13 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection
I’m delighted to have written my first article for the Fenchurch Associates website, following the launch of our partnership at the start of 2016. My aim is to provide their clients, each month, with a thought-provoking and helpful read, which offers tips and advice on making the most out of their career.
Having coached hundreds of clients over the years, I’ve been able to identify common dilemmas, challenges, and frustrations when it comes to finding satisfying and fulfilling work. It’s these themes that I hope to help their clients with over the coming months.
Here is that article so that you can have a read yourself:
Fear of Rejection
I’ve chose the theme of rejection for my first post because I consistently see the fear of rejection as the predominant obstacle holding back my clients from performing at their highest potential. According to therapeutic theory (REBT for those who are interested), we possess several rigid demands that we try our damnedest to avoid in life, such as failure, negative judgement, loneliness, uncertainty, and imperfection. To me, they all hold one common factor – we must not be rejected in any way.
Yet, we’re faced with rejection every single day. It can be in the form of someone disagreeing with you, someone saying no to your request, not getting the job or promotion you want, being made redundant, or just not being liked by someone. In addition, the more we try new things (fundamental if we’re to grow and develop), stepping out of our comfort zone, the more rejection we open ourselves up to – and we hate it.
A fear of rejection, and worrying what others think, is so often what holds us back from achieving our goals. I suffer from it too – it’s taken me a while to get around to writing this post because I’ve been worrying that you’ll think it’s rubbish, and you’ll reject me, writing me off as a rubbish Career Coach; I’ve held myself back at networking events for fear that people won’t want to talk to me; I’ve not approached potential clients for fear of them saying no to me. As you can see, my behaviour is all linked to me demanding the above – that I don’t fail, or be negatively judged, or that I come across as ‘perfect’ (which, of course, is incredibly unrealistic and practically impossible).
How to overcome it
So, with all this in mind, I have put together 13 (unlucky for some) tips and pointers for you on how to overcome your fear of rejection.
1. More often than not, our fear stems from something we’re inferring from the situation, not an actual fact. It’s how we are choosing to interpret the scenario, not what is factually going on. Ask yourself, how else could this situation be interpreted? What might be someone else’s perspective?
2. Anticipating rejection can trigger irrational feelings and beliefs e.g. shame – we’ll be publicly branded as inadequate; anger – a moral code has been broken; hurt – we’ve been treated unfairly; envy – others have been accepted and we haven’t; jealousy – the threat that someone will be accepted over us. Realise that these are extreme responses; the world will not end if these things happen.
3. A fear of rejection can be worse in those who haven’t experienced much rejection or adversity in their life before. We have quite easy lives these days. You might just be out of practice.
4. You can only get over your fear by being actively rejected more and more. There’s therefore no benefit whatsoever in trying to avoid it. Expose yourself to rejection and you’ll realise you can cope.
5. When we’re rejected, we overgeneralise and feel like our whole being and overall worthiness is being rejected. We fail to realise that it’s actually only one very small part (usually behavioural) that is being rejected. The rejection is merely situational and only specific to that part of you. That one part is likely to be accepted by others too, making it even more scenario-specific. For example, a potential employer might reject you on ‘cultural fit’ grounds. Yet, you’ll fit in perfectly somewhere else. It doesn’t mean you’re a complete write-off.
6. A negative comment says something about the ‘rejector’ too, not just you. It’s a bit of both. If someone thinks you’re useless at your job, perhaps they’re quite a critical, judgemental person with unrealistic expectations. Who cares what someone like that thinks of you.
7. We base our fears on the feedback of very few people. Only when you receive the same feedback from a very large sample should you take note, as there may be something to learn and work on. If it’s a common theme, take note and learn how to improve in that area.
8. If you accept that you can’t be perfect, and that there is always something new and important to learn, then rejection can be feared less, because, actually, you want to know what you’re not doing that well, or what you could work on, in order to be a better person. No one is the complete package.
9. Only through experiencing rejection, and practising your coping skills, can you develop your ability to remain resilient. By exposing yourself to it, you will learn it is not as bad as you think. You learn that you have the skills to put up with the discomfort it creates in you. By tolerating this discomfort, you can progress and try new things.
10. It’s actually very important that you tolerate this discomfort, as it forces us to learn how to deal with adversity in others areas of our life too. No more wrapping yourself up in cotton wool.
11. Those with high self-esteem find rejection easier to accept. They have already taken an honest inventory of their shortcomings and therefore accept their faults and limitations. They have a clearer, more logical view of themselves, and don’t reject their whole self when receiving negative feedback. This is an approach you can all learn from and implement. Completing a SWOT analysis on yourself is a good place to start.
12. What people think of you can still matter to you. You can’t lie to yourself on that one. However, it doesn’t need to hold you back, or define you. Accept the good with the bad.
13. Remember to ask yourself, what am I inferring about this situation? Am I demanding that things go a certain way? Of course we’d prefer things to go a certain way but we can cope if the ideal does not happen exactly how we want it to. It’s not the end of the world, nor is it absolutely necessary that our demands get met all the time. The more flexible you can be, the more resilient you will become.
Hopefully there are some useful nuggets in there that can help you learn to overcome your fear of rejection. One experiment to take inspiration from is that of Jia Jiang who set out to be rejected 100 days in a row. You can watch his Tedx Talk on the lessons he learnt here, and read up on it on his blog here. Fancy giving it a go? You’ll be a ‘rejection pro’ by the end of it!
Alice Stapleton is Fenchurch Associates’ Career Coach, offering ad-hoc coaching to their candidates and organisational clients. You can read more about the partnership on the Fenchurch Associates website here.
I admit I found some of the sessions quite challenging, mainly because they forced me to address some of those obstacles that I've felt have held me back and stopped me from really going after my dreams. The tools that Alice gave me have been really helpful, especially the tools which helped me to identify strengths and value sets. I also plan to work a lot more on my confidence issues and turning a negative mind set into a positive one. I’ve really enjoyed meeting and working with Alice over the past few months. She has a real talent for asking questions in a way that gets the best out of people and immediately puts you at ease.