Fear Less Rejection

Light trails indicating movementIt’s  the time of year when many things are starting again.

I know it’s September and autumn is upon us but I’ve spent so much of my time in academic circles that this feels like just the right time for new beginnings; a new term, new students, new courses to teach and yes, new business to create. Even as a researcher, if I’m looking to submit a grant application early in the new year, this is the time to get serious about putting those new ideas onto paper, to get writing and collaborating. And at times like this, I’m often aware of fear.

Fear of being too busy, over-stretching myself, over-promising what I can do, fear of not having the “chemistry” with a new set of students so that special relationship doesn’t develop.

Many times I’ve feared not having new ideas, being found wanting, discovering that my best new venture is judged to be not exciting at all, fear that I’m asking more of myself than I can deliver, fear that the people I approach won’t want to work with me.

Maybe our biggest fear is of being rejected and I don’t think for one moment that I’m alone here.

For our basic survival as human beings it is essential that we are accepted, by our mother, by our family, by our community. At least in the early stages of our lives, rejection means almost certain death and a definite failure to thrive. The high price we have to pay for rejection might be precisely the reason we will do almost anything to avoid it, to be accepted, to fit in.

Right now some of you will be thinking “No, I’m perfectly self-contained, happy on my own. I need nobody.” and you know what, that might well be true for you, but not for many of us. Most people who live and work in what passes for normal society in the western world do need to interact with other people on a fairly regular basis. We need to put ourselves out there, to take risks if we want to succeed.

Then the fear that we will be rejected or will fail looms large and often we hesitate. Sometimes we freeze.

And if you’re still thinking this doesn’t apply to you, again you may be right. But for many of us, maybe what we do more than anything is refuse to make the request or to take the risk in the first place. If we don’t ask, if we refuse to put ourselves out there for public judgement, then at least we can’t be rejected, can we? If we don’t try, we won’t fail and nobody, not even we will know whether we would have made it or not.

People who have successful careers in sales-related areas know that rejection isn’t the end of a relationship, just a staging point. But most of us not in sales jobs don’t feel happy with rejection.

If you want to grow, to get ahead, to succeed, it’s important to learn to deal with rejection, to move beyond the fear.

There are many ways to approach this. You can reframe failure as a learning experience. You might realise that it’s a numbers game and if you ask often enough someone will eventually say yes so get out and collect the “No’s” first… or like Jia below, you can make rejection into a life-affirming game.

Until you can be happy with yourself – rejected or not – you will be playing small, under-selling yourself and missing out on who knows what opportunities.

Have a listen to Jia explain how rejection has given him a new life!




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