The five fears that hold you back – rejection

No one likes to be turned down, but for some people their fear of rejection is so great, it stops them from even trying to go for the things they really want in life.

Over the next few weeks, career management coach and corporate trainer Jane Jackson will be sharing the five big fears that hold us back in our careers:

  • Fear of failure.
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Fear of success.
  • Fear of not being good enough.
  • Fear of being alone.

Last week we revealed how a fear of failure can stop us progressing towards the goals we desperately want to achieve. And this week we tackle our fear of rejection.

Everyone is rejected at some point

Pretty much every one of us has experienced rejection at some time in our lives. It may be when you’re turned down for a job you really want, or rejected by a person with whom you want to have a relationship.

And while it may not feel very nice, rejection is completely normal. In fact, the only people who never experience rejection are those who never have any interaction with other people – which is a pretty reclusive and lonely existence.

A fear of rejection can be a by-product of low self-esteem. Do you lash out at others if you fear rejection may be forthcoming? Or sabotage your relationships so you can be the one to reject the other person before they can reject you? Or maybe to avoid being rejected at all, do you simply withdraw from being socially interactive with others?

Avoiding rejection can create damaging patterns

Avoiding rejection can create very damaging patterns of behaviour in our lives. It can cause us to feel that we are not good enough for the desired outcome. And within relationships, it can lead us to become obsessive, clingy and jealous – or destroy relationships that have barely begun by becoming too serious too soon and driving people away.

It can also prevent us from going for the things we really want in life – a promotion, a new job or taking the risk to go freelance or start a business – fearful we may not be good enough (or are good enough but won’t get it anyway) and get rejected.

So if rejection is so commonplace, why are we so afraid of it? It’s important to remember how our thoughts make us feel. If we feel negative about ourselves, rejection can trigger off a number of other feelings, such as humiliation, loneliness and inadequacy.

The more we dwell on these feelings, the more pain we put ourselves through and the harder it becomes to try again, for fear that the same thing will happen next time.

Why some people are able to brush off rejection

If low self-esteem can make it harder for us to cope with rejection, how can we learn to brush it off more easily?

A confident person realises that rejection is simply a part of the risk of living, and that in order to grow spiritually we all have to take the occasional risk and step outside of our comfort zone.  

And very importantly, they don’t take rejection personally. Instead they may view it as a flaw on the other person’s behalf, and that the rejection is that person’s loss, and not their own. 

How you can learn to overcome rejection

So how can you learn to overcome rejection, and stop if from holding you back from going for the things you really want? Here are some strategies to help you:

  • Learn to say ‘no’ – people may fear rejection if they’ve become accustomed to always trying to please others. So be aware of when you’re feeling this way, and learn to say ‘no’ to people if their demands or requests seem unreasonable to you. By saying no occasionally, you’re respecting your own needs. This will boost your self-confidence to a level so that you will understand and respect occasions when people might say no to you too.
  • Accept compliments – learn to graciously accept any compliments you receive. Accept them gladly and ask yourself what it says about you as a person. This will help to boost your self-esteem.
  • Visualise success – imagine a scene when you’d usually be faced with a fear of rejection and envisage a successful ending to the scenario, where your wishes are granted and you get the outcome you were hoping for. By using this technique, you’ll start to feel more confident that the outcome you want is going to happen and that will become a replacement for the feelings of fear and failure you have trained yourself to expect.
  • Accept your right to be happy – constantly remind yourself that you have a fundamental right to be happy. If you are not selected for a role for which you have applied or rejected by another person with whom you had hoped to create a relationship, take it as feedback and learn from it. The loss is theirs, not yours. Look for other opportunities that may generate the desired outcome.

Stop holding yourself back!

If you hold back from interacting with people because of your fear of rejection, you simultaneously miss out on the potential happiness, warmth, fun and excitement that other people can bring to you.

And likewise, if you never take a risk to go for a professional opportunity for fear of being knocked back, you’ll never progress from where you are right now.

You never know where taking a risk, emotionally or professionally will get you. Think of it like this – if you never put yourself in a position where someone can say ‘no’, then you’re also denying yourself the opportunity of being in a situation where someone can say ‘yes’.

If at first you don’t succeed…

And if you do get the answer you dreaded? Use it as fuel to try harder – as Sylvester Stallone once said:

“I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.” 

What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear your comments!

Jane Jackson is a career management coach and corporate trainer specialising in building the confidence of executives who have experienced a redundancy or are at a crossroads in their careers. Her 7 Step C.A.R.E.E.R.S. programme, addresses all of these mistakes.