Many people, probably more than realize it, struggle with a fear of rejection. The fear of rejection is a powerful one that often has a far-reaching impact on our lives. Most people experience some anxiety when putting themselves in situations that could lead to rejection, but for some people, the fear becomes crippling. Most people want to belong and connect with others, especially people they care about. Feeling rejected by anyone is painful, let alone those people you truly want acceptance from. Believing you aren’t wanted—whether it’s for a job, a relationship or friendship—isn’t a pleasant experience. But are you letting this fear get in the way of living your best life? Is your fear of rejection making you…*gasp* boring?
Whether you want to ask for a raise, launch a new business or embark on a new relationship, you have to learn how to anticipate this feeling without letting it derail you. This is where the power of confidence and resilience comes into play. You have to manage objections and rejections in a healthy way. Without these skills, you’ll find it difficult to thrive in your life and career.
No one can tell you how you’re feeling, except for you. But the most important thing you can do before addressing your feelings around rejection, is to acknowledge them. Telling yourself that you don’t care about getting hurt when you really do denies you the opportunity to confront and manage this fear productively. Instead, a lot of people turn to hiding or withdrawing. Maybe you don’t go out for the promotion because you’re sure so-and-so is going to get it over you. Why do you think that? What is making you feel this way? It’s important to examine the “why” around our fear as much as the “what.”
Unfortunately, the fear of rejection isn’t something that just goes away with age. In fact, it’s rather the opposite. We become complacent in our fear. As you get older, this fear of rejection can become buried deep in your mind. It becomes a goal in itself to subconsciously avoid any and all rejection. And this is one goal that your subconscious works very hard to achieve.
So if you’re reading all of this and thinking, “Oh gosh, I don’t want to become a boring hermit crab who never goes for anything that isn’t safe,” we’re on the right track. So what can you do?
First, you have to visualize the outcome you want, not the worst-case scenario. Your brain is hardwired to dwell on what could possibly go wrong. When you spend your energy thinking about all the bad things that might happen, you might trick yourself into thinking that success is not possible. Focusing on negative outcomes can paralyze you, and prevent you from taking the steps that are crucial for your personal growth. Next time you’re feeling that tinge of fear, visualize the outcome you want. It doesn’t guarantee it will happen, but it can put you in the right mindset to take the steps you need. You can learn to identify what’s in your control, and focus your energy on executing those actions.
Second, it’s imperative to keep things in perspective. How many times have we read too much into the punctuation of a text message? That’s the sneaky hardwired fear of rejection rearing it’s ugly head. This type of negative thought spiral is called catastrophizing, and it’s usually not very realistic. We subconsciously cling onto these worries. Like any time someone says “we need to talk,” we automatically go into panic mode and start preparing for the worst. While it’s good to be realistic, it’s not helpful to dwell on the negative “what-ifs.”
You can’t ever get rid of fear, it’s just part of the human experience. We actually need fear to keep us alive. The best thing you can do is reframe that fear so you don’t let it consume you. Visualizing the best-case scenario helps get you in the best mindset, and keeping things in perspective will help you cope. If you need to, put pen to paper and start mapping out your feelings. Start at the beginning. What do you want to happen? What are you worried might happen? Which factors are in your control? Which factors are completely out of your control? What can you do if the outcome doesn’t go your way? The more you sit and reflect with these feelings on a daily basis, the less likely you are to be a boring hermit crab and live your best life.