I’m sure we can all agree that rejection doesn’t feel great. In fact most of the time, it sucks. Whether it’s in your professional or personal life, rejection can destroy your self-esteem, create anger and fear, as well as take up precious brain space.
If you’ve experienced rejection before and didn’t have the tools to manage your mind, it can feel all-consuming. It may become all you can think about or talk about. Once the experience of rejection has passed, the feelings of shame, worry and sadness can become your constant companion.
It’s understandable to have an issue with rejection because as a human, you are hard wired to desire social contact and acceptance, therefore, being rejected can feel scary. It can lead to feeling unwanted, undervalued or unaccepted.
If only there was a way to be willing to experience rejection without it stopping you from being, doing or having what you want; a way to be self-confident and give yourself all the approval you need.
Sound good? Then I have a secret to share.
This week I’m going to discuss where the fear of rejection comes from and the secret to dealing with it in a way that empowers you rather than paralyzes you.
Where the fear of rejection comes from
The fear of rejection is a primitive fear. It is part of our natural evolution as humans. You are hard wired to be part of a pack for your survival.
Back in the early days of human existence, rejection from one’s tribe would have been a huge problem. Rejection could have led to death because of the need for connection to survive. Humans needed other humans in order to live.
Over time humans have evolved to experience rejection as painful. Being ostracized or rejected from the tribe is to be avoided at all costs.
So since your brain has been naturally programmed to equate rejection with possible death, then it’s no wonder rejection feels so painful. The primitive part of your brain is still reacting to rejection as something to fear.
Even though you no longer live in a cave where your life depends upon your tribe’s acceptance of you, it doesn’t matter to the primitive brain. Fast forward to your life in the busy modern world where you are balancing a career with being a mom, and your primitive brain still reacts to rejection as a threat.
For example, you find out you weren’t invited to a party a friend is having and you feel hurt. As the days go by you can’t stop thinking about not being invited and create a downward spiral of negative thoughts and feelings. Those thoughts could be about your friend but more often those negative thoughts are about you. This perceived rejection can cause thoughts that range from “What’s wrong with me that I wasn’t invited?” to “How dare she treat me this way!”
The fear of rejection often begins at an early age, especially once you start school and have more interaction with a new “tribe”. All of a sudden you are getting feedback from your parents, teachers and other students which lead to more concerns about your acceptance into the tribe.
Eventually you move up to high school where you may experience excruciating fear of being rejected. This tender age of awkwardness often makes rejection so painful you spend the rest of your life trying to avoid it at all costs.
With this primal fear of rejection you may begin the habit of seeking approval from others and start a pattern of people pleasing. Since you don’t want to risk rejection from the tribe, you go along and don’t risk doing what you may secretly desire doing. Unfortunately you may fear rejection so much that you wind up doing nothing that could get disapproval from others.
When I decided I wanted to study to become a life coach, the fear of rejection kicked in. I was worried what other people would think and whether they would dismiss my desire. I actually did have someone say to me “You’re still going to be a CPA right? The title of CPA is so well respected” (they clearly didn’t understand the power of being coached!). Since I hadn’t been practicing managing my mind at that time, I worried that other people would echo what this person had said. Would being a certified life coach lead to rejection?
Your fear of rejection may show up in your life in different ways:
- Agreeing to host a holiday (even though you don’t want to) because your extended family said it’s your turn and you’re afraid they’ll talk negatively about you behind your back
- Not going in to ask for a raise because your boss seems stressed and you’re afraid he’ll say no
- Wanting to join an online dating website but are afraid of being judged by total strangers
- Noticing a Meetup group for working moms in your area but worried that you won’t fit in because you don’t work full-time and assume you won’t have anything in common
On the one hand you have this primal fear of rejection that stops you from doing what you want but on the other hand, in order to succeed in work and in life, you have to be able to deal with rejection. So what’s the answer?
The secret to dealing with rejection
I want to start by stressing that the fear of rejection is costing you more than you realize. This fear affects your ability to succeed in many personal and professional situations, but the good news is that it can be overcome. You can overcome the fear of rejection and create a feeling of self-confidence.
Whether you have a fear of rejection from others or you have been rejecting yourself ahead of time so you don’t have to risk being rejected by others, you can take control. You can embrace life’s challenges, you can say “no” when “yes” would be people pleasing and you can live in a way that works best for you.
Imagine what your life would look like if it was impossible for you to feel rejected; if you could take a pill that would deactivate the part of your brain that fears rejection. What would that look like for you? What would you be doing right now that you aren’t doing?
