A few years ago, I wrote some blogs about my biggest fears to celebrate the release of Empath, a book about a girl and her anxiety dragon. Two years later, I’m looking back on the fears I used to have to see how they stack up. Today, my fear of rejection.
I am Afraid of Rejection
Originally Published May 2015
You’ve probably noticed a theme lately of these ‘fear’ blog posts and they all have to do with other people. Missing out, sex, being alone, death – all of these really center on my most basic fear of being rejected.
When I say “rejected” what I mean is that I’m afraid people secretly hate me, and don’t want to be with me–ever. Which is interesting because I actually enjoy spending time with myself for the most part lazing about on the couch. Life is great when I don’t have to wear a bra (see #campaignfornopants).
But when I’m around other people, all of those bad behaviors from before my quarter life crisis return. I love myself, but I’m convinced that there’s no way anyone else “gets” me.
The truth of the matter is, it’s easier and less stressful to spend my time locked away in my own little hobbit hole than to put myself out there to be rejected. “You know it’s going to happen anyway, so save yourself the heartbreak and just don’t do it.”
When someone appears to be halfway interested in me, of course my initial response is, “Don’t fuck this up. Don’t be yourself. You’ll drive them away.”
I’m super self-doubting, so I become super nervous. Because I’m super nervous, I become super awkward. And because I’m super awkward, I hate my awkward self. The cycle continues until I am just convinced that the object of my affections is going to leave at any second.
So when they invariably do, the self-hating voices are empowered and then we go again the next time I’m infatuated with someone. So to save myself the heartache, I keep myself locked away.
It’s safe here. And yet…as much as I like being alone, I still want a partner.
The Problem with People
Relationships–good relationships–are precious commodities. Just because a guy likes me doesn’t mean I’m immediately going to jump into his arms. There has to be a spark on my end, and if it’s not there, it’s not there.
But when it is there and it’s two-sided, that’s when the fear creeps in. And the worst part – the part that frustrates me the most – is that whether they like the person that I am or not is totally out of my control. Sure, I can put on make-up and wear a low cut shirt and all of that, but sooner or later, they’re going to see me in my jammies. Sooner or later, they’re going to see how irrational and unpredictable my brain can be. Sooner or later, I’m going to yell at them because I have low blood sugar and I can’t seem to stop long enough to get food.
Never Again… Maybe
What is the most painful is when I have let someone in, I do trust them, and then they reject the whole person that I am. And that, my friends, is the truth of why it took me so damned long to accept that The Ex and I had broke up.
I felt like I was safe with him, that I could be my naked self (hello fear of intimacy) and I thought he loved the whole of me. And to accept that he didn’t was one of the most painfully difficult realizations that I’ve ever had.
I don’t miss my ex and I don’t want him back. But at the same time, I do want him to come back so I don’t have to face the fact that the one person I could count on to never reject me…rejected me. Even now, two years later, that pain hasn’t gotten any less terrible.
Here’s the kicker: I haven’t had a serious relationship since then, which scares me more than anything else (Edit 2017: Had one, lost it) And I’m afraid that because I’m too afraid of rejection, I won’t ever open up. And, as I said last week, I’m afraid because I can’t open up, I’m going to be alone forever.
Dealing With It
The way to slay this fear is to put myself out there more. To just suck it up and be confident enough in my own skin to be okay when someone doesn’t like the true, honest person that I am. And also to remind myself that being single doesn’t mean I’m less of a person, less of a human being, less successful. Being in a relationship is not the only way to find true happiness.
Unfortunately, in the depths of my subconscious, I don’t believe that. Be it years of conditioning, media messages, or just my own biological need, I desire to be with someone else. Which is why I continue to place the power of my happiness in the hands of others. And why I continue to be terrified that they’ll reject me.
Slay Your Fears: Two Years Later
There’s a lot of truth still in this blog post. I’ve put myself out there a few more times, but nothing’s really stuck. Now, over 30, I’m feeling the pressure to Couple more than ever, especially since I’m surrounded by Happy Couples with Babies.
I’ve spent my time nurturing the non-romantic relationships available here. My focus has been on reestablishing close friendships with my bestie, other high school friends, my cousins, and my parents. The folks who know me and love me no matter what.
But I have reverted a little bit. I put myself out there in a semi-serious relationship. Thought things might work out for ol’ Sush. Then, right before Christmas: “I love you, but I don’t want to be with you.”
This time, the hurt was painful, fresh, and over quickly. What’s lasted is the idea that I probably won’t ever find someone to share my life with–and being okay with it. Now that I’m in my thirties, I no longer crave the “normal” relationship, or the white wedding or any of that. I do want kids, and I’m working to get myself in a position where I can do that solo.
I’m actually fairly proud of the work I’ve done in this area. I really don’t care if someone likes me or not, because I have a lot going for me. Which is nice…
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Lauren Dailey is in break-up hell.
