How to Stop the Fear of Rejection From Holding You Back.

How to Stop the Fear of Rejection From Holding You Back

We humans can do anything – anything – but the fear of rejection is so powerful that it can make us step back from life in case we get hurt. That’s completely understandable. Completely. But we miss out on so much by doing that.

All of us at some point have done something bold and brave and daring – because the risk was worth it. We’ve chased, caught, kissed, asked, shared and bared our wanting soul for something that was too important to walk away from without trying.

Anyone who has lived life at all will know that sometimes those risks don’t pay off.  It hurts when that happens. Sometimes the pain can be breathtaking. Other times though. Other times those risks that come with a hefty chance of rejection, take you and your life somewhere extraordinary. It’s how the magic happens.

So let’s not pretend that rejection doesn’t sting. It does. Sometimes it’s excruciating- but we always find out way out of the fire. However hard we hit the ground, we always manage to get back up, dust off and keep moving forward.

[bctt tweet=”The right things will always find you – but first you might have to fight for them. Here’s how.”]

The fear of rejection is real. So are the things we miss out on because of it. Here’s how to stop it holding you back, so you can clear the path to the things that are too important to let slip away without fighting for them first:

  1. Look at what it will give you.

    There’s more to gain that what you’re going for. Whether or not you get what you want, there will be other things you’ll get from trying. Know that like any fear, every time you confront it, the easier it will be push through it next time. You’ll officially be braver, more resilient, smarter and more ready for next time – and there will always a next time. 

  2. What you focus on is what will become important. 

    You’ll always be able to think of more reasons not to take a chance than reasons to go for it, and there’s a reason for that. Humans are wired for survival, which means we tend to be risk averse. This pulls our focus more towards what we have to lose, than what we have to gain. Whatever you focus on is what will become important. Catch yourself fixing on the potential for rejection, and gently shift yourself towards what you have to gain. When it comes to the things that light you up, it’s never a numbers game. All the reasons not to take the chance just don’t matter, because the only one that matters is this: That risk you’re about to take might be the thing that takes you somewhere extraordinary. 

    [irp posts=”86″ name=”I Should What? Bigger, Bolder, Braver in 28 Moves or Less”]

     

  3. Rejection gets you closer to what you want.

    The right things will always find you, but sometimes you have to fight for them. Someone or something is waiting for you. Exactly you. Take the chance, because this might be it. If it’s not, know that you’re a step closer to what you’re looking for, and what’s looking for you. Keep going until you find it and know that whatever risks you take and whatever rejections you go through, none of it will matter when you find what you’re looking for – which you will.

  4. That thing that feels like death is actually shame.

    Fear of rejection comes down to a fear of shame. Shame exists to stop us doing stupid, anti-social (but sometimes really funny!) things, but too much of it will flatten you. The problem is that shame can start showing up for every party – but you don’t have to let it in. Shame can be awful – I know how awful it can be – but it’s never fatal. It’s never that. It’s controlling and it’s heavy handed, but it’s nothing you can’t deal with. It’s a really human emotion and we’ve all experienced it before. We’ll all experience it again. Some of us many times before the week is out. Don’t let it be the demon in the dark. See it, feel it and let it in. The more you can acknowledge it and recognise it for what it is, the less control it will have over you.

  5. Let yourself be vulnerable – it will be one of the best things about you.

    Taking a risk means being vulnerable. Own your vulnerability, for the beautiful, messy, very human quality it is, and know that it’s one of the best things about you. 

  6. Make it real.

    Is it more important that you stay safe or more important that you have a go? How will your life be different if you get what you want? What will happen if you get rejected? Who will care? How important is that to you? What would it be like to give up right now and make the decision to stay safe? What will you miss out on? Understand the full consequences of your decisions, and remember that not making a decision is still making a decision. You spend so much time on the consequences of not getting what you want. Fears are often faceless – they feel bad but lack substance and are often related to feelings and thoughts that are leftover from long ago. Tease them into the sunlight so you can have a good look at them. Then you can decide what to do with them.

  7. Let your fear win.

    Okay. Stay with me. When deciding whether or not to take a risk, we spend our time between what it would be like to get what we want, and what it would be like to be rejected – but it’s all speculation. What we don’t do is feel what it would be like not to take the chance at all. The force to move comes from fully experiencing what ‘is’. Decide not to take the risk. Decide to let go of what you want, and spend some time fully experiencing what that’s like for you. Walk away, turn your back, and feel it. Really feel it. It’s very likely that if something is really important to you, deciding to walk away without fighting for it will feel really bad. So bad that you’ll be motivated to take the chance, because as bad as rejection might feel, giving up on something you really want will feel worse.

