There’s nothing worse than rejection. We’ve all experienced it and if we’re honest, most of us do our best to avoid it. Just hearing the word conjures up all those first day of school butterflies and the sheer panic of having no one to sit with at lunch. And for all you gold star students like me, you know good and well not to raise your hand if you have even the slightest doubt that your answer is correct. I loathe myself for it, but it’s a hard habit to break.
If we can find the nerve to admit it, most of us have a running list of things we wish could do, if we just had enough nerve to fail. I don’t know about ya’ll, but I have spent the majority of my life plotting out the safest and most risk-adverse paths to success. I haven’t had to fail much, but I’m just starting to see the possibilities I’ve been missing and I’m flooded with regret for all the things I never tried.
My most vivid rejection memory goes back to 5th grade. Somehow, I was conned into running for student council president because no one would run against the sole candidate. Since a fascist student government wasn’t cool, in the spirit of democracy, I decided to take one for the team. I won’t bore you with dramatic details because I’m sure you can guess how this story ends: I lost and vowed never to run for office again. Ever.
When I see my daughter with her peers, it’s a twilight zone experience. How is it possible to watch your childhood on replay? It’s creepy to see her falling into the same traps: refusing to try anything she can’t do perfectly the first time, living in fear of not acing a test, and constantly worrying about people “looking” at her. Talk about staring in a mirror–yikes.
Last week, I let my nine-year-old spend 10 hours peddling rainbow poop with me at a wholesale mart. I didn’t think she’d make it, but she never complained. I, on the other hand, work myself into a nervous tizzy every time I step through the doors and consider crapping my pants whenever I have to pitch my product. As miserable as these sales experiences always begin, I am always surprised by the joy I feel by the end of the day.
Here’s the thing about rejection: it always stinks, but when you force yourself to do it over and over, it loses its sting. In case you didn’t notice, that logic makes no sense. Why would anyone subject themselves to misery, knowing that it’s going to be terrible every time? Well, it’s like getting your legs waxed–the first couple strips hurt like heck, but after a while, your skin starts to numb and it ain’t so bad. And if you stick it out, the hot wax even starts to feel good. By the time it’s over, you get the reward of baby soft skin for at least 10-14 days, but you have to start all over again a month later.
Rejection is a vicious cycle of pain, numbness, and joy, but how do you explain that to a child? Well, you can’t. The only way to teach kids about the joy that can follow rejection is to show them.
Do I enjoy it when people look at me like I have two heads when I offer them a piece of rainbow poop? Heck no, but by the end of the day, I have to say it’s quite amusing. I’m slowly starting to realize that as a parent I have a responsibility to put myself out there so my kids can watch me get rejected and then see me bounce right back again. It doesn’t mean that I have to hide all my frustrations, but it does require that I watch my tongue and not murmur all those dirty words under my breath.
The best part of selling crap is that you don’t have to take the rejection personally and it’s cheap entertainment. For a while, Penelope stood behind me painfully pointing out all the crazy looks people gave me. But after an hour or so, she was in the aisles handing out poop and giggling when she got the same crazy looks. Haters gonna hate, yo.
Let’s not pretend that putting yourself out there is all hunky-dory, because the truth is it stinks. Instead, let’s all put on our big girl panties and take one for the team because the greatest lesson we can teach our children is how to handle rejection. If they can make it past the initial pain, they’ll find that there’s a period of grace where it doesn’t hurt quite so bad. And if they can hang on just a bit longer, they too can experience the joy that comes when you just don’t give a crap anymore.
Now, go! Make a fool of yourself, get knocked down, and when you get back up, just laugh and tell those haters to eat crap. Literally.