Rejection is Universal Protection (and The Upper Limit Problem)

I’m not sure if this comes from A Course in Miracles, Yogi Bahjan, or somewhere else. I first saw it when my girl Holly posted it to Instagram several months ago following her own painful brush up.

Rejection is universal protection.

It’s an old theme: rejection. My deepest wound. My most familiar, cold assassin.

This time, like many times before, as I’m lying there with a hot chest and a closed throat I think, this just doesn’t add up.

Meaning, the particular circumstances of this case don’t fit the intensity of my reaction. The intensity of my reaction feels like the sum total of every time I’ve been rejected since I came screaming into the world. Which is exactly what was happening.

Sometime last week it occurred to me that since I can remember, I’ve cast someone into the role of Man Who is Rejecting Me. This was a serious lightbulb moment, complete with an audible, Ohhhhhhhhhh, and a jump out of my bed to text a dozen of my friends and share my epiphany.

I’ve cast someone into this role since the first time I had someone in it, which – who knows? Seven? Eight? Earlier? Does it matter?

Why would I do it?

To stay protected.

To stay small.

To keep from doing the things I am meant to do.

To avoid real intimacy.

To upper-limit myself.

And now. Today, at the age of 38 and well into a year of sobriety, this particular thing happens to be the last cape I have. My last real buffer. The last good excuse. The big Resistance keeping me from going forth.*

I felt the force of this specific rejection because it was finally time to move through it—through all of them—so I could…who knows? Be bigger. Shine brighter. Tell you about it. Be done already. Finish my damn book.

Pema Chodron says nothing will ever go away until it has taught us what we need to know.

As I sat there crying, feeling the full weight of pain in my stomach, right alongside it was a whisper—a much more gentle voice—reminding me of this: the pain is here to teach me, if I let it. The pain is not about this man, who is quite wonderful really, or the one before, who knew just how to rub my back, or the one before him, who knew all of my smiles, or the one before him, who made my stomach drop in the best way, or the one before him…you get it. They are all good men. Perfectly fine humans who were also unavailable and not right for me. As my friend Holly said, none of those men could handle the person you are today, let alone the person you are becoming. None of them.

Which is exactly why I put them there. They all fit the role I was casting and when they rejected me on cue, I would feign surprise! and what the fuck?! and what’s wrong with me?! and then cry, heave, rail, collapse. I would throw exorbitant amounts of energy at watching the play I was directing unfold exactly as I had written it. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!

Maybe you know what I mean. Maybe you can identify just a little bit.

Something about this particular one hit harder, though. Perhaps it’s the kind of person I called into my life. Perhaps it’s because I am awake and sober. Perhaps it’s because I have big things I’m trying to do and so, I’m harboring a bigger kind of fear. But if I had to hedge a bet, I’d say it hit harder because I know this particular play is over. It’s played out. It’s not going to work for me anymore.

So I woke up with the words lolling around in my heart:

Rejection is universal protection.

Maybe you can see it this way, too?

If this particular thing was right for me, and your particular thing is right for you, it would be happening. The universe is not punishing, but protecting me—as it is protecting all of us—from the things that will stop us from growing. Note: I didn’t say the things that will stop us from hurting.

So today, like any other day, we keep going. My heart is still feeling the after tremors of vulnerability, and I’m letting pain take its time to leave, trusting that it will.

“Rejection is universal protection.” Isn’t it nice to think we don’t have to do it all ourselves? That we can’t possibly?

Me, busting that upper-limit thing.

Me, busting that upper-limit thing.

Onward, lovelies.


*"Upper Limiting" is a term used by Gay Hendricks in his incredible book, The Big Leap.

The basic gist is this: each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure. 

Marie Forleo has a great piece on it and tools you can use to break through here.