Overcoming The Fear Of Rejection
In the last few months I have embarked on the tremendously exciting yet potentially ego-destroying journey of trying to get a book published.
After each ‘thanks, but no thanks’ email or even worse, no reply at all, I can feel a slight chipping away at my usually-quite-resilient persona. But you know what, if JK Rowling, George Orwell and Stephen King can be rejected over and over again, so can I.
Rejection is difficult, and many people are so scared of it that they won’t take steps forward in life, for fear of experiencing it.
There are little rejections, like the ones that make you say ‘pffft’ to yourself when they happen. This might be the case after a date you thought went well that never gets back to you. It might be a ‘not liked’ Facebook photo or an ignored dating profile. A quiet hurt that is relatively easy to overcome.
Other times, rejection can be life halting. Being made redundant after years of service. No call back after a job interview. The bank not approving the loan. A friend walking away. The team you trained for not picking you. Or one of the most painful rejections of all, unrequited love.
We’ve all been there, and I can tick off more than a few of the above in my life so far. But what I know for sure is that rejection happens to everyone.
Rejection is painful, not only psychologically but also physically. If you’ve ever had a broken heart, you’ll know what I'm talking about. The part of the cortex in the brain that feels emotional pain lies right next to the part that feels physical pain. So not only does rejection put us in a bad mood, wreak havoc on our self-esteem and shatter our confidence but our body feels it. It hurts.
From an evolutionary perspective, rejection meant getting kicked out of our pack and was pretty much a death sentence. So we're wired to feel uneasy, because it digs in deep.
That being said, people can get through rejection better than they do. Despite people often thinking it’s the end of the world when they’re rejected, it isn’t. It just feels like that.
It’s easy to personalise rejection because it feels as though our personal qualities totally contributed it. Often it’s more about the circumstances of the rejecter whether that be a person, team, or organisation. A myriad of other factors other than yourself, that shows that you and them are probably a mismatch.
Often after being rejected, you are better off. I breathe a big sigh of relief when I think about some of the things I didn’t get (I include a few jobs, a house and a guy in that). As a 'rejectee' I remember being quite devastated. But looking back now, it definitely was for the best, and in fact, I would be in a much worse situation if I hadn’t been rejected.
When you’re in the middle of rejection, you don’t know what’s around the corner. And this is what Jia Jiang, who embarked on a journey to be purposefully rejected every day for 100 days, found. He explains in his now famous TED Talk ‘100 days of Rejection’, that we need to embrace our rejections, because they might actually become our gifts as well. When you get rejected in life, when you’re facing the next failure, consider the possibilities.
So next time you get knocked back, kicked out, don’t get chosen, or just don’t get anywhere, feel the pain for a little bit, gather your learnings and then head off in another direction (even if it means getting rejected again). If you hesitate, have a think about what will actually happen if you're rejected. It's likely that the worst thing that will happen is that you'll be in the same position you are in now.
It’s not the rejection that matters in the end; it’s what you do with it that counts. So with that piece of my own advice, I am off to annoy every publisher I can find.