The R’s of Life – Chapter Twelve – Rejection – A Fact of Life
One of life’s certainties is that at some point you are going to be rejected personally or professionally. It can happen at any age and because it is a certainty, it does pay to prepare for it, or if unexpected have some strategies to cope with it.
Rejection is when you are denied something you want, love, need, desire or expect.
Real life is seldom as cut and dried, and certainly less kind when it comes to rejection. This is why you have to boost your mental immune system, the one that keeps depression, despair, low self-esteem and unhappiness at bay. We are bombarded with messages about boosting our physical immune system, by eating our five a day and by avoiding antibiotics, but if you look at the headlines in the magazines and newspapers, you would be forgiven in thinking there was a conspiracy to make you emotionally and mentally deficient.
Because being made to feel that we are not slim enough, beautiful enough, rich enough, cool enough is a form of rejection. It puts us outside a relatively small segment of our society who are considered to be the ‘It’ people.
Most of us bounce back eventually from most of life’s rejections because they happen to everyone at some point. We learn hopefully that often rejection is followed by something better at least for us.. As they say.. one door closes and another door opens!
But what about the rejections that make a much deeper impact on us at the time or throughout our lives. The rejections that can often take place before we are born resulting in a decision that leaves a child always wondering what they did wrong!
One of the first rejections a child has to face is one that cannot be prepared for and which can effect you for the rest of your life.
The one form of acceptance we should all have a right to expect is that our birth mother is not going to reject us. Unfortunately, not every birth is planned or welcomed especially if the mother is very young or in desperate circumstances. This leads to babies being put up for adoption into families who are ready and prepared for the responsibility of parenthood. Believe it or not, adoptions for that reason are way down on where they were in the 1970s and 1980s, when there was little family planning advice or available contraceptives such as the pill.
If a young woman became pregnant up until fairly recently, it was considered shameful. Many were sent off to maternity homes where their babies were taken from them immediately as the only option open to them if they wished to remain part of society. I can remember at 16 being told in no uncertain terms, that if I became pregnant, I would be shown the door and left to my own devices.. Best contraceptive known to man.
Today there are a number of options available to someone who finds themselves pregnant and in most of our western countries, a welfare state to support the mother.
However, it takes two to conceive, but if the man is not willing to accept responsibility, he is the first to reject the child even before it is born. I have very strong feelings about this, as I believe that even if a couple are not together, the father should bear some of the burden of caring for the baby. It should not be a case of sow your seed and scatter!
Of course there are occasions when the mother may be uncertain of the identity of the father and that is extremely sad.
Although newborn adoption rates are way down, the number of children taken into foster care is increasing. The sad fact is that not every mother and father, single or otherwise, is prepared or able to bring up a child or children. Whilst the majority of children in the state’s care have been removed from a parent for one reason or another, their time within the system is still a form of rejection. By a society who feels that they are not worthy of adopting, mainly because it is newborn and toddlers who are the preferred age group.
“The number of children in care has reached a record high, with 90 young people entering the care system each day, figures show.
Amid ongoing cuts to children’s centres and local family support services, the number of looked-after children in England and Wales reached 72,670 in the 12 months to March 2017 – marking the biggest annual surge of children in care in seven years.
Campaigners said the figures highlight the urgent need for the Chancellor to use his Autumn Budget next month to address the £2bn funding gap facing children’s services by 2020, or place a growing number of children at risk” The Guardian
And thank goodness for the thousands of wonderful foster parents out there who devote their lives to taking children in and giving them love and a sense of family. Of course there are the occasional negative story about life in a foster family, but in reality they are few and far between. However, a child in foster care often faces a lifetime of doubt and a sense of disconnection from others who grew up with birth parents.
The situation in the United States.
Many of America’s child welfare systems are badly broken — and children can suffer serious harm as a result. Some will be separated from their siblings. Others will be bounced from one foster care placement to another, never knowing when their lives will be uprooted next. Too many will be further abused in systems that are supposed to protect them. And instead of being safely reunified with their families — or moved quickly into adoptive homes — many will languish for years in foster homes or institutions.
On any given day, there are nearly 438,000 children in foster care in the United States.
In 2016, over 687,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.
On average, children remain in state care for nearly two years and six percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.
Despite the common perception that the majority of children in foster care are very young, the average age of kids entering care is 7.
In 2016, more than half of children entering U.S. foster care were young people of color.
While most children in foster care live in family settings, a substantial minority — 12 percent — live in institutions or group homes.
In 2016, more than 65,000 children – whose mothers’ and fathers’ parental rights had been legally terminated – were waiting to be adopted.
