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:
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
For long will it matter?
Will the rejection matter in tomorrow? In a week? A month? A year from now?
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.
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.
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.
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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..
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.
I wish it was this easy, for me its not. But I’ve learned to fake it because that’s what the world expects, the price of doing business. It doesn’t get easier, and it sucks away the joy of the experience, because its ongoing. For me, jumping in the water, deep or shallow, is ice-cold. And it never warms up…
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.
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.
Your post is truly inspirational, in-depth, thought-provoking.
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
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?
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 🙂
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. 🙂
You’re so welcome Amit. I’m pleased it was helpful.
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.
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!
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.
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.