When I was in second grade, I was in a clique. (Part of my on going quest to be considered cool).
We called ourselves the Pink Coat Detective Agency – although we didn’t do much detective work that I can remember.
The problem with being in a gang…I mean clique…is that you aren’t supposed to fraternize too much with non-members – in case you let slip a secret and have to go sleep with the fishes during naptime. I like to live dangerously though, and if I had one weakness at that age it was kindness (not anymore…gang life hardens you).
I had a friend, I could give her a false name, but who cares at this point right? Her name was Pamela, and I thought she was cool enough to be in the clique.
So I went to our leader and proposed that we allow Pamela admission to the group. El Jefe rejected my request on the grounds that all the spots in the clique were full – and that Pamela should apply again if someone were to meet with an “unfortunate accident.”
I, being the social activist I am, decided to resign from the clique in protest.
I know. I know. I didn’t totally think that one through (But I was like 8 years old, give me a break).
I’m sure you can guess what came next. Quelle Chance?! I had created a vacancy in the clique.
Pamela filled it.
I’d like to say that I was relieved, or that I didn’t need them anyway, or that I started my own clique and that we battled the old one to the death and I stood victorious atop the slide at recess. But the truth is I was devastated. In only the way a second grade girl could be devastated by social rejection.
I cried a lot.
Mostly because I felt that my true calling was in detective work, and I’d lost my spot at the premier agency of the 2nd grade.
I cried because I felt rejected. And I cared about what those girls thought of me. I can see now that I had not failed at anything. There were no tangible repercussions of my expulsion from the group, and it did not impact my ultimate life goals in any way.
But rejection and failure are not often so easily separated.
Deserved, undeserved, good reason, bad reason, done nicely, done not so nicely - rejection can feel a lot like failure.
You don’t get invited to the party, you don’t get the guy, you don’t make the team. Every time someone else tells you you’re not good enough, it feels like failure.
I’ve been rejected a lot (trust me). I wish I could list them all for you here but it seems a little pathetic and whiny. What I will say is that some of them seem just as hilarious now as the Pink Coat Detective Agency (even the ones that meant a lot to me). Some still haunt me.
This is especially true when it comes to soccer. I’ve been told I’m not good enough – not tall enough mostly – more times than I can count (even if I were to take both my shoes off).
When I played ODP, I heard the word potential a lot. In that I didn’t have it. Someone else did.
The first game that I played at UNC was in my second year. Both goalkeepers ahead of me had gone down with minor injuries and I went from being canon fodder in practices to “let’s put her in a bubble so no one can hurt her.”
I was at our team BBQ the night before the game when one of the parents asked me if I was nervous for the game the next day.
I laughed. “Why would I be nervous? I’m the third string keeper. I can’t make it any worse.”
I started the rest of the games that season.
For this, Anson once introduced me as someone who embodies the quality of self-belief.
It seemed ridiculous to me at the time. Still does a little bit.
And if I’m being honest, I think Carolina just makes you a little bit fearless. I had very little nerves going into that first game – or any that came after it (and I’d always been a bit of a Nervous Nancy).
Part of it was, however, that I knew the only thing I had to fear was failure. And that’s something I’ve never been afraid of.
Maybe it’s cause my teams have always done relatively well. I usually have a good GAA. But I’ve also gotten scored on, and lost important games. So maybe I’m just stupid, I don’t know, but my confidence in those abilities has never been a question.
What I have always feared is rejection. Because the times that I have not done well have most often been when I was cut from teams, or sat on the bench. Naturally, my fear is that someone will look at me and think, ‘She’s not good enough. She’s not tall enough. She can’t get the job done.’
At Carolina, I knew that wasn’t an issue. Keep the ball out of the goal. Win the games. That’s what mattered. And to me that was very calming. Within those confines, I was free. And I felt free.
Some days I carry that freedom with me.
Some days I do not.
It doesn’t seem to matter how many times life teaches me that it's ok. I am not comfortable with rejection. I don’t carry the same confidence in other people’s opinions of me as I do in the outcome of the games I play in.
On the plus side, being rejected used to hurt a lot more than it does now. Maybe that’s personal growth, or patience. I have no idea. I certainly don’t want to punish the people that reject me nearly as much as I did when I was younger.
Most of the time, I feel like someone will come along again who likes me. Plus, I like myself…that’s something.
So I guess in some ways I’m more okay with rejection than ever.
In some ways, I'm so not kay with it.
I was working out this morning – doing a workout called Jump Attack by Tim Grover. It is insanely hard. Every Monday and Thursday now, I leave barely able to walk and usually go immediately to sleep.
The first phase of the workouts have a lot of isometric holds. Which means you get into a squat or lunge position, go up on your toe and hold it. This week it increased to 2 minute holds. It is not just physically exhausting, it’s mentally exhausting. You get 60, 75, 90 seconds in and you just want to stop. You just want to stand up. And it’s so easy to do.
Just stand up.
I was in the middle of a lunge hold today when I realized the power that rejection can have. It was burning. I felt like I was going to throw up. I was trying to distract myself. I thought about diving further, making a great save, winning a game for my team. Every positive thing I could imagine.
And then my mind slipped...somewhere dark.
I want to be more explosive, more powerful. I want to do everything physically in my power to never again be told to work on my vertical, or become more explosive, or to be more dominant in the air. And with those thoughts came a montage - clips in my mind – of all the times I wasn’t good enough, strong enough, tall enough. My mind slipped back to conversations I’d had years and years ago that I didn’t think still bothered me. I guess pain will do that to you.
Then a funny thing happened.
This complete sense of calm flooded my body. Suddenly it didn’t hurt so badly. I could do this. I could hold this position forever. So long as I never had to feel that other pain again.
I wish that I could say that other people’s opinions of me don’t matter. That I don’t care what they think.
The truth is that I care. There are plenty of people that I’ve wanted to prove wrong. And maybe it’s okay to use that sometimes. If it gets you through the workout.
But I don’t ever want that to be the reason I step on a soccer field...or the reason I don't. And I certainly never want to make any life decisions based on someone else's opinion of me. Maybe that’s self-belief. I don’t know.
What I do know is that being rejected teaches me the same lesson every time.
Rejection is not failure.