In 2016, more than 20,000 young people aged out of foster care without permanent families. Research has shown that those who leave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults. https://www.childrensrights.org/newsroom/fact-sheets/foster-care/
Whilst being in foster care may not be the perfect answer, there are countries where even that basic care is not on offer.
The estimated number Of Orphans In The World
Some countries have far more orphans per capita than others, but each nation contributes to the worldwide total estimated by UNICEF. The estimated number of orphans in the world is 153 million, or almost 11 percent of children in the world. While the reasons and locations vary, these children share common needs that are most often met through donations.
Alarming Statistics Related to the High Number of Orphans
263 million children are not currently in school
66 million school-age children go to class feeling hungry each day
Half of all deaths of children under 5 involve malnutrition
Each minute, 20 people are forced to flee their homes due to violence
25% of the world’s children live in violent or disaster zones
However a child is separated from its mother, there is going to be a sense of rejection and abandonment. There can be acceptance as a child that you are with a loving adoptive family or part of a group in a foster home, but it also brings questions that may never be answered. Who was my mother? Who was my father? What are my origins? Where did I come from? Do I have brothers and sisters? Why did my mother give me up?
In many countries it is now possible for both birth parents and adopted children to petition for details of each other. Many children from the 1960s and 1970s have been reunited successfully, but others have often been rejected for the second time for a number of reasons; leaving the adopted child still without answers about their past and families. Unfortunately, many thousands will never know their birth families and live with doubts and a sense of rejection all their lives. In the last few years with DNA testing sites opening the door to finding familial matches for genealogy purposes, the job of finding long lost relatives has become more of a reality.
Rejection by society
Another reason that children are abandoned is because they are disabled and in China for example, this is now the primary reason for a child to end up in the care system. Finding adoptive parents under these circumstances is even more challenging and many countries are not equipped to deal with long-term care of children who have to remain in the system. This leads to appalling conditions and very high mortality rates.
There have been some amazing stories recently about school children working together to support disabled classmates, especially during sporting events. These are terrific to hear about, but generally a disabled child is likely to feel outside of the group both in the classroom and playground. I produced a documentary for a Cerebral Palsy unit and visited schools where some of the centre’s children attended. The saddest thing that I saw was a ten year old boy watching from the sidelines as all his classmates played football. Not an intentional rejection but just young children being children and getting on with their lives.
Rejection within the birth family
Most women develop into being great mothers but some do not. Even those who plan on having a child, realise once they are mothers, that it is simply not in their make-up and behave appallingly as they resent the 24/7 job they have taken on. This is particularly so for single mothers who have made the decision to bring up their child by themselves without a strong support system in place. A young woman who finds herself isolated and with little chance of realising her expectations, and little assistance to do so. Resentment is the bedfellow of regret.
Even if a child is part of a family group they can still face rejection as they fall short of their parent’s expectations, and that rejection is very painful. It manifests itself in many ways both verbally and sometimes physically. That can undermine and determine a child’s future just as surely as if they had been dumped on the doorstep of an orphanage. In some respects even though it is not ideal, a child who is adopted is going to parents who actually want a child and accept the responsibility and give that child a loving home. There are millions of children who live with their birth families and never know that kind of security.
So there are some examples of rejection where a child has very little choice about the matter.
The use of the a very important word in our vocabulary growing up.
When I was growing up I was accustomed to the word NO from a very early age. I learnt that there were certain things that I couldn’t do, say or attempt because they were either too dangerous or beyond my abilities. I was not always happy about this and it was not unknown for me to get into difficulties because I did not believe that NO meant NO. I would often find a work around that obtained the same objective. At age seven, it nearly cost me my life as I nearly drowned having defied my mother about playing on seaweed covered rocks. A good lesson that tempered my rebellious spirit somewhat.
A child pushes boundaries and it is a natural instinct. Children need to understand their limitations at a very early age otherwise it can be dangerous for them and for others. No to sticking their fingers into electric sockets, touching hot liquids, not running into the road and it would seem an endless list of life threatening hazards.
Our family were not known for throwing around compliments, and back in the 1960s and 1970s there was not the money for lots of toys and to buy the latest fashions. Most clothes were home made and I also benefited from having two older sisters. I went out to work part-time at 14 and from that time on I was responsible for buying my own clothes and paying for my recreation. But at that time, apart from envying Lulu and Twiggy their freedom to wear mini-skirts, there was little in the way of advertising on television or even in the magazines; so we were simply not exposed to the media in the same way. Consequently our expectations about our future were much simpler and usually attainable.
