If you are afraid of rejection, join the club. Every person has gone through this since human life came into existence. In ancient tribes, rejection would simply mean death. We all want and need to belong. It starts very young when we want to be accepted at school. As we grow up there is pressure not to be rejected by our peers, in relationships and, of course at work.
How many of us have had to open the dreaded letter or email rejecting our application for that dream job? Have you cried tears of frustration when a publisher has rejected your masterpiece? I can relate to the latter!
But if you let your fear of rejection take over your life, you may well be showing some of the following symptoms. It is a dreadful disease because it means that you will never leave your comfort zone or try anything new. This condition is holding you back. Here are the classic signs:
- You rarely express your views openly and honestly at work or in relationships.
- You seldom seek out new opportunities.
- You make excuses all the time about never having enough, time, money or skills.
- You tend to whine and complain a lot. You are the one who blames everything and everyone else without ever turning the spotlight on yourself.
- You are inclined to please people all the time rather than clash with them. You prefer a quiet life.
Now, if you recognize a few or all of these symptoms, read on because I want to list 10 ways you can begin to conquer your fear of rejection and start to move out of your comfort zone.
1. You seize the moment
How many times have you kicked yourself for not taking action, reacting to a girl/guy’s interested look, or not applying for that better job? Lots of times, I imagine. When you find out that you were the ideal candidate or that guy/girl was also interested in you, then you start kicking yourself. Now the fear of rejection is nothing compared to the fear of regret. Nothing worse than going through life regretting all those missed chances. ‘If only… .’ is one of the most toxic viruses to affect the human brain. Seize the moment.
2. You know that rejection is not failure
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” –Thomas Edison
When you see and experience rejection, you begin to go on a downward spiral. You associate it with failure, mistakes, humiliation and depression. But if you learn that this rejection is nothing more than a blip on your radar, then you are on the right road to recovery. You plucked up your courage. The next time, you will not be nearly as scared when bringing up an issue with your manager, or approaching a problem with your partner.
3. You visualize positive outcomes with a critical lens
Lots of controversy about this one because most self-help sites encourage you to think of the positive outcome in your new venture or project. There is little reliable evidence to show that this can really work. Some new research shows that too much positive visualization may actually drain your energy because you feel more relaxed, and you will not reach your goals. There is a fascinating article on this in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
It seems that the best solution may be to look at the outcome from a 360 degree viewpoint so that you can summon up enough energy. You can also prevent tricking the brain into thinking that you have achieved your objective. A more critical visualization process envisages the following:
- Picture positive outcomes.
- Assess the obstacles.
- Reflect on lessons learned from setbacks.
- Plan the steps and timing to reach the goals.
4. You control your negative thoughts and benefit enormously
Looking at the positive outcome will help to control all the other negative emotions which will haunt us day in and day out. I am thinking here of anger, resentment, humiliation, stress, and guilt.
Do these really affect the way we live and work? Barbara Frederickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, has conducted some interesting research on this.
She found that the negative emotions such as fear and anger lead nowhere. But the positive emotions such as gratitude, joy and love helps to broaden your outlook in the following ways:
- You begin to see new opportunities.
- You are more open to other options.
- You are encouraged to build your skills to exploit all these new possibilities.
- You are able to use your own resources better.
Most of the research in this area shows that positive thinking can really add value to your life.
5. You are not afraid of taking risks
Maybe you think that hiding your failures will be a useful camouflage for your resume? Think again. According to an article in Business Week, head hunters are now actively seeking those who a have experience of failure and success and who are not afraid to reveal it. The reasoning is simple in that those who are prepared to take risks, learn from failure and move on have gained invaluable experience.
According to some large companies such as Virgin Atlantic and General Electric, great success depends on great risk. Failure is a minor by product.
Analyzing failure means looking at the risks you need to take in future. You may need to discover more about your partner, your customers or your team. Try making a list of mini risks you need to take to assess what is wrong or what can be improved. You may have to approach the problem in a completely different way.
6. You do not take things too personally
You know that setbacks and episodes of rejection are just small incidents along the path of life. You know how to move on and seek out new opportunities which may open up new vistas and opportunities. If you are too introspective, you will never be able to take these brave steps of starting over.
If you watch Downton Abbey, you will remember that the characters who have been rejected do so with grace and dignity. We should try and follow their example.
7. You know how to cope with fear in a relationship
Maybe your relationship with your loved one is being dominated by fear. There are many fears which can cover loneliness, boredom, failure, helplessness, poverty, or aging. All too often, these fears are never talked about openly but camouflaged. You know you or your partner have problems when remarks like these dominate the conversation:
- Why can’t you ever be optimistic, for a change?
- You are always the one who decides how much we spend
- Oh you are always worried about something
- You were the one who decided where we should go on holiday
The secret is to talk openly about these fears so each partner is aware of the other’s feelings.
Try to voice your fears in a neutral way. Use ‘we’ rather than ‘you’ or ‘I’. Talk about how you react in certain situations and why you feel like that. Ask your partner how s/he feels and is there any reason for reacting the way they do. If there are financial worries, work out practical ways of how you both can be thriftier.
8. You are prepared to move out of your comfort zone
“Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear.”- Cheri Huber
Often, you have to make a decision which will involve moving outside those safe, comfort zones. You may have to say something you feel strongly about at a meeting at work. You may have to work part-time to make ends meet. You may have relocated and will have to make new friends. You may have to learn new skills fast to keep that new job.
Just imagine if you had chosen the safe option in each of those scenarios. Well, you would still be in that boring, dead end job.
9. You have rejected perfection but you aim for excellence
Perfection is never a realistic ambition. You have to adjust your goals, ambitions and skills set to match the task in hand. Always aim for excellence.
You cannot expect perfection because it simply does not exist. If you read Barry Schwartz’s book ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less’, he cites examples of people at risk of depression and severe stress. They all have one thing is common; they have perfectionist tendencies.
10. You are aware that the real you is not your job or position
Workaholics make the mistake of giving their all to their job. It is a gross error because they are denying that there is a real person underneath who needs to love and cherish their passions, their friends and family. They hide their ethics, values and dreams. The person who copes with rejection knows that there is life beyond work, setbacks, failure and rejection.
Think about the above ten points which will help you get your fear of rejection into perspective. Once you do that, you can really say with conviction ‘And next?’ Nothing can hold you back now!
Featured photo credit: Starry night/ADD via pixabay.com