  8. Don’t hesitate. Take a breath and jump.

    We turn so much of life into a waiting game – waiting for the right time, the right day, the right moment, the right feeling, the right ‘one’. These are all the excuses w call on to feel better about not taking the chance that might lead to the very thing we want. Waiting breathes life into fear. It’s one moment. Don’t make it bigger than that, because if that one moment doesn’t go as planned you’ll be fine. You really will. Because it’s one moment of so many more to come. When it comes to the things that ignite you, there are risks that will always be worth taking. The risk you might miss out by waiting too long isn’t one of them. 

  9. Trust your capacity to cope.

    If you get knocked down, you’ll get back up. You’ll cope. You really will. Don’t believe your head if it tries to tell you otherwise. It’s just trying to keep you safe. You’ll always be stronger than you think you are.

    [irp posts=”771″ name=”The Way to Thrive: Emotional Intelligence – What, Why, How”]

     

  10. Thoughts, feeling and action.

    What we do is driven by three things – thoughts, feelings and action. The mistake we make is letting thoughts and feelings rule the day. The feeling is fear – and yeah – it’s a big one, but so it courage. That sense of feeling stuck comes when thoughts are allowed to build up fear more than courage. Thoughts are sly little ponies that make feelings bigger than some of them deserve to be. Behaviour is often driven automatically by thoughts and feelings but it doesn’t have to be. The key to doing something differently is to be more deliberate. Separate thoughts, feelings and actions, see them for what they are, and make more conscious decisions. You can think scared, feel scared, and act brave. Sometimes it’s good to let your heart lead the way – your head will catch up when it’s ready.

  11. Take the hit.

    Rejection is part of life. The only way to avoid it is to live half-heartedly – and you’re meant for better than that. Risk always comes with the potential for happiness and the potential for heartache intertwined – it’s why it’s called a risk. When you open yourself up to reward, you’re also opening yourself up to rejection, but to shut down the risk of rejection is also to shut down the possibility of reward. Rejection won’t break you, but regret has a way of changing you forever.

  12. For long will it matter?

    Will the rejection matter in tomorrow? In a week? A month? A year from now? 

  13. See rejection as opportunity.

    Part of finding out what’s right for you is finding out what isn’t – and the only way to know that is by checking it out. Sometimes you have to move towards things so if nothing else, they’ll move out of the way and free up the space for the right things to find their way to you.

  14. What if rejection is the beginning.

    What if rejection isn’t an ending but the beginning of something new – a new path, a new career, a new city, a new chance to love and be loved right back. With rejection comes new opportunities that you couldn’t have seen coming. Take the chance – you’ll either end up with what you want or one step closer to it.

  15. What would you tell your best friend to do?

    What would your advice be to someone you love? ‘Go for it,’ or ‘You’ve got this,’ or ‘Rejection won’t break you so just do it,’  – or – ‘Yeah no. Best stay safe,’ or ‘Bit risky – best not.’ It’s very possible that the advice you would give to someone else is different to the advice you would give to yourself because when it’s someone else, you’re free from the bad feelings that come with rejection. Here’s what you need to remember: The pain of rejection is just a feeling. It’s not a life sentence and it’s not a defect. It’s your brain doing what sad brains do for a while. Like all feelings it will come, and then it will leave you alone. It’s easy to help other people to fly because you can see the reward and the rejection for what it is – the chance of temporary pain for the chance of something wonderful. You deserve the same wisdom.

    [irp posts=”723″ name=”14 Moves to Get You Out Of Your Way”]

     

  16. And whose messages are they?

    If the fear of rejection is holding you back, where are the messages coming rom? We’re all a messy wonderland of ‘should’s’ and ‘should not’s’ and usually, they’re the messages we took on while we were growing up – from schools, parents and experience. They become the automatic drivers of behaviour. Check your messages around risk and rejection and whether those messages still work for you or whether they stifle you. When messages become automatic, they prescribe behaviour across all situations, rather than selectively. You’re in a different environment now, with new wisdom and new truths. If the old ones are holding you back, shine a light on them and show them the door. Staying safe might have worked really well for you once – but maybe not so much anymore, not in every situation anyway. Your memories of not succeeding might be loaded with shame and awful feelings. If you’re with different people and in a different environment, it doesn’t have to be that way any more. Rather than living by the old, automatic, unexamined messages about what you ‘should’ do and who you ‘should’ be, find them and see if they’re still relevant. Do they help you or do they get in your way? If they’re not serving you well, get rid of them..

  17. Talk about it.

    Rejection almost always gives you a good story to tell. Own it, because it’s yours – and use it to bring the best of you into full view – the positive, funny, brave, resilient parts of you that might otherwise stay hidden.

Playing it safe will keep us safe, but it won’t do much more than that. Life happens in the deep water, with the  waves, the chaos and the unknown. Somewhere between the fear of failing and the courage for it not to matter is where the magic lives. It’s the deep breath in, the brave step forward and the boldness to live life like you own it that actually makes a life. It’s the stuff of passion, ignition, courage and full living.

