By Valerie Friedlander
I asked an acquaintance for help the other day. I'm working on a large project and I wanted her to know about it so that she could share with others that might be interested. We don't know each other very well but we've had pleasant interactions and I helped her with something small a few weeks ago. This project seemed like something she might be interested in, so I expected at least a friendly response.
I received the exact opposite. She seemed to withdraw and get uncomfortable acting like I thought she was someone she wasn't. She did end up asking a few more questions, including if I was online because that's a great place to connect with people, and that she thinks this project is great for me. Still the interaction totally threw me.
As I walked away, I felt like crying. I thought, "Wow! What is going on that I feel THIS upset? It wasn't a major situation." I checked in with what might be influencing me: I hadn't had breakfast yet, I went to bed too late last night, and I've been immersed in this project so much that I've started feeling a bit lonely. Those are certainly extra influencers but they aren't exactly new. So, why did this minor situation get to me so dramatically?
I had expected enthusiasm and was disappointed. I know all about the danger of expectations. However, it was more than that. My work is so personal to me that I interpreted her no as a rejection of me personally. I thought she liked me and we had a good rapport but now I'm thinking that she disapproves of me. Of course, I felt hurt!
I know I'm not alone in this experience. Many Moms I know and have worked with held back from asking or even looking for support because the feeling of disappointment and rejection is SO powerfully painful. Yet it's critical we ask for what we need. Muscling through, trying to manage alone only leads to suffering not just for Moms but their children who are getting what's left of Mom, instead of the best of Mom.
Here are 3 steps to deal when feeling disappointed and/or rejected:
- Lean into the hurt feelings, allowing them to move through you, rather than get stuck in you. Whatever you're feeling is normal for how you're experiencing a situation. Feelings are information about you, not necessarily about reality. Allow yourself to feel without judging yourself, and then explore the thought that's creating them.
- Consider how you are interpreting the situation and think of three other ways you could interpret it. Most of the time we assume we know much more than we really do. Remember, someone's reaction is never actually about you. It's about them and their experiences, perceptions, and attitude as well as whatever is going on for them in that moment. (In this case, my acquaintance could have responded out of concern that I associated her with an organization she wasn't part of. She could be stressed out and unable to take on anything else no matter how small. She might have had a bad experience with a similar project.)
- Keep moving forward. Just because one or two or however many people said no, does not mean you should stop. Consider what worked and what didn't each time and adjust who and/or how you ask. Grow and learn but don't let a no stop you. Giving up is the only form of failure. Keep asking for what you need. You'll receive it even though it may look differently than you expect.
The other awareness this experience gave me was regarding my kids.
- This is a feeling I want to remember to check for when my kids are melting down or acting out. If I found this emotion powerful, it's quite likely they would be overwhelmed by it too.
- They're trying to learn and understand how the world works and what they can expect from it. As the main person they look to for an understanding of the world, it's important I both model handling disappointment productively (as outlined above) and also be clear with my expectations regarding them. When I don't let them know what to expect, they'll make up their own expectations and be disappointed when I suddenly let them know that's not how it's going to go (Boy have I seen that cause problems!)
Valerie Friedlander is a certified professional coach who helps Moms step out of overwhelm, discover the balance that works for them, and create a vibrant life for themselves and their family. If you are tired of just surviving and are ready to start thriving, learn more at www.theunlimitedmom.com and join the conversation in the Facebook Group: Empowered Motherhood Journey. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.