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November 14, 2021

On Rejection—& Transforming our Deeply Rooted Wounds.

 

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I was recently rejected from a small fitness studio where I did a yoga audition.

I have been teaching yoga for almost 10 years, so I am not a rookie; that said, I haven’t taught much since the onset of the pandemic.

Each of us has a scar or sore spot that when activated feels like it has the potential to break us or, at best, seriously mess with our peace.

In the language of astrology, it’s connected to where Chiron, the wounded healer asteroid, falls in your natal chart: a wound with deep roots (if astrology isn’t your thing, you can think of it as symbolic). In Eastern philosophy, it is called a samskara (roughly translated) and has been described as an imprint on the psyche.

Rejection is mine. It’s an ancient feeling; one I’ve seemed to know my whole life and maybe in past lives, too. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time alone in the playground as a child.

Experiences with rejection, naturally, chip away at one’s self esteem, and, so, confidence has been my main barrier in yoga teaching and in life. I mostly worked through this over the past decade and took my fears head-on. As I divulged in another essay on Elephant Journal, speaking in front of a few people was something that made me anxious, so the idea of leading a classroom full of people felt impossible, and yet I eventually “built” classes (a class I taught on Sunday mornings began with two students and grew over time), guiding a room full of lovely, receptive students who came each week to take my class. I even taught kids yoga in a school auditorium and thoroughly enjoyed it—you could say I came out of my shell.

So, on the day I visited the studio for the audition, I wasn’t exactly nervous, but I felt a bit rusty…and for whatever reason (the planets, the side of the bed I woke up on), the general vibe in the air that morning felt “off.”

I greeted the yoga teacher who would be auditioning me and introduced myself, expecting some sort of acknowledgment (as in, “Oh, you’re Nicole—it’s nice to finally meet you), but she simply said hello and told me where I could place my mat. I was taking her class first. After unrolling my mat and placing my props down, I settled in. It was the first time I had been inside a yoga studio since the pandemic began and it was also the anniversary of my mother’s death, so I felt a little raw but not in a bad way. I was grateful to be on my mat and surrounded by yoga students.

I really enjoyed the class; the experience of practicing with others again felt healing and refreshing. But once the class was over I, once again, felt less than welcome. It turned out that the teacher didn’t remember I was there for an audition, which is why she hadn’t said much to me when I entered the class and looked at me blankly as I lingered after class. I reminded her why I was there and we laughed at the misunderstanding.

After a few minutes of awkward small talk, I took her through a short sequence. As I “taught,” I casually reflected on parts of the sequence (and a noise I heard downstairs) to make it seem less robotic and staged—I also may have, ahem, babbled a bit. Let’s just say, I am pretty sure I did not showcase my best teaching voice and energy during the audition, but I didn’t think it was that bad either. I hoped that she would consider my prior experience and that auditions (especially in front of one person who is also a teacher) are unnatural. In these kinds of auditions, I admit, I have trouble finding my voice and rhythm because there is no genuine purpose of the teaching other than being observed, which (in a self-sabotage kind of way) triggers my fear of rejection.

As I made my way out, I had a funny (in the awkward sense) feeling. I said goodbye to the studio owner, who was at the front desk and went to the bathroom before leaving. As I was putting my shoes on, I could hear them talking upstairs. I rushed out, not wanting to accidentally hear something I wasn’t supposed to; I didn’t want negative energy on the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death. I knew, as I got into my car, I was not going to hear back from her, at least not right away. The owner and I had a few heartfelt conversations and meetings prior to the audition, and I knew she would feel badly and not know how to respond to me if her teacher did not give me a positive review.

