A text from my friend Laura popped up on my screen: “Are you going to Andrew’s party?”
I thought, Yes! Probably. Then I returned to my conversation with my dinner date, Ava. As Ava and I were wrapping up, she asked, “Will I see you at Andrew’s party?” and I answered confidently, “Sure thing!” But as we parted ways, I checked my inbox for the Paperless Post invite. Nothing. A Facebook invite, then? I scrolled through my notifications—nope. Hmmm. Could I have been… left out? It sunk in. Yep, that was it.
I thought about it for the rest of the evening and the following day. I considered texting Andrew to ask what was up, but my pride wouldn’t let me. It stung, but this happens to all of us at one time or another: We get left out of a party, project, heck—even a group text chain.
It never feels good, but does it really have to bother us so much?
Here’s how to not sleep over it:
1. Accept that it hurts (a little).
Denying that something bothers us only extends its impact. I had a mini-vent to my very level-headed husband, who said, “Who cares? I wouldn’t go to Connecticut for a party anyway. It’s a free pass!”
His response landed with me because it was actually true. I probably wouldn’t have really wanted to go anyway or make an excuse as to why I couldn’t. Yes, I was miffed, but in truth — the sting diminished when I actually thought about it.
Does being left out of something make you (irrationally) think you want it more than you actually do?
2. Rejection isn’t even always real.
One year, I had an intimate birthday dinner and the restaurant’s largest table could only seat 10. So I chose 10 people who all liked and knew one another. I thought, I can see and celebrate with other people separately! A couple of Insta snaps later, I had a couple of snarky texts from friends who weren’t present.
Being the “rejector” in this instance, I felt bad but also saw most “rejection” for what it is: Nothing! It’s almost always not intentional or malicious. Life just has a lotta moving parts, and we make many on-the-spot, not-at-all-deep decisions. It’s not always a big deal.
3. Consider: Are you overreacting?
In many cases, our emotions are not rational. I once had a co-worker, Daniel, who obsessed over the safety of his job when he was left out of a particular project at work. He kept asking me, “Does the boss have it in for me or what? My clients are involved in this. Why aren’t I in the meetings?”
I didn’t have the answer, but my gut told me my colleague was being a little OTT with his response and I shared that with him. Soon after, the boss invited Daniel to step in and help manage the project. He explained that he was concerned that Daniel had too much on his plate so he’d been trying to shield him from the new endeavor for as long as he could.
The boss was actually protecting Daniel because he cared for him as an important team member who was simply stretched too thin.
What a sigh of relief — and a mini eye-roll at the old ego, right?
*Told you so Daniel!*
4. Lose the grudge, but think, Is there anything to learn here?
Once you’re rejected, it’s easy to stay mad at the person who hurt you. But after you accept that being left out doesn’t feel good and assess your reaction, think, Does this experience teach me anything? Do you need to speak up more, questions assumptions, ask for what you want, even find some new friends if the same people don’t make you feel valued (more than once)?
Painful parts of our lives can become gorgeous detours in a new direction—if we let them.
As for Andrew, I haven’t seen him since the little party fiasco. I don’t exactly miss him, but there’s no harm or hate here. It’s all good! And in a busy world, that just means more time for the people that matter most to me – even if we’re not all at every party, every time.
This article originally appeared in Greatist.com