This rejection hurts more than anything else in the world
The “unkindest cut of all:”
The most heartless, demoralizing, or treacherous action, remark, or outcome possible.
If’ you’re a fan of the movie Seabiscuit, and not necessarily Shakespeare, you might recall this line. It was delivered by Tobey Maguire, who plays jockey Red Pollard. In the movie, Pollard says this when, after a terrible accident, he is replaced by his good friend and competitor on Seabiscuit, George Woolf, who was considered the greatest jockey of his time. Pollard, a child of the Depression, was the one who had labored to bring Seabiscuit, the greatest racehorse of his time, to his many wins. Pollard knew that he’d been knifed in the back by the owner, his friend, and the world in general.
The line is of course famously uttered by Ceasar, when he realizes his best friend Brutus is behind the plot to take his life. Made immortal by Shakespeare, this sentiment speaks to the unspeakable: the treachery of someone we held dearest, felt we could trust the most.
My beloved friend Sonja told me once that the thing she fears most is rejection.
Join the club. We are wired to seek approval, for it’s a survival technique. If you’re part of a small tribe and you are selfish, inconsiderate, unpredictable, unkind, you’re likely to get kicked out after a few warnings.
The survival of a tribe, a country, a species, a world depends on certain proscribed behaviors which keep the community safe.
Now, as tempting as it might be to make some sweeping comments about Trumpers, Covidiots and the like (do I need to? NO. Thank you), this isn’t that article. This is a lot closer to home.
Lemme go large here for a sec. Social media is the world’s great and ugly petri dish for experimentation, especially as it relates to rejection. Someone doesn’t like our story, doesn’t clap, doesn’t respond. We get our emotional tightey-whiteys in a twist, I’ve done it, and make it all about ME. When in truth, the folks on the other end are busy with their own lives, and are all about THEMSELVES. The opportunities to feel slighted, as it were, ignored or disrespected are multiplied by the millions. Billions.
Wanna see a local example? Read all the pissed-off articles from those folks who didn’t get the Medium bonus. WAAAAAAH. Or, nobody reads their stories. WAAAAAAAH.
I get it. It hurts. But still, this isn’t about that.
This is about not giving enough of a flying crap about yourself that you take care of yourself. Every day, all day, your entire life. The most obvious basics: decent food, regular movement, good friends, a purpose in life. Those basics. For starters.
Oh shit here it comes.
From the article:
Of course, emotional pain is only one of the ways rejections impact our well-being. Rejections also damage our mood and our self-esteem, they elicit swells of anger and aggression, and they destabilize our need to “belong.”
Unfortunately, the greatest damage rejection causes is usually self-inflicted. Indeed, our natural response to being dumped by a dating partner or getting picked last for a team is not just to lick our wounds but to become intensely self-critical. We call ourselves names, lament our shortcomings, and feel disgusted with ourselves. In other words, just when our self-esteem is hurting most, we go and damage it even further. Doing so is emotionally unhealthy and psychologically self-destructive yet every single one of us has done it at one time or another. (author bolded)
If I may point out, some of us have made a lifetime habit of self-hatred and self-rejection. All we have to do is look in the mirror, see if we can hold our own gaze, and explore the reactions which rise.
If you feel revulsion, hate the sight of your aging face or overweight body, can’t find a single thing to like about your visage, you’re in good company. I’ve been there. Nearly cost me my life. Has cost a great many folks their lives. Is right now costing folks their lives.
That, Dear Reader, is the unkindest cut of all.
Self-rejection, self-hate. Shame. It’s how we end up wasting an entire life if we’re not careful.
Advertisers make huge use of this to sell their shit. The Wellness Industrial Complex, the Weight Management business, the Fitness Industry, Fashion, Plastic Surgery, Makeup. I could go on. As I have most certainly allowed all these industries to strip me of what little wealth I might have had over the years, my hand is WAY up here, so I am calling myself out as much as I am calling out the bullshit visited upon all of us.
To that, if I may call this crap out:
Self-revulsion is the single fastest way to sell a Perfect Abs program for $9.99. Or a detox tea, otherwise known as a laxative. Or or or or or.
Self-hate is Very Big Business.
I just have to share one item from the above story:
If I may. We weren’t always so gullible. There’s a very interesting history to how we came to be led around by our collective nose rings. In 2002, British writer Adam Curtis produced a BBC documentary, The Century of the Self. This stunning history of PR and how today’s ad industry got its start, and how mind manipulation has morphed into what we have today (keep in mind that in the last twenty years, Silicon Valley, the Alt Right/Left and White Supremacy et. al. have elevated it to High Art) will force you to rethink every single purchase you ever made. From the Wikipedia article:
Where once the political process was about engaging people’s rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a group, Stuart Ewen, a historian of public relations, argues that politicians now appeal to primitive impulses that have little bearing on issues outside the narrow self-interests of a consumer society.
The words of Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in 1927, are cited: “We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. […] Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.” (author bolded)
For a walk through on a bit of history in this department please see:
The ad industry came after women first, of course, addressing our body odors, bad breath. Oh, and let’s not forget our girl parts, the natural smells of which offend, and need to smell more like strawberries. I felt horrible guilt for years and years about how my body smelled naturally, and ended up hurting my delicate tissues as a child scrubbing my girl parts with Tide. TIDE, because my mother said that sexual odors were offensive.
Yah, really? And before the products, what, we were social outcasts?