Just as I suspected, days passed without any word from the studio owner. It is a small studio, so if her yoga teacher had liked my audition, I would have probably heard from her the same day. Over a week later, a message popped up in my inbox. The owner apologized for her delay (she had had a root canal) and claimed they were no longer looking to add yoga classes because the current yoga classes were not being well attended, even though the class I took was full and when we had spoken prior to the audition, she was enthusiastic about adding a Sunday morning yoga class. She did, to be fair, offer the option of subbing, which I would have taken prior to doing the audition…but now I felt as if she had offered me a booby prize. Thanks, but no thanks (dejected emoji face).

I responded, with the most grace I could muster, that a subbing gig was not what I was hoping for at this point in my teaching career (to be fair, I have put in my dues with subbing). She immediately replied, “Sorry” and that she understood, which made me feel even worse because it seemed to confirm the “blow off” vibe I was getting, and that the subbing offer wasn’t really a genuine one.

Rejection.

Once I feel rejected, it sends me down a slippery slope of dark emotions. That deeply rooted wound/samskara thing. I felt really bad for the rest of the day. Memories of being left out, excluded, and not fitting in (oh my), from various stages in my life, flashed like a movie montage through my mind, and I dwelled on many of them and wondered, for the millionth time, what was wrong with me—a phrase that I think of as my anti-mantra.

In the TED article, “Why rejection hurts so much—and what to do about it,” Guy Winch attributes it to our brain makeup: “our brains are wired” to respond this way to rejection, he explains. He writes: “As social animals, we need to feel wanted and valued by the various social groups with which we are affiliated. Rejection destabilizes our need to belong, leaving us feeling unsettled and socially untethered.” The feeling of rejection, Winch shares, is, according to evolutionary psychologists, connected to fear of a death—for example, if, in hunter gatherer times, you were ousted from the tribe, your chances of survival were not good.

Enter: memories of being chosen last in gym class. And in middle school, the worst years of my youth, I was not part of any tribe at all. Not even the outsiders wanted me. I ate lunch with kids who ignored me at best. This changed as I got older, and I had great friendships (and was even part of the “in” crowd for a period) after those lonely years, but those formative years left a deep impression.

After a few days passed and I was pretty much “over” the yoga studio rejection, I considered that maybe the studio owner was, at least partially, telling the truth and even if not, that teaching at her studio simply wasn’t part of my path forward.

Yeah, maybe I told myself this just to feel better…but, in truth, I am unsure, at this moment, what my path forward is and if I even want to continue teaching yoga at studios, which, in most cases, is not the most equitable work situation for teachers who are trying a make a living (to be clear, this is not the fault of studio owner’s but just the way it is).

The pandemic has taught us (or is trying to teach us) hard lessons about the changes we need to make to create more harmony and balance in our lives, on both the individual and collective levels. I know that my next career and life steps need to involve more security and stability—and I know I need to let go of situations in my life that are not ultimately supporting me and contributing to my future well-being.

So, although I felt rejected when I received the booby prize email—and, to be candid, still feel a little ashamed that after so many years of teaching, I “failed” a casual audition—when I take a step back, I am reminded of trust: trusting in the flow of events and experiences versus the things I dwell on, which keep me stuck in the past (letting go was never my strength, but I am working on it).

It was not lost on me that the name of the yoga studio was a German word my mother used to say. She said it instead of wonderful: wundebar! We are Greek and I don’t know where she picked up the word. My brother and I teased her for it. I had thought of the studio name as a sign from my mother that it would be a place of connection and community for me—something I have missed with the loss of my yoga community (the studio I taught at closed during the pandemic), but now I see it as a different kind of sign from her.

Rejection is my wound or sore spot, and with each rejection or failure I face, I try to take a wider perspective and use it as fuel rather than allowing it to drag me down. My hope is that someone in the world who is feeling rejected reads these words and that it helps to shift their feelings and perspective.

I know this: we have the power to turn our wounds into gifts.

As the wise poet, Rumi, points out in his ubiquitous quote, the wound is the place where the light can enter…if we are able to sit with our pain for long enough and give it a chance to transform.

And that, my friends, is wunderbar!

~

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