What do you fear? Is there something holding you back from achieving what you want? I fear rejection. I’ve had this fear for most of my life. I am not exactly sure where it stems from, however, I do recall one event that somewhat changed who I was. As a child, I was that “daredevil” kid that you always had to keep an eye on so I didn’t do anything too “stupid.” My mother eventually put blockers against my window because she feared I would make a jump from the top floor of our home. One day, I tried to jump a ditch on my ATV. The ATV ended up pinning me in the ditch. I was stuck for a little bit of time and luckily only sustained minor injuries. From that point on I became more timid. I wasn’t the same “daredevil” kid. Could my fear of rejection have been a conduit from the fear of failure/injury after that event? I honestly have no idea, but it’s the only event that I can pinpoint.
Now, I fear all types of rejection. This includes societal rejection, rejection in relationships, and rejection in my career. Rejection causes negative beliefs regarding your value despite other people’s attitudes or actions toward you. For as long as I could remember, I never attempted to pursue anything out of my comfort zone, or anything that can put me in a situation where rejection was a possibility. I never asked the cute person from class on a date. I never applied to schools that I thought were “out of reach.” The one school I always wanted to apply to was Stanford. I regret not applying just to see if I would have been accepted. Granted I do not regret the people I met where I ended up completing my undergraduate degree, but there will always be a small part of me that wishes I took that chance.
Most party/hang-out invites felt like pity invites (secondary to fear of social rejection). There were a lot of moments when I would choose to stay at home rather than go to a party because I always felt I never fit in and feared rejection from my peers. I never asked anyone to hang out because I always thought If they liked me and wanted to hang out they would ask me to do so. This was not a healthy mentality to have and I realized that I would have to start being the one to ask people to hang out. I started to do this for myself, and to show that I cared about having those individuals and relationships in my life.
It was a difficult situation, rejection continued to hinder my ability to take chances. I have never regretted making a decision, however, I have always regretted not taking action. It just leaves you with this empty feeling of “what if.” I still struggle with this fear but the older I get, the more I grow tired of my fear. Stephen Hawking once stated, “We are very, very small, but we are profoundly capable of very, very big things.” The same is true for our decisions–they may seem small, but even the small ones can change our lives in a big way. Each decision comes with an effect of that decision. The effect can be negative or positive… maybe even both depending on the perspective. Why should that negative effect hinder your ability to make the decision and take a chance? If there is the smallest chance of there being a positive outcome, then wouldn’t it be worth it? Even if it is a 3% chance, there IS still a chance. If it happened to be a negative outcome, then you learn from the experience. And if positive, then all the better for it.
Over the past 1-2 years I have started to work on this fear and start taking chances. Some of the decisions I had to make hurt. Some hurt. But I don’t regret the pain and knowledge gained. I grew from those moments when I took action and am grateful for my actions. Below I will share a few things I did to help work on this fear:
Three (3) Ways to Battle Fear
1. Put yourself in situations to be rejected
Easier said than done. However, this is an exercise I have been using to help me get used to rejection. Put yourself in a situation where rejection is approximately 100% the outcome. You know you will be rejected so do it anyway. For example, when it comes to building a romantic relationship with someone, such as asking a person of interest on a date, ask someone who you know is going to say no. This is very strange, I get it, but getting used to rejection is the key to overcoming such fear. You begin to realize that the strain you are anticipating from the action you are about to take can be more painful than reality itself.
2. Change your mentality
I also recently realized that the outcome is almost the same if you don’t take action compared to being rejected. Again, let’s say you want to ask out someone that you like but again, this fear of rejection is holding you back. Remember at this moment, you not asking that person out is the same outcome as you asking them out and getting rejected. So just ask. Your life won’t change whether you avoid the situation or get rejected, so just do it.
Leading up to that moment where you decide to pursue something or let it be, I always overthink the situation and make excuses on why this day was not the right day. I ended up telling myself, “Oh you’ll see them again tomorrow” or, “one day in the application process isn’t going to hurt me, I’ll apply tomorrow.” It is straight-up paralysis by analysis. The term tomorrow is relative and will never come because when tomorrow comes it will be today, and today is not tomorrow. I started to recognize these thoughts and began to count down from 3. On 1 I had to act. I made a little game for myself to avoid overthinking, I surrendered the outcome and hit the gas.
3. What are other people thinking
Let’s say you like this person but you “KNOW” they don’t like you back. Try not to assume what other people are thinking. What they portray externally does not mean it’s how they feel internally. You have no idea what that person you like is thinking. You have no idea if they may share the same feelings. I honestly found out recently that a person I liked also liked me back at that time. I never asked them out because of that fear of being rejected and it is because the entire relationship I assumed that the person never saw me as anything more than a friend. Finding this out f_cking sucked. If I had just taken that chance then who knows what my life would be right now, but in the end, I did not make a move. I had to learn from the situation and try to apply what I learn to the next situation so I don’t miss another opportunity. I also realized that nobody gives a sh_t what I am doing. Only a small percentage of people will be invested in your life. You should not avoid taking a chance for the fear of judgment (societal rejection). Let’s say you want to make a Youtube video but are afraid of what people in your town may think. Honestly, they probably couldn’t care less. And If they did judge you for it then these are not the type of people you want to surround yourself with.
Rejection is part of life. Every school is not going to accept you, every job is not going to hire you, and every person is not going to like you. You are not supposed to be the person everyone likes. No one is. You are not going to be everyone’s “person” and that is fine. Not everyone is your person either. But start taking chances towards what you want out of life. Every decision won’t be positive, but that is okay. The ones that do result in a positive outcome make all the other decisions you have made worth it.