Stuck between moving on and letting go, she puts on a brave face while crying herself to sleep at night. But when a mysterious voice promises escape from her sadness, she is suddenly transported to a new world. And in this place, the slightest touch pulls her out of her tortured emotions into the mind of another - an empath.
The villagers - sweet Aerona and her mischievous twins, wise Siors, and hunky Cefin - welcome her and the blessings her empath powers bring. But this world is not without its dangers. The Anghenfil, a fire-breathing monster, has haunted the village for decades, and has a taste for empaths. And that mysterious voice promising escape from sadness? It's sounding more like a whisper tinged with smoke and embers.
Can Lauren keep the monsters in the mountain and in her head at bay? Or will she succumb to the darkness like the empath before her?
Empath is a book about a girl going through a rough patch. She hears a mysterious voice promising an easy out to all her problems, and is transported to a world where she has the power to feel what others are feeling. Just one problem: there's a dragon that might want to eat her. And oh, by the way, it might also be the source of that mysterious voice, tempting her deeper into her own darkness.
Empath is a standalone novel intended for ages 15 and up. Content warnings for mental health issues, substance abuse, and suicide.
"There," Cefin said, pointing to a pile of rocks that leaned against the side of the mountain. "That is where I found you."
"I was under there?" Lauren breathed. It was obviously a cave-in, and the boulders were thick and heavy. If any of them had fallen in the wrong place, she would have been crushed.
It was a miracle she wasn't crushed.
She approached the pile and saw where Cefin must have dug her out. Seeing the size of the rocks, knowing how close she had come to not getting out, she felt a little sorry for being so angry with him. Although he was being an jerk right now, she wasn't sure she ever thanked him for saving her life.
"Hey," Lauren said, tossing him a sideways glance. "Thanks for saving me."
"Just hurry up," he huffed, pulling his spear off of his back. "The Anghenfil could be in any one of these caves."READ MORE
"The right response is 'you're welcome'…" She walked up to the pile and began pushing aside any of the rocks she could, looking for anything strange. She tossed a fist-sized stone behind her and gasped.
"There's a cave here!" she called to Cefin, who was standing with his spear in his hand and not helping her whatsoever.
She sniffed and began tugging at a big rock, hoping that if she could move it a little bit, it would dislodge other ones, creating a larger hole, one that she could slip through. With a heave, she pushed with all of her might and it broke free, tumbling down into the blackness and taking Lauren with it.
She landed in a heap in the dark, cool cave, coughing up dust and other particles. A small halo of light formed a circle on the ground, but didn't offer any other illumination in the cave. Pushing herself to her feet, she walked over to the hole and peered out, spying Cefin standing at attention.
"I'm fine, thanks for asking."
"Hurry up," Cefin snapped, his eyes glued to the skies.
"Yeah, yeah," Lauren rolled her eyes, disappearing into the darkness.
She stumbled around for a moment, feeling at the floor with her feet for anything that would give her a clue as to how she got here. Maybe she just needed to walk to the end of the cave and she'd wake up back in her own bed. She kicked the ground until she found the wall of the cave, placing her hands on the chilly stone to guide her. She kept to the wall, planting her feet firmly with every step to keep her balance.
Her foot caught on something and she fell, but not onto the hard ground, onto something firm…
In the darkness, a gigantic red eye opened.
She gasped, fear gripping her as she scrambled for the small pinhole in the distance that was the edge of the cave. "CEFIN!" she screamed, her voice echoing in the cave.
The monster was moving, and Lauren saw a flash of bright fire, illuminating the black body the size of an elephant.
She screamed and ran faster, hating herself for ever coming up here. She flung herself at the small hole, wriggling out as fast as she could. Cefin's spear was out, concern on his face.
"Lauren, quiet down, you'll wake the—"
"TOO LATE!" she screamed, pulling herself out of the cave and running past him as fast as her feet could carry her. "RUN!"COLLAPSE
Mindy on Books, Books, and More Books wrote:
This is a thrilling book that mixes a solid fantasy setting with the heroine’s emotional turmoil and does so in a surprising, but well-executed way. Recommended to fantasy fans who don’t mind a more contemporary touch in their books (Lauren is, after all, still a twenty-first century girl traveling to a fantasy world).
Jen Streck on Psychocat Reviews wrote:
Interesting premise of time and space/dimension travel mixed with psychological or mental illness issues so that you aren’t sure even at the end if it really happened. The story was an interesting mix of fantasy and reality. It explores the concepts of depression, suicide, and letting other people in to the “secret” thoughts and emotional connections. Well written so that it is intriguing rather than preachy.
There's a good chance those final chapter will break your feels, but they will also remind you that ending up at the bottom doesn't mean you have to stay there.