by Dawn Barclay,
Living Moxie Coach
Authorlink Guest Columnist
I was speaking to friend (a business coach) the other evening who shared she’d poured her heart and soul in her recent newsletter, and she had a couple of unsubscribes.
She was devastated.
She skipped over the part that she also had a large amount of replies from people who took time out their day to email her and say, ‘Thank you for the honesty’ and ‘I don’t feel so alone’.
She focused on the rejections, ‘It’s so painful! Why is that rejection so painful? I’m more afraid of rejection than failure!’
When I was 17 I applied to a drama college here in Edinburgh.
My talents were rejected. I was told to go away and complete another course then try again the following year. I did that. Applied again. And my talents were rejected one more time.
Then I tried another college. Not only did my talents get a rejection, but I was also told to work on my speech impediment. I didn’t know I had a funny thing with my pronunciation of S’s, but according to the Head of Drama at that school I did! Who knew?
Someone did eventually say yes but by then I had changed my mind.
Over the years there have been plenty jobs where I’ve received letters with the opening line‘Caliber was very high and it was a difficult decision to make. This time, we regret to inform you that you have been unsuccessful’. Otherwise known as ‘The Rejection Letter’. Capital R! Capital L! That letter. Comes in a small brown envelope.
There have been personal relationship rejections. I remember asking a boy out age 13 because my friends said, ‘He really fancies you Dawn’ only to hear, ‘No!’ followed with, ‘I would never go out with that!’ Nice.
Then there’s the rejection for other things: proposals, projects, ideas for courses, important plans, special relationships, unsubscribes of newsletters. You know general rejection stuff!
The fear of rejection
Isn’t it funny how the majority of us have a fear of rejection (even secretly)?
Hell yeah, I know plenty of people who say to the outside world, ‘I don’t fear rejection, it gives the opportunity to find out who my tribe is’, and then they are brought to their knees when they are rejected.
Ah, rejection stories.
I’m sure that you have a few.
Do you? No? Oh. If not. Stop reading.
It’s so easy to help (read: try and fix) another humanoid who is experiencing rejection (in whatever form) because we can think we can relate to our rejection feelings to theirs when someone or something said, ‘No way sunshine‘ to us.
We say, ‘It’s not you’, or ‘It’s not personal’ or, ‘Oh, don’t worry, they didn’t want you but that’s freed up space for others to find you’ or this one, ‘Let it gooooooooooo’ Yep, add emphasis on the go it helps! Not.
Even now, writing this, I’m giggling because I have no idea where my next rejection is coming from, and I have no idea really if I will just shrug it off.
Maybe that’s a good point to make – maybe it matters where the rejection is coming from? Maybe it matters more if we have invested so much of ourselves in what could be given back to us.
Maybe it does matter what state of mind we are in when we hear, ‘No!’
I bet you’ve shrugged of some – let go of the rejection you weren’t emotionally invested in it, or where you weren’t really attached to the outcome.
You could avoid being rejected. That would be possible.
You could hide yourself away. You could not go after the career you really want in case you don’t get it, that would remove all possible rejection.
You could sit on your ‘art’, keep it ‘for your eyes only’, you could do that, there is no way you could be rejected there.
You could avoid all contact with other human beings, refuse intimate relationships, stop talking to people full stop so that you never have to feel rejected.
Feck. What a life that would be though, huh? How dreary. How limiting.
Let’s transform our thinking about rejection (a little bit)
Before we go any further though, have a think about these:
- What does rejection feel like for you?
- Are you ‘hiding’ any parts of your life because of the fear of rejection?
- When rejected, do you only focus on that one rejection, or run riot in your head with every rejection you’ve felt and experienced?
- In what others ways could you interpret rejection?
- What has been your best (hindsight) experience of rejection?
- Where has a rejection led you to a deeper understanding of who you are?
- How do you react to an rejection (feelings, behaviours, thoughts)?
- How would you like to respond to rejection where by you can grow from the experience?
Rejection isn’t personal (but the fear of it appears very real)
‘It’s not personal’, it’s thrown about, intellectually we get, it’s well intended.
We have spent years (lifetimes) following the rules of not upsetting people, not causing a scene, pleasing others in order to gain their love, years seeking validation and approval from others that we are ‘good enough’, ‘worthy enough’, ‘valuable enough’. We spend time making sure others are happy, before we consider our own happiness.
Think back now. Can you see any pattern in your life? Can you remember when you first experienced rejection? Perhaps a time when you took an action, behaved in a certain way and the love, approval, validation was stopped for a while?
I bet it didn’t feel good or make sense. Especially if you were a child.
Maybe at a young age you hadn’t got a clue about what ‘rejection’ meant, but you still remember how it felt when your folks stopped talking to you. Or when your ‘besties’ in the playground decided one day that you weren’t ‘good enough’ to play with them anymore.
Obviously we can’t cover every experience of rejection that everyone has felt here – we would be here for a very long time. The content doesn’t matter. The feelings do. The left over beliefs we can address.
Do you embellish the rejection? Read between the lines in your head?
Say you’re an artist and you show someone a piece of work you’ve produced and they say to you,‘Oh, I don’t really like it’.
Instead of just accepting they don’t like it, which they have every right to say. You add to it. You add to it by thinking. ‘They don’t like my work! That means they mustn’t really like me. I’m not a good artist. In fact, I’m a terrible artist, obviously, if someone doesn’t like my work. They think I’m useless!’
Or say you go for an interview and it’s the big ‘No’, they tell you it was close. Between you and someone else. But the other person had more experience. You don’t hear that. Instead you embellish and add to it by, ‘I didn’t get the job. I don’t enough experience. There will always be someone better than me, ‘I came last. The other person must have been more likable. I’m not likable’.
The pattern here is simple.
You read between the lines. And write your own script.
You make up untruths.
You tell yourself stories with no proof or evidence whatsoever.
Have wander in the past. Take a pen and write down those times you experienced rejection. Write out the phrases you told yourself at that time. And those you heard. Do you still use them today? Are you using the same thinking you had 10, 20, 30 years ago?
In other words, have you mushed all your feelings and experiences of rejection into one big ball of rejection musheyness, and when you hear a rejection coming back at you, you automatically pull them all out?
Yes! But I can’t get rid of them!
Don’t try and get rid of them but see them with new eyes (not literally) and get a different perception. I mean, can you accept that in the past you have experienced rejection and you have a pretty good idea of what it feels like? And can you accept that the reason you don’t like rejection today is probably because you are still using the same thinking as you have done for a while now?
Here’s a question, to simply to help you start thinking differently about rejection …
“What makes the possibility of rejection worth it in life?” – what would your answer be?
Have that conversation with people who you value, and they you.
The more I thought about my answer to that, the more I thought I would use every possible situation to not hide who I really was. That I would never please everyone and I would no longer try to. That the possibility of rejection is worth it because I won’t wait for permission slips to create.
Each day we are faced with the fear of people saying ‘No’.
We are faced with people giving us back our ideas, work, plans, projects, courses, because they just aren’t interested.
How are you going to face them? What are you going to tell yourself now?
You always have a choice on how you react and respond to rejection.
Instead of making up stories, embellishing, where can you take personal responsibility for how you feel about rejection, today, not yesterday?
And answer it,
What makes the possibility of rejection worth it in your life?
I do this through coaching, training, mentoring, at the heart of my work is support and encouragement. To be th…