.
This dynamic continued throughout my childhood and adolescence. I sought to be seen and valued by my father. His reaction had triggered a feeling of rejection which I defended against by rejecting him. Fundamentally however, the biggest rejection was one I inflicted upon myself by continually devaluing myself as a woman and as a person. I’ve had to do immense inner work to build self-love on a relational level.
Through the process of inner-work I have learned that I am a loving, sensitive, emotional, intuitive, warm, caring, gentle and generous woman. For a long time, I believed that in order to be loved by my father, I had to be strong, rational, tough and insensitive. I also believed that to be loved by my father, I had to be a man. Away from my father’s gaze, I was able to accept myself as a woman which in turn gave me the freedom to accept my passion for human relationships. This is why I made the decision to attend over 3,000 hours of training at the Centre de Relation d’Aide de Montreal to become an accredited therapist, helping adults, couples/dyads and families. My training has also allowed me to become a consultant for business owners and administrators.
By accepting and taking responsibility for looking after my needs through my own actions, I have learned to see myself as the worthy being that I am and to allow myself to be seen by others.
I still experience rejection from time to time. The tendency to devalue myself as a woman remains a pitfall when certain triggers arise. Over time however, these very painful moments are more and more fleeting. I have learned how to manage these moments. By reacting to this inner wound with compassion rather than rejecting myself, I am able to be authentic in my relationships. Even the relationship with my father is continually improving.
I would now like to share a moment with my father which is particularly heart-warming and demonstrates how much our relationship has improved.
While visiting my parents at their home, I left them a photo album of a trip with my sons and nieces to Spain. The next day I received a text message from my father. He had attached a photo of me to the message which said: “A photo of a young woman for whom anything is possible and for whom my eyes mist’’, followed by a heart emoji. Reading this message enveloped me with such love. Ironically, a few hours later, I was overwhelmed by a flood of emotions and I began to cry over all the suffering that the feelings of rejection and devalue had caused. Typically I would have resisted these emotions by judging them, or turned to anger against my father. That day however, I decided to do otherwise. First by opening my heart to my past suffering and releasing it, I was able to embrace the gift of love I had just received. I felt seen and valued as a woman by my father. I replied to his message, “Wow! Thank you so much for your kind words (smiley emoji). Your message really warmed my heart. I love you.”. He then replied “The photos are beautiful, but this one shows the young woman you have become, well done, XX”. To which I replied, “Double Wow! These are huge gifts you are giving me. I feel loved, recognized and empowered in my self-confidence. Thank you a thousand times!’’. At that very moment, I felt overwhelmed and proud of the woman I am in the relationship with my father!
This is only one of the examples which demonstrates the transformation from feeling rejected to loving oneself. I have experienced many such moments and hope to experience many more. My ability to recognize my worth as a person and as a woman will likely always be a vulnerable issue for me. Nevertheless, every time I allow myself to experience the wound, I also gain the ability to recover and heal. The most beautiful gift in all this is the love I’ve learned to have for myself. More and more I truly feel that I am worthy as a woman and deserving of love.
Perhaps you recognised yourself during moments of this article? If so, I truly wish it has given you hope that it is possible to transform the relationship issues which imprison you in sufferance of rejection and inhibit you from loving yourself. Above all, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you no longer need to suffer in isolation and silence. It is normal to be afraid of reliving rejection, pain or suffering. I suggest that you take one small step at a time. To take one step, it would suffice to call an old friend, smile at someone passing by while out on a walk or to say hello to a neighbour. If you feel the need, you can also ask a relationship specialist to accompany you in this process.
My next article will focus on assertiveness.