Monday, August 31, 2015

Fighting the Fear of Rejection

Sometimes, despite our desire to have certain things in our lives, our fear of being rejected may hold us back.  Interestingly, the Fear of Rejection is often the single biggest obstacle standing between you and success.

Being rejected is one of our deepest fears.  In ancient tribal times survival was dependent upon being part of a group. Therefore, losing the safety of that community typically equated to a death sentence. As a result, we are wired with a desire to belong.  We tend then to engage in behaviours that help us be seen in a positive light, that help us to gain acceptance. We therefore hesitate to take risks and actions that we think may not be viewed as favourably by others.

The issue with this is that our fears are not always 'true'. They are typically only our thoughts or beliefs about what 'might' happen.  Regardless though, they can create a damaging pattern of behaviour and belief that limits and restricts our growth and, ultimately, our success.

Rejection is driven by emotion.  It is not our thoughts themselves that cause us to feel rejected, but how our thoughts make us feel.  Unfortunately, we can generate these feelings without even being rejected; our thoughts of the possibility of being rejected are enough to hold us back.  This possibility is enough to...

  • Prevent us from saying 'Yes' to new opportunities.  Fear is designed to save us from danger, to introduce an element of caution when facing new challenges.  This makes sense when we are confronted by a bear but not so much when we are facing a new task, challenge, or opportunity. We have to risk rejection if we want to receive the rewards.
  • Lead us to trying to please everyone. In an effort to avoid being rejected by anyone we can go out of our way trying to be everything to everyone. Trying to please everyone is perhaps the best definition of 'impossible' there is.  Additionally, when all our efforts are put toward pleasing others our own wishes and wants will usually get lost in the process. 
  • Leave us speechless. The possibility of someone taking exception to what we say leads us to stifle our voice, not sharing our true thoughts and opinions lest someone not agree and reject us as a result. We tend to then assume a much more passive voice, adopting language that will appease others.
In order to step up to the plate and take the action we need, to drive the success we want, we need to be able to Reject of Fear of Rejection.  Yep, stare rejection right in the face and reject it first! Confident people tend to take rejection in stride, assuming it's an expected and natural part of living. We too can learn to do the same.  Try a few of the following tips to help you gain the upper hand in your relationship with rejection...
  • Stop 'Awfulizing'.  Stop making things out to be worse than they are.  As you build the projected size of the potential rejection up, you also build your emotional barriers.  Your desire to avoid the possibility increases accordingly. Take the time to think rationally about the worst case scenario, the 'what's the worst that could happen' result and assess its impact on you.  Usually it will not be anywhere nearly as big as you were making it out to be, leaving it to be far more approachable and 'do-able'.
  • Focus on your wants, not those of others.  The clearer you are of what you want and need from the opportunity, your career, your life, the less likely you are to allow the opinions of others to stand in your way.  Recognise that often their opinions are more about their fears than they are beliefs about what is possible for you.  Don't allow yourself to become a prisoner of the opinions of others.
  • What are you actually afraid of?  This is a key question to ask.  Without it we typically are merging multiple fears into one, increasing our emotional barrier to the situation.  Instead, isolate those fears and deal only with the one which is actually applicable to the challenge you face.  This will immediately make the barrier smaller and more realistic to face, sidestep or jump over.
  • Focus on what you want, not what you want to avoid.  The more you build up the benefits of your desired end result the better.  Make the positive gain bigger in your mind than your perceived potential pain of rejection and you will be okay with pushing through.  The bigger the perceived gain versus the perceived pain the more you will accept the risk.
  • Use rejection as a growth opportunity.  Most of us could benefit from developing a slightly thicker skin than we currently possess.  We don't need to be made of teflon, but we do need to learn to accept a certain amount of rejection in our lives, pulling from it whatever lessons make sense to us, using it as critical developmental feedback.  Learn what you can from it, do what you can with it... toss the rest away!
  • Short list the people to please.  Of course we will want to please some of the people in our lives, we just don't want to get caught up in trying to please all of them.  Consider each situation as unique.  Who is it important to keep happy for that situation?  Your list will shift for each opportunity and challenge you face but, in all situations, You should be at the top of every short list.  
We all want to receive a validation of our value, not a rejection of it.  However, the first person that we should seek out to validate our ideas, opinions and worth is... Us.  The more we belief in ourselves and our cause the greater our protection against the rejection of others.  As the old John Fogerty song Garden Party goes (and feel free to sing the lyric in your head with Ricky Nelson's voice)... 
 'You see, you can't please everyone so you got to please yourself'

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