Are You Afraid of Rejection?
Have you ever been so afraid of rejection you went out of your way to avoid it?
And it almost cost me some of the best experiences and friends of my life.
In the small town where I’m from, the kids who went to college always rushed fraternities and sororities. It’s just what people did. Rush season was the talk of the town.
Every year, I saw dreams come true and hopes dashed.
When it was my turn to apply for college, I was absolutely terrified at the thought of rushing. What if I got rejected? How stupid would I look — in front of the whole town?
I decided to dodge the risk altogether.
All I had to do was go to a college without Greek Life. Genius! No rushing, no rejection, no humiliation. I found my school, got accepted, and went away for the summer in an exchange program.
Life was good.
Well. You know what they say about the best-laid plans …
While I was away, my mother discovered my school DID have sororities. And she signed me up for rush.
Now I had to go through with it!
Despite my terrible fears, I rushed. And, I was selected — by my preferred sorority! You know what? I ended up having wonderful, unforgettable experiences there. Some of those women remain my closest friends, even to this day.
Friends I never would have made if I did not face my fear of rejection.
“Rejection — and the fear of rejection — is the biggest impediment we face to choosing ourselves.” — James Altucher
Can you relate?
Fear of rejection is not only about social situations. It can show up in your professional life, too — and become a huge career roadblock. The first steps to dealing with rejection in a positive way are to understand your fears and embrace its upside.
Let’s look at how to do that.
Power Challenge 1: What are you afraid of? Name it.
Speaking of fear of rejection, what is that for YOU? Take some time to reflect. Think about a time (past or present) when you felt rejected. (Or think about how you might want to put yourself forward for something that feels a bit bold or scary to you.)
Related: Conquer Your Fear!
For example, maybe you didn’t get accepted by a school. Or selected as a candidate for a program. Maybe you got passed over for a promotion. Your best work wasn’t a winner in a competition. You lost a big contract opportunity to a competitor.
Reflection is an important part of rejection.
As you consider rejection, what feelings arise? What thoughts?
Here are some examples:
- Shame — thinking you’re not smart enough or good enough
- Embarrassed — “losing face” because others might be judging you
- Fear — believing the rejection is proof you’ll never advance
- Anxiety — worrying that someone is disappointed in you
- Envy or anger — feeling like everyone else gets ahead but you
- Depressed — thinking you’ve failed
You’ll know when you’ve hit on your underlying feelings about rejection. Your body will tell you. You might feel it in your gut, head, face or heart. You might even feel it with overall muscle tension.
Stay with this reflection until you can really name what’s going on for you. Then you can find ways to empower yourself to move on. A big part of moving on involves your mindset. Read on to learn more!
Power Challenge 2: Turn rejection into learning
You’ve been rejected.
Now what? One of the most empowering ways to deal with rejection is to focus on your opportunity to learn.
Take a step back. Why do you think you were rejected?
Don’t make assumptions about why you were rejected. Respectfully ask for feedback and be open to learning from what you’re told.
Don’t stop with simple answers such as, “I guess I’m just not good enough.” If it’s true you weren’t good enough in that particular instance, think further. What were your specific gaps? What can you do or change for next time?
In other words, get as much learning as you can from the experience. If you were overlooked for a promotion, didn’t get the new job, or had your proposal or bid rejected, write a respectful email to the appropriate person. Ask for just ten or fifteen minutes of their time for constructive feedback. Or perhaps ask to see their score sheet to learn where you can improve.
You may find there was nothing you could have done differently. For example, maybe your proposal price was too high for a particular prospective client. Or some other job candidate had one bit of related experience that was preferred over yours.
Regardless, be sure to remain open to whatever you may hear. Don’t be defensive or argumentative. You are learning — so you can grow!
Power Challenge 3: Thank yourself for stretching
Now, what about those tough feelings — the intense emotional sting of a rejection? Maybe you’re telling yourself you shouldn’t have even tried.
Put on your big-girl panties or big-boy boxers! You will survive this rejection. And you should be thanking yourself for it. You tried out for something., You raised your hand to volunteer for something. You put yourself forward to be evaluated and judged in some way.
You didn’t settle for the status quo. You were willing to trade the risk of rejection for an opportunity for growth or advancement.
Related: Is Your Definition of Success Holding You Back?
So, even if you didn’t get picked — GOOD FOR YOU. Good for you for trying. Shake off your disappointment. Thank yourself — and now move on!
Don’t Let Yourself Miss Out
My sorority experience has been a powerful reminder for me throughout my life. Whenever I’ve nearly succumbed to fear of rejection, I remind myself: Look what you would have missed if you hadn’t rushed. If you’d let fear win out!
Our best self is NOT the one who doesn’t try. Our best self is the one who steps forward, who’s willing to be in the game. In fact, I would even say: If you’re not downright scared at least some of the time, you’re not pushing yourself enough! Your potential won’t come to fruition on its own.
“Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” — Steve Maraboli
If you’re rejected for something, don’t let that be the end of your story. Instead, use that experience to become your best self — the one who’s already stepping up for the next opportunity!
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