For me that was deciding to follow my desire to help others with their emotional well-being and not just their financial well-being. It was about learning how to manage my own mind in such a powerful way that I gave myself all the approval I needed and decided to study to be that certified life coach that I dreamed about being. It was about becoming aware that rejection was more often a story that my primitive brain made up to keep me from growing.
The powerful secret I learned in order to deal with rejection is in knowing that rejection is a feeling that comes from YOUR thoughts, not other people’s thoughts. Rejection isn’t something that happens to you; you have to think a thought that CAUSES you to feel rejected.
So why is this secret powerful? It’s powerful because you are human and have the ability to think about what you think about. You also have the power to override your primitive brain and choose how you want to think on purpose. The thoughts you choose to think will create your feeling of rejection or not.
For example, your mother may have said she was returning the gift you gave her for her birthday and needed the receipt. The secret to not feeling rejection is in your awareness that this is a neutral circumstance. You have not been rejected by your mother until you have a thought about the circumstance that creates your feeling of rejection. You could choose to think “She hates everything I buy her so she must hate my taste in gifts” (rejection) or you could choose to think “I appreciate her honesty and can’t wait to see what she picks out for herself” (appreciation).
Your primitive brain’s default mode will offer you unconscious thoughts that lead to the feeling of rejection because it just wants to keep you safe. Remember, it equates rejection with death so it dramatizes neutral circumstances, like your mother wanting to return a gift, in order to keep you safe.
So instead of letting the lower primitive brain run the show, you can use your higher brain (aka the prefrontal cortex) to decide how you want to think and feel. You can choose to think in a way that serves you, rather than interpreting circumstances as rejection.
The interesting thing is that when you learn how to manage your mind, you learn how to overcome the fear of rejection and actually become willing to be rejected. You no longer see rejection in the same way. That’s when life gets interesting!
When you become willing to put yourself out into the world, to take action for the sake of your goals and to please yourself first and foremost, that’s when you create self-confidence. That’s when you become rejection-proof because you know that rejection is just a feeling and you won’t die from a feeling.
Just in case you are still on the fence about being willing to feel rejection, here are a few successful women who were rejected 100’s of times before they experienced the level of success we witness today:
- K. Rowling – received innumerable rejection letters before Harry Potter’s fame
- Oprah Winfrey – was disrespected, fired and rejected many times before her rise to success
- Barbara Corcoran – before her real estate success she cites many situations throughout her career where obstacles turned into opportunities
- Sally Krawcheck – the former CFO of Citigroup and Wall Street queen was fired for wanting to do the right thing by the firm’s clients at the height of the financial crisis; she went on to launch an investing platform for women called Ellevest.
- Judy Blume – before her incredible success in children’s literature she says she received nothing but rejections for two years
Whether it’s not going for what you want in your career or staying in relationships that are past their expiration date, the fear of rejection is costing you more than you realize. Let’s be real – if your life doesn’t look like what you want it to look like, you should take a look at your relationship with rejection.
To give you a jumpstart on your path to no longer fearing rejection, I offer you the following thoughts to try on:
- Nothing’s gone wrong
- I’m supposed to be rejected 100 times before I get a yes
- I’m right on track
- With each “no” I’m one step closer to a “yes”
- I get to choose what I’ll make this mean
- Rejection is just a feeling and I can handle a feeling
- I can do hard things
As far as my story goes, if I let the fear of rejection stop me, you wouldn’t be reading this and I wouldn’t be helping female accountant moms who are struggling to have it all. I am now a CPA and a certified life coach because I chose not to let my primitive brain run the show.
Now it’s your turn – what would you like to do? What’s stopping you? Start to work on dealing with rejection and you’ll be unstoppable!
- It’s understandable to have an issue with rejection because humans are hard wired to desire social contact and acceptance, therefore, being rejected can feel scary.
- The fear of rejection is a primitive fear; it is part of our natural evolution as humans.
- With this primal fear of rejection you may begin the habit of seeking approval from others and start a pattern of people pleasing.
- The powerful secret I learned in order to deal with rejection is in knowing that rejection is a feeling that comes from YOUR thoughts, not other people’s thoughts.
- Rejection isn’t something that happens to you; you have to think a thought that CAUSES you to feel rejected.
- When you become willing to put yourself out into the world, to take action for the sake of your goals and to please yourself first and foremost, that’s when you become rejection-proof because you know that rejection is just a feeling and you won’t die from a feeling.
If you’d like some help learning how to apply the secret to dealing with rejection, please feel free to schedule a free mini session or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get to work together.