I received a personalized rejection the same day I submitted a story for publication.
In my limited experience, the time lapse from submission to rejection is about two months. Same day refusal is unheard of. I could have possibly written it off if I got some sort of automatic response but, no, this was detailed. The editor advised that it was a well written story, but that it just “didn’t fit even my broad desires.” In short- you’re an okay writer, but even I, with all of my varied tastes, could not fathom your POS story.
Most of us are brought up with this “It’s not whether you fall down. Its how you pick yourself back up” mentality. I wanted to have one of those I’ll-show-him moments. But unfortunately, the default setting on my ego is not “buck up”. I retreated to my bedroom, folded laundry, and cried a little.
I just finished this book titled Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World by Mitch Prinstein. I read a lot of books about the brain and its ability to adapt to particular conditions. The book describes the physiology behind our need for social acceptance.
I wish I had taken more care to note items I found interesting. I am now in a time crunch to write this before I need to pick up my kids. So forgive me for the summation rather than quotation.
Prinstein described an experiment where subjects were asked to play a computer game that simulated throwing and catching a ball. The subjects thought they were playing the game with other peers, but in fact, the other participants were a computer simulation. At first, the game is designed so that three participants (one human, two simulated) are throwing and catching the ball equally. But after a few minutes, the simulated participants begin to throw and catch the ball exclusively, excluding the actual human subject. The human subject was monitored to see which areas of his brain responded when met with being socially excluded. The same parts of the brain that light up to signal physical pain were triggered when met with social rejection. Our bodies are designed to physiologically protect us not only from bodily injuries but also from emotional ones.
It goes all the way back to herd mentality. When your body detects social rejection, it actually pumps more anti-inflammatories into your blood stream. You no longer have the protection of the herd, so if you were to injure yourself, your body needs to have a quicker response. At the same time, your body begins to divert resources away from your immune system and into other areas because you are no longer have the threat of catching a communicable disease.
A few instances of exclusion are probably not going to affect the body so much. But when continually met with rejection, changes occur within our physical makeup. As we enter into adolescence, the more rejection we face, the more those particular neural pathways strengthen. I find comfort in this knowledge. It makes me feel as if I’m not a silly person to feel the sting of rejection deeply. My background and physiology have made this part of my body’s makeup. It’s not me- It’s science!!!
Ok, it’s a little me. Prinstein does not issue a free pass when it comes to rejection. Unfortunately, it really is about how you pick yourself up.
I’ve been on a bit of a quest to bring more happiness into my life. This, of course, means making changes.
The first thing I did was examine my relationships. I wanted to interject more quality interactions within my life. For me, that meant getting off of social media. God, Facebook makes it sooo easy to feel like you really know what is happening in people’s lives without ever actually talking to them. I don’t think those things can exist in the same space.
If you’ve ever tried to get off of social media, you know its not as easy as you might assume. I deactivated my Facebook account. I posted a final message giving information on how to contact me. A few weeks later, one of my brothers complained about not being able to see photos of my sons. Another brother was confused when he couldn’t tag me in a photo after we spent the day together. A friend asked me to resend a party invitation I had created via FB- it got lost when I deactivated. I began to see the place for social media, but I still felt the need for more real, human interaction.
I mentioned to my husband that sometimes I missed the quick pick me up when I posted a photo online and people reacted favorably to it. I told him I had taken a selfie the day before out of habit, and then realized I had nowhere to post it.
“Send it to me. I’d love to get it,” he said.
He didn’t know it at the time, but his response had a big impact on me. My husband is the last person who needs an ego boost via social media. I felt pretty ridiculous when I told him about the selfie. But he didn’t think I was silly or self absorbed. He thought it might be fun to get a cute photo of his wife some random day. By posting my photos via Facebook, I was missing out on developing something real and substantial with someone who cares about me not just for the duration of looking at a photo, but on a daily basis.
My interactions became less, but the quality was better. A friend I hadn’t seen in a long time invited me to go for coffee. Another began to send me text of art projects she thought I’d enjoy. My father-in-law sent me a really nice card that made my day. A girlfriend left flowers on my doorstep. Another bought me a book she knew I would love. Those things matter. Think they don’t? Next time you want to tag someone via social media, send them a card or give them a phone call. You’ll see a difference. You’re circle will grown smaller, but it will feel fuller.
