Amethyst asks: How does one handle rejection, especially as a teenager? And please could you give me stories of other teenagers that have overcome both rejection and depression?
Hi Amethyst –
The honest truth is it never feels good to be rejected. I’m a really friendly pup, and I want to be friends with just about everyone I meet. And I get rejected so often. Maybe because someone’s scared of dogs, maybe they just don’t like us, and maybe they love dogs but are wearing black and don’t want me to shed all over them (I can’t help it – I don’t do it on purpose!). Whatever it is, it hurts every time. And when it’s someone I really care about, oh that’s like a knife in the heart! The times when I’ve run up to Handsome and he’s been angry to see me (probably because I’d climbed over the fence and run across the street) I will never fully recover from.
On top of that, when you’re a teenager, you care more about acceptance from your peers than at any other time in your life. So the boy who doesn’t call again, or the girl who is offended by your goodnight kiss attempt, wound deeply, in a way they never will again.
So how can you handle it? Here are a few suggestions:
1) Although it’s hard to believe, know in the bottom of your heart that you WILL get past this. You WILL meet other people who’ll accept you, you WILL lose interest in the person who rejected you, and you WILL get stronger and feel better. I promise!
2) Use your family and friends! Okay, so one person rejected you. I’ll bet you have other people in your life who value you a lot. Spend time with them, tell jokes with them (ideally jokes about the rejection and the rejecter!), love them and let them love you. That’s great healing.
3) But a warning, when I say “love them and let them love you,” that means emotionally, only emotionally! Lots of teens respond to rejection by ‘acting out,’ in ways that make them feel loved for a moment but feel worse than ever afterward. Be sure to take care of yourself during this tough period, and keep your boundaries up. This isn’t the time for making rash decisions. (Similarly, please don’t fall into the trap of using drugs or alcohol to ease the pain. They’ll only cause other problems later on. Better to suffer a little more today so you can rise above it all tomorrow).
4) Use Art! You can paint or write or sing your feelings. And you can look and read and watch and listen to so many great works that will resonate with you, and make you feel like a part of a huge community of people who’ve been rejected (which you are!). There are of course a trillion songs about it, from 18th-centrury operas to 21st-century Adele, and oodles of movies too. A few that pop into my mind are among the all-time classics, like “Casablanca,” “Annie Hall,” and “Splendor in the Grass” (not exactly rejection, but teens forced apart). “The Goodbye Girl” is literally about a woman who has been rejected so many times she’s afraid to love again – that might be good. And (these movies are pretty adult, with R-rated dialogue, so might not be appropriate, but just in case) “Swingers” and “(500) Days of Summer” really get into the pain.
5) If your depression is really bad, a well-wishing dog and some fun or tearjerky movies aren’t going to be enough. There is nothing at all wrong with going to a therapist to help you through this. When we get rejected, we feel like no one understands or cares, but the truth is everyone understands (because everyone’s been rejected), and everyone in your life cares about you. I’ll bet even the person who rejected you wants you to be happy. So don’t be afraid or embarrassed to go to someone who can help you get happier. Everyone will understand.
6) Oh I’m so predictable. You know what I’m going to say last: FIND A DOG! If you have one, that’s great; if not, find a friend who has a dog, or even just a friendly pooch in your neighborhood. No one in the world will tell you how worthy you are like a dog will. No one else will tell you how great you smell, how great your hand or nose tastes, and (most important of all) how enormously gratifying it is that you’re paying attention to us. You do matter, Amethyst. You matter to everyone. But a dog will tell you so in ways humans just can’t.
Let me know how things go, okay?