Today it is very different and it is a nightmare for parents who have children who are bombarded daily with messages about the latest phones, sneakers, music, video games and other must haves. It must be very difficult to keep saying NO when it would seem that proving your love for a child comes with a price tag. If a child keeps getting what it wants without too much effort except a little emotional blackmail and nagging it becomes embedded in their nature.
Get into their teens and there is an expectation that they can have everything they want. They watch the reality shows like the X-Factor and see kids of their own age getting the attention and possible fast track to fame, and they expect that short-cut as well. YES is the word that they want to hear and because they do not understand the concept of NO.. they are totally unprepared for the rejection that happens to us all.
You only have to listen to a seventeen year old who is in tears because they have been rejected by the judges and worse still by the public… ‘I’ve wanted this all my life, I don’t know what I am going to do now.’ You only have to read about the twenty-five year olds who did get through, who are now burnt out and finding it impossible to deal with their moment of fame that is now fading.
Building a robust emotional and mental immune system.
To build a strong physical immune system we have to be exposed to the world and its grime and germs from an early age. Nature intended that we would scrape our knees and get dirt in the wound, get stung by a bee, catch a cold and be exposed to pollen and other allergens. Germs lived liberally on the surfaces in the kitchen and in the bathroom and as we grew, our developing immune system would learn how to fight off the less dangerous varieties so that we could battle the fatal ones such as measles.
Today we have a spray cleaner that can eradicate up to 99% of all known germs…many children do not even have access to an outside environment, where they can damage themselves a little to teach their body how to fight serious disease.
And in today’s world of materialism and media advertising, combined with peer pressure, it is very hard to build a strong and resilient mental and emotional immunity.
We are encouraged to tell our children how beautiful they are, how talented and how they can have anything they want in the world. It is only since the increase in the reality shows such as X-Factor, The Voice, Pop Idol and such, that we get to see, not just those that actually have talent, but those who have been told they have it and don’t.
Which is more damaging? To tell a child that they are a great singer repeatedly and then to have those expectations dashed so publicly on live television.. And let’s be honest; who has not laughed at the selection of no-hopers paraded before us during the auditions as ‘entertainment’ value. For a young person that initial humiliation is compounded when the episode is aired. You would have to be very thick skinned to face your school or work mates the next day.
Of course many children do have a natural talent such as singing, dancing, art, but it rarely develops into a career without dedicated training and endless practice. An overnight success is a rare phenomenon and most successful artists have spent years honing their talent. Usually they have had supportive parents or mentors who have ensured that they have the opportunity to develop a skill or talent. It is a tough road for a child without this level of intervention.
But what about preparing children for life’s realities?
The truth that they will fall in and out of love and that is going to hurt. They will be turned down for the school football team or fail to get the part in the school play. They might not get A + on all their exams despite doing the best that they can. The fact is that some of us are not academically minded, however clever our parents tell us we are. And we are not told that being great at working with our hands is actually brilliant, or that all of us have strengths that can be developed so that our weaknesses are not as apparent.
I know that there are many of you reading this who have great kids who are well adjusted and who understand that life is not always fair. Kids who understand that overnight success is very rare and that most genuine and successful artists, business people, doctors and other professionals have studied and worked very hard to get to that point. Including facing numerous rejections on the way.
But, as I read yet more headlines on the role models that millions of kids follow, I am not surprised that those children and young adults have such a confused expectation of life. They see families such as the Kardashians who do nothing for their wealth and fame except show up and behave badly for the cameras. Most kids do not see that these so called perfect bodies and faces have been ‘enhanced’ by surgery and therefore unattainable for the majority of us. They also do not comprehend the price to be paid for that fame, in the form of rejection by much of society, and a breakdown of their relationships that are under such intense media scrutiny.
It is not all down to their parents not preparing them for rejection, nor the media which forces its way into our homes 24/7. Our current education system is also compounding the problem by treating every child as a future academic. Grooming them to apply and be accepted by colleges that have been re-titled ‘Universities’ to take degrees in subjects that will never provide them with a job in the real world.
I have interviewed hundreds of applicants during my career in industry, at all entry levels, and in the last forty years there has been an epidemic of young people who might be clever enough to take a degree, but have little to offer in the workplace. Many assume that a degree qualifies them to enter an organisation in a mid-level position in a managerial role that actually requires a completely different set of vital skills.
It is actually summed up in the following article.
According to an article in The Daily Telegraph, a third of working graduates took jobs as cleaners, office juniors and road sweepers six months after leaving university!