The biggest threat to getting what you want is your decision to stay safe. Be proud of your brave, fierce, open heart and listen to it – it will take you to where you need to be.  

12 Comments

Martha

This is the best I have read…the reminder that fear is faceless! I will always remind myself of this everytime I find myself frozen in fear of the unknown. You are so encouraging I almost feel for a moment like I can do it right away, whatever I have been postponing for years.

Reply
Justin

I’m shocked at how much this related to me. I just got rejected today, but after reading this article, I realized that I am glad that I did go for it and asked the girl I liked out. It is better that I went for it, rather than always wondering what her answer might have been.

Thank you for helping me.

Reply
James E

thank you for this page,you clarified everything i need to hear.i wasnt raised in a normal family.so i dont have people skills.but your page was so soft i escaped the chaos for a min reading your page.thank you.jimmy

Reply
Ben

Hey great article!:) I was wondering though if one really recovers fully from rejection. Wont our self-image be affected, causing self-fulfilling prophecies to harm us permanently? After I got rejected by a girl I noticed that I was way more frightened to ask a girl out the next time.
Isnt risk taking safe only, if you dont take failure personally?

Reply
Sharon

Hi Ben,
Risk and safe are opposites. Playing safe is not participating at all.
Like Karen wrote, rejection triggers shame and that emotion is the one you need to say goodbye to. Once you no longer make the connection between rejection and shame you are home free.
Question is why does rejection bring in shame? what is so shameful about being rejected? and also, that emotion is yours alone. no one else shares it with you. so you actually have the power to decide if you want it around or not 🙂

Reply
Amit

I was researching about fear of rejection. I have read so many article but this is my last article because I have found everything here that I was searching for.
Thanks Karen for providing such a great and valuable information. 🙂

Reply
Patricia

Please expand on the concept of shame. I can’t quite wrap my head around it, though I know it must be a part of my struggle as a daughter of a full-fledged judgmental narcissistic mother and a just as judgemental but codependent father. I am just now at age 60 beginning to find and use my voice and recognize that fear of failure has limited me for years. I recognize the description that shame feels like death, but I’m having trouble with the concept and how it’s played a part in my life. Thanks.

Reply
Sue F

Hi Patricia. There are some fantastic books relating to shame and its impact on us. I’m 62 and all throughout my life various things that happened in my family just didn’t feel right but I could never put a name to it. Last year I discovered that it was shame. It was a real eye opener. I’ve also discovered some tools to help me with the “shamers”! The one thing that I learned was that it wasn’t me. Good luck!

Reply
Patricia

Thanks for your reply, Sue. I had the exact same feelings, beginning in adolescence or before, and persisting through adulthood, even now, but not until the last few years could I put my finger on it. I’ve read many books on toxic parents and narcissism, but now I’ll be doing a search for books specifically on shame.
Thanks for the suggestion.

Reply
Marianne

Brene Brown’s books on shame are amazing. Read them and change the way you perceive yourself and others. You think it is just you, but shame effects everyone.

Reply

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For way too long, there’s been an idea that discipline has to make kids feel bad if it’s going to steer them away from bad choices. But my gosh we’ve been so wrong. 

The idea is a hangover from behaviourism, which built its ideas on studies done with animals. When they made animals scared of something, the animal stopped being drawn to that thing. It’s where the idea of punishment comes from - if we punish kids, they’ll feel scared or bad, and they’ll stop doing that thing. Sounds reasonable - except children aren’t animals. 

The big difference is that children have a frontal cortex (thinking brain) which animals and other mammals don’t have. 

All mammals have a feeling brain so they, like us, feel sad, scared, happy - but unlike us, they don’t feel shame. The reason animals stop doing things that make them feel bad is because on a primitive, instinctive level, that thing becomes associated with pain - so they stay away. There’s no deliberate decision making there. It’s raw instinct. 

With a thinking brain though, comes incredibly sophisticated capacities for complex emotions (shame), thinking about the past (learning, regret, guilt), the future (planning, anxiety), and developing theories about why things happen. When children are shamed, their theories can too easily build around ‘I get into trouble because I’m bad.’ 

Children don’t need to feel bad to do better. They do better when they know better, and when they feel calm and safe enough in their bodies to access their thinking brain. 

For this, they need our influence, but we won’t have that if they are in deep shame. Shame drives an internal collapse - a withdrawal from themselves, the world and us. For sure it might look like compliance, which is why the heady seduction with its powers - but we lose influence. We can’t teach them ways to do better when they are thinking the thing that has to change is who they are. They can change what they do - they can’t change who they are. 

Teaching (‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘How can you put this right?’) and modelling rather than punishing or shaming, is the best way to grow beautiful little humans into beautiful big ones.

#parenting
Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. 

But the learning comes from experience. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting

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