The world population numbers beg to differ. The way we smell is all about pheromones, and it hasn’t stopped men from raping us from the beginning of time. So fuck your strawberry vaginal cleanser.
Shame is the single best manipulator known to man, used with great effect by organized religion, the Greatest Sideshow on Earth, perpetrated so often by men and women whose shameful, brutal, hateful, abusive and predatory behavior around children boggles the mind. But kindly don’t get me started.
We have a greater love affair with shame and self-revulsion than we do with the body and the life we were given. And we know it. And hate ourselves for it, which deepens the shame.
In fact, we shame people for loving their bodies as they are. We heap shame on Lizzo or anyone else who has the balls to show up loud and proud as they were made. We shame folks for being Black or Brown or short or wide or aged. We LOVE to shame others because we ourselves are writhing in the hot oil of self-revulsion.
HOW. DARE. YOU.
Then we are always ISO of a savior, be it a religious figure, Charles Manson, Trump, The Perfect Exercise Program, the Six Ways to Hack Your Way to A Billion Dollars on Medium, Promise Keepers. Shall I go on? Someone to fix us or forgive us the sin of being human and imperfect.
As I stare down the last seventeen months of my sixties, gear up for yet another trip abroad (YAAAAAAY) leap into new and challenging exercise programs and push harder to be as much in life as I possibly can, I am subjected to shaming comments from fellow Medium writers or commenters. Those friendly assholes over on Newsbreak love to accuse me of photo-shopping my head onto someone else’s body. Oh, I could go on.
How dare you. How dare you. Who the hell do you think you are?
That’s always the underlying message. Implicit rejection. You need to be X, say X, control yourself, shut the fuck up, lose weight, be White, blah blah, SHAME ON YOU.
None of this has anything to do with me and everything to do with the bitter watches of the night (yes I stole that from Lord of the Rings) wherein they are staring into their own souls and don’t much like or respect what they see.
I’ve been there. But I am not the author of that self-hate. We have allowed ourselves to be taught that we deserve rejection. That is birthed inside me. Inside you. You have to nurture it, feed it, grow it for it to take over your inner world like evil kudzu.
If I reject myself, my intrinsic, sacred value, then I am a puppet for any sales pitch that comes along.
See: America in 2021.
From Boomers who heap shame on Milliennials for being lazy to society for heaping shame on people of size to, I dunno, pick your poison. The more shame and guilt and revulsion I allow others to make me feel, the more desperately I need to heap that shit onto others. Online, in person. Anything to get it off me.
Religion is the single best weaponizer of shame as social control.
My favorite bullshit hymn line?
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
Forgive me, but go fuck yourself.
If you and I are convinced we are wretches, if you and I believe, as the Calvinists did, that by simply being born we are intrinsically evil, then we are made to be manipulated. Just look around and see how well that works for the folks raking in the money from all the self-hate, and the products we buy and weapons we use to express that self-hate.
Call me crazy. Call me stupid. Call me off my rocker. You go right ahead.
But call me canny as fuck.
For people who love and honor themselves first and foremost do not abuse and hate others. People who respect themselves and accept the body and conditions that they have do not stockpile weapons, shoot their neighbors and heap hate onto unsuspecting folks online. People who possess the quiet confidence that they are indeed enough as they are, and are doing the best they can with what they have, and are committed to spiritual and emotional development above and beyond whatever mindless spot-reducing program might help them fit into that size two skirt, well. Need I say more?
If you want to break free, you must think free. You must choose to educate yourself and learn to make different decisions about who gets to rent space in your head, as the saying goes. You will be shamed for it. To that, with a nod to this morning’s delivery from Maria Popova’s Brainpickings, from the great John Coltrane:
Innovators always seek to revitalize, extend and reconstruct the status quo in their given fields, wherever it is needed. Quite often they are the rejects, outcasts, sub-citizens, etc. of the very societies to which they bring so much sustenance. Often they are people who endure great personal tragedy in their lives. Whatever the case, whether accepted or rejected, rich or poor, they are forever guided by that great and eternal constant — the creative urge. (author bolded)
You and I, if we are bound by self-revulsion and shame, can create little. We are forever worried about rejection. Yet, ultimately, if I do not reject myself, my body, my brain, my life, my being, then there is nothing you or anyone else can say or do which will undermine that unwavering faith. It does not come easily in this society. That is why it has become even more important that we explore how to love the self first. And why it is so very challenging.
I’ve not been good at it either. However, the older I get, the less rejection matters. The less I give a flying shit that some Newsbreak asswipe accuse me of posting fake photos. Or whatever. Increasingly I see that as little more than a statement of their self-hate, and nothing about me at all.
Kindly, as a group that doesn’t make them less dangerous (see mass shooting statistics for 2021, if you are in doubt) but it makes ME less susceptible to the pain of rejection from others. I do not need their approval. Neither do you.
This article, quoted above, offers a perfectly lovely and simple list of what to do in order to build confidence and self-esteem. Much of it has to do with social interaction. I would emphasize here that the more you offer validation to others, the better you feel. The more compliments you give, the more kindness you demonstrate, the bigger a person you are in your own eyes. That is how you stem the tide. You give what you most desperately want for yourself.
Works, too. The way I see it, and I am as subject to this as anyone, I can choose to swim in the social media sewage or I can climb out of it. I can be better. Every time I exercise that choice I reinforce the feeling that I am worth loving.
I am. You are. We are all worth loving. When we act in alignment with our highest self regard, we know we are worth loving.
That is how we heal the unkindest cuts of all.
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