I took a class this week for my work where we learned how to collect and chart behaviors in children. (God, I’m really all over the place. This is what happens when you don’t write or post online. You get a chance to talk and it all becomes vomit). I work for a preschool where some of the students have special needs. We use charting to develop strategies to assist them. In one of the examples, the trainers noticed a pattern where a student began to have behavioral issues in the hour before lunch. The student was hungry and expressed this by acting out.
Last night, I awoke in the middle of the night with this information rolling around in my mind. A few weeks ago, I had a depression that I attributed to my birthday since it happens at the same time each year. But what if I had charted other factors in my life? My birthday falls within the first two months of the school year- a time when I return to work and my son’s schedules take on more activity. My in-laws are snowbirds- they spend six months out of the year near us, and when they are here, my life is markedly easier. They help with the kids, make dinner at least one night a week, offer to babysit when we need it. My birthday falls at about month five and a half of the time they live in another state.
I’m looking at this information and making changes. I check social media every few days, but I log out when I am finished so it is not so easy to check back in. I try to communicate more with friends, even if its just to send a text to let them know I’m thinking of them. Armed with more information about my stress levels in September, maybe next year I’ll hire a babysitter a few more times instead of trying to make it until my in-laws get here, give myself a few more breaks. God, I love problem solving.
I’m also taking more chances on people. After my “selfie talk” with my husband, I decided I need to trust that people care about me. I was talking with a friend, and mentioned the “Popular” book I was reading. She asked why I was reading it. At that exact moment, we were interrupted by our kids. It was not a time for a heartfelt discussion. I could have just let it go. But later, I sent her a message. I told her about my lingering depression and my quest to put more happiness into my life. I worried about burdening her. Like most of us, she works and has kids and a life and too much to do. I also imagined her judging me. Jesus, who is this weirdo sharing all of her feelings? Doesn’t she know we’re not that type of friends? But we ended up having a great conversation and I felt closer to her than I ever have. I’m sure some people do this sort of thing all the time, but it’s not always something I turn to. I’m more of a wait for a big overwhelming meltdown kind of gal rather than a talk it out with friends sort.
As strange as it is, one of my biggest discoveries came in the form of dressing like a banana.
Prinstein discussed an experiment he does with his students where the entire class is asked to wear matching t-shirts for a day. The t-shirts are brightly colored, with a slogan that encourages people to talk to you. The experiment is designed to force people to change the way they interact with others, even for a day.
I was reminded of how I used to dress, before kids, when I was a free spirited weirdo. I used every day as a chance to put on a new costume, an outlandish outfit people could not help but comment on. I looked like a cartoon. My goal was to wear every color at once. I regularly sported leopard print platform shoes, men’s leisure jumpsuits, and boots with ladybug heads. Some people thought I looked absurd, but I sure did get a lot of smiles.
Then I became a mom. Putting together outrageous outfits became pretty low on the to-do list, as did showering every day. After awhile, my attitude changed. Now, I’d feel ridiculous in those get ups (although I do have this one super sweet green jumpsuit I just can’t part with.)
My girlfriend’s son was having a costume party for his birthday. I happened upon a banana costume at Goodwill. I’ve always wanted to be a banana. It was kismet. I put on that banana and I felt fun! I was instantly having a good time. Once again, I made a lot of people smile.
The next day, I went to a movie with my husband. I put on a dress I really liked. Instead of putting on some plain brown sandals, I put on some socks with hearts on them, and some glittery snickers. Ok, it wasn’t exactly a mega crazy outfit, but a bit out of my usual repertoire. I looked in the mirror and thought you look like an aging Valentine. This made me happy. I hadn’t put on clothes; I had put on a costume- “Valentine Past its’ Prime.”
I got that rejection the same day. After crying into my clean laundry, I went to pick up some photos. As I paid for my purchase, the clerk remarked that she loved my shoes.
“If I had those shoes, I’d be kicking up my heels all day long.”
And in that moment, the rejection stung a little less. My appearance doesn’t matter. That’s surface level bullshit. But my interactions do. Just like that terrible song, people need people, People!
I’m on this quest for more happiness, more connection and I’m finding it! But right now, I need to find my way to my car keys- time to get my kids! Bye!