I had the nanny over last Saturday to help out with the kids while I enjoyed a bit of “me” time.

First thing the next morning when I went into Anthony’s room, he sees me, rolls over and says, “where’s Maria? I want Maria!” Then I went into Alice’s room to say hi. It was more of the same … “Mooooooom, where’s Maria? I want to play with Maria today!” Thank god Joy isn’t talking yet.


I’m not exaggerating. It felt like someone stuck a knife in my heart.

Rejection hurts. You know it. You’ve had a “broken heart.” And if you’re like me, you get your feelings hurt on a regular basis.

But the pain is real.

The word mammal comes from the Latin word mamma which means breast. Across cultures the first word to come out of a baby’s mouth is typically some form of “mamma.” In Hindi it’s ma. In Korean it’s ama. In French it’s maman.

Babies know that mama’s are important (apparently four year olds do not but I digress). Mama’s keep them warm, fed and protected.

Pain is something that grabs our attention, interrupting whatever we’re doing in the moment and urging us to “Pay attention. You are in danger!”

And according to the latest neuropsychological research, social pain activates the same part of our brain that registers physical pain. A broken bone is painful, as is a broken heart. A stomachache is uncomfortable, as is a heartache.

The same region of the brain is triggered regardless of whether your four year old just bit you in the arm or slammed you with a biting remark.

The reason?

We mammals spend a long time as babies. We need help to survive past this vulnerable period. From an evolutionary perspective, we humans believe at a very primal level, and our brains reinforce it, that social exclusion can literally kill us.

Even today research shows that we live longer, happier and healthier lives when we are a part of a group of people who “get” us.

Sometimes it’s obvious we will be the next one voted off the island. Other times social exclusion may be all in our heads — Did my neighbor just give me a dirty look?! Why isn’t my friend calling me back…?

Real or perceived, social exclusion still hurts. And that explains why many of us go to great ends to avoid it.

In my case, I considered never asking that two timing nanny back again. I also considered purchasing a nanny cam to watch her kid whispering in action (and steal a few of her tricks).

But after a bit of self –coaching, I realized how irrational I was being. My kids love her after all. And that’s a good thing. And, I realized, I don’t have to change being me. Just because they say they want her over me,  doesn’t make it true.In the end, like it or not, I will always be their mother (muha ha ha).

Something tells me, as a mom, there will be lots more self-coaching to come. The very real pain of social rejection will always let me know when I need to get to work.

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6 Responses

  1. Jennifer says:

    Great timing for me! I just had a serious proposal (rather rudely, I thought) rejected yesterday! Even though I am enlightened and practice “The Work” faithfully it still hurt. The grace of my practices helped me process it and recover quicker I’m sure.
    Thanks for the reassurance that the feelings are ‘normal.’

    • Amy says:

      Hey Jennifer! I agree – Good or bad I find it so reassuring to know that it’s totally normal! Thanks for your comment!

  2. Paula says:

    Thanks Amy!!! This blog contained not one but TWO breakthroughs for me. Love ya…

  3. paula says:

    Five breakthroughs for me today and you started it with the first two with this blog. Alleluia. Here is what I got…

    First, Fear of rejection leads to approval addiction. Social pain registers the same way that physical pain does. Rejection HURTS. WOW.

    Secondly, “we live happier and healthier lives when we are a part of a group of people who get us.” And I have been aware of needing a new/different tribe. I know who this does not include but am seeking whom it may include now.

    Third revelation came from a blog article from Melissa McCreery on sparkpeople.com. Here is the link http://www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?post=is_your_weight_loss_puzzle_missing_a_crucial_piece This really finally spoke to the overeating and overwhelmed piece of my life and how self care fits into that for me, finally.

    Fourth was rejection as it relates to my avoidance of eye contact with people. It struck me that it is because I don’t fancy the possibility of being rejected by others so I avoid eye contact while talking with them.

    And fifth was a Mars versus Venus moment when I realized that I had learned how to deal with something really annoying at my job. So rather than avoiding telling my husband about that topic, I would let him know that I had solved that frustration so that I would be pleased to share the ridiculous tales without the fear of judgment/defense of him, protecting me from hurt by these situations.

    I am growing….by leaps and bounds today, finally. I have known what my issues were for so long and yet I had not the clues of how to proceed forward.Thanks so much, Amy. I can’t thank you enough for the break through beginning! xoxoxoxo

  4. Aaron says:

    Such a heartwarming article.

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