In high school, I was dared to ask out this really cute girl. I didn’t have to do it, I really didn’t mind being called a chicken but I was really attracted to her and I didn’t want to miss out.
I remember reading pick-up artist literature to help psych myself up and I started to unconsciously visualize how the interaction would go. When I went up to her I rehearsed what I had been rehearsing in my mind for days, but I was shaking like a leaf. But at the end of my torture came her email address. I was successful and for the rest of the afternoon, I was on cloud 99.
A lot of people have told me that the only way to get over the fear of rejection is to just put yourself out there and get rejected over and over until you develop an immunity to it. I didn’t listen to them. I won’t knock it but I couldn’t do it. I knew I was a special kind of sensitive that couldn’t put himself in harm’s way. Ten thousand years of humanity’s survival tactics were not about to be undone by such a simple tactic.
I knew that the people who were suggesting these strategies were way more extroverted and less sensitive. If they were in my shoes, they’d be just like me — afraid and only willing to move when certain.
Unfortunately, the fear of rejection will hold you back from the things, events and the people you value. As life would have it, I chose a career where rejection is the order of the day — writing. In the last six months I’ve been rejected more than ever before in my entire life. People were right; I have somewhat become immune to it.
However, that has only made me immune to rejection with regards to writing. It did nothing for me with people rejecting me in more personal ways like in a live pitch or in dating. Then I watched a video by Anna Akana where she mentioned something her therapist shared.
“You can’t be rejected because your value isn’t dependent on other’s opinion of you…”
Initially, I thought, “Uh, yeah I can.” But then I realized that to believe that I would have to concede the notion that my value is dependent on everyone but myself. I knew that couldn’t be true, but I felt it inside.
It was then that I realized that I wasn’t really afraid of people rejecting me. The truth was, I took their rejection of me and then rejected myself. I used their attitude towards me, my face, my work, effort, beliefs, etc. and relabeled myself, my face, my work, effort, beliefs, etc. as bad, unworthy, inadequate or wrong.
Then I revisited the last couple of months and the numerous times I got bumped, ignored or rejected and this time, I just took their rejection without rejecting myself right after. