I was introduced to rejection when I was born. My schizophrenic mother abandoned me in an apartment when I was five months old. As a result, I had implicitly learned that sometimes people give up on you when they are incapable and life is unbearable.
When I was seventeen, the cycle repeated. I’ve written about it before, so I won’t belabor the point. But, in 1990 my dad gave up his parental rights, once again teaching me the same invaluable lesson: people give up on you when they are inept and life is too much.
Like many people, I developed some coping mechanisms. I began to read people and interpret their actions. Any slight rejection equaled an abandonment warning sign, and warranted a preemptive, “F*ck you” before I thought the other person would pack up and leave.
You don’t want me in your life? So. I don’t want you in my life. Deuces!
You’re rejecting me and my personality? Nope. I’m rejecting you and your personality.
For a very long time, that’s how I functioned. It was unhealthy. It was immature. And it left me by myself in some ways, because eventually, when you hand out a round of unwarranted “F*ck yous,” you’re bound to be left standing in a circle by yourself.
I had to change.
About six years ago, I learned to release expectations instead. Many people have wondered how I can release expectations of people with whom I share a relationship? The answer is not easy.
First, I recognize that people can reject parts of my personality, but that doesn’t mean they are rejecting me. Next, I write these words: I release expectations of name-of-person, until I feel liberated from the situation. Then, I remind myself of these things:
Saying “F*ck you” means leaving a person alone, forever and ever. Releasing expectations requires letting go of who you think that person is supposed to be.
For a long time, I thought my mother in-law would be like an extended family member for me. I envisioned her visiting every year and doing grandmotherly things with the girls. Listen. That hasn’t happened. In fact, I can count on one hand how many times she’s come to see us. It feels a lot like rejection. Now, of course I would never disrespect my MIL. But a former me would’ve just left her alone. Instead of doing either of those, I have released my fairy tale like expectations of our relationship. When she calls, I’m happy to hear from her and if she doesn’t, that’s okay too.
Releasing expectations means allowing people to be who they are.
This might seem to be the same advice, but I see it a little different. Allowing people to be who they are means less judgment on my part. For example, during much of my marriage, I wondered, Why doesn’t my MIL call? Why does she need a personal invitation to visit? Why won’t she just act like my grandmother and schedule a visit? These are all judgments about how she interacts with us. And it’s quite simple, if I’m judging, then I’m not allowing. Who my MIL is, is who she’s shown herself to be. That’s perfectly fine. At this point, I allow her to be who she is, free from my criticism. I don’t expect her to be someone she is not. Think about it. Don’t we all want to be accepted for who we are in this moment?
Saying, “F*ck you” means the door is closed and locked. Releasing expectations symbolizes an open invitation.
My former self would’ve definitely perceived her actions as rejection, and then met it with a closed heart. But not today. My MIL is welcome to visit our family anytime she’d like. I have no ill feelings and I hope that she will. But again, I don’t expect an action either way.
Let me know what you think. Is there ever a time when releasing expectations just isn’t good enough? You know I’m happy to hear your thoughts!