That is thousands of young people that have been sold a false and potentially devastating expectation.
To me this is one of the most calculated and deplorable forms of rejection that is perpetrated over an extended period from the age of four when a child enters school and then for the next twenty years depending on secondary education and further education attendance. All children deserve the opportunity to do well and learn, but if they do not fit into the rigid limits of the state designated curriculum, then they are not offered viable opportunities to thrive and go onto be able to find work they can excel at.
For those graduates who are in sectors that actually require a degree such as the law, medicine, engineering and other sciences there is still the uncertainty of finding employment within those sectors, but if they are lucky, they will find entry level positions that pay in the region of £30,000. After three years that is likely to increase to an average of £35,000 depending on their specialisation or increased demand for their services.
But a degree is not the only way to achieve a fulfilling and successful career. A qualified plumber after his apprenticeship can expect a salary of £35,000 a year and that can increase dependent on specialised skills and increasing demand for their services.
There are some essential trades that are crying out for young people to train for. But where are the apprenticeships such as the one my father completed 80 years ago that led to a highly successful career in the Royal Navy? Where are the trade schools and technical colleges such as the one I attended to get my diploma and enabled me to walk into a good job and progress up the ladder to senior management?
What we have done is set thousands of young people up for rejection as they flood the market with qualifications that will never get them jobs they have been led to expect would be waiting for them. Not only that, the average student will leave university with a student loan to be repaid, and thousands of pounds in debt.
This chapter is about rejection and as I have already stated, there is no getting away from it any age. Those of us who have spent years having our expectations challenged, occasionally met and sometimes exceeded, can roll with the punches.
My concern for the future is that we are doing our young a great disservice. We are failing to provide them with the life skills they need to be self-sufficient and responsible, not just for their own futures but of the families they will have one day. Whilst we are focused on getting students through to higher education we are leaving a trail of rejected young people who are not being given the necessary education in the basic skills that might get them into work. They face repeated rejections when they do attempt to find work and then find themselves rejected by society when they are reliant on welfare.
Of course there is an argument that there are manual labour jobs that anyone can do. But, is that really true? You still have to get through the interview process and anyone who applies who has the basic ability to read and write, is going to get the job ahead of someone who is functionally illiterate. Because there are still forms to complete and possibly written elements to the interview and required in the position. How many applicants who cannot read or write are going to be brave enough to apply when it may identify this basic lack of education?
16.4% of adults in England, or 7.1 million people, can be described as having ‘very poor literacy skills.’ They can understand short straightforward texts on familiar topics accurately and independently, and obtain information from everyday sources, but reading information from unfamiliar sources, or on unfamiliar topics, could cause problems.
There needs to be a concentrated focus on reading and writing in the early years at primary school. A child at that age has a brain like a sponge and can absorb huge amounts of information. We need more dedicated teachers and smaller classes and money spent on education that is now spent in areas such as defense and in some cases overseas aid. Charity begins at home and 7.2 million people leaving the school system without basic literacy qualifies in my book. Incidentally the figure quoted when I first posted this series was 5.6million. An increase in 1.6 million functionally illiterate adults in a country the size of the UK has to be setting off alarms…SURELY.
Apart from being able to read and write some of the courses at school that I consider to be essential are rarely on the curriculum. One of these is domestic science and when I left school 47 years ago, I knew how to prepare three square meals a day and a basic knowledge of nutrition. Something that both girls and boys would benefit from as they head out into the world. Perhaps the fast food industry would veto a return to this as part of a child’s education!
In my opinion…selected ‘universities’ should be reverted back to technical colleges, and they should be offering a wide range of courses for girls and boys that provide diplomas for essential jobs. Certain degrees such as nursing should also revert back to a diploma to encourage those with lower level entry requirements to enter what is a brilliant career. A degree can always be studied for if a nurse wishes to advance to a higher grade.
We need to give those kids who have been rejected, because of a lack of academic skills, their chance to make a mark in life and become productive citizens of the future.
Finally on the subject of rejection. Not only are we on the receiving end of rejection but we also hand it out, often thoughtlessly.
Letting down someone gently is not always possible depending on the circumstances but wherever possible a rejection should be honest and couched in terms that leaves the recipient with some dignity and a way to move forward.
And if you are rejected.. What have you learned? …. What are the positive things you will take from the experience? What changes do you need to make to your behaviour or skills to reduce the chances of being rejected next time? Because there will be a next time.. and a next time until you succeed.
©sallycronin The R’s of Life 2016
You can find all the other posts in the this series in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/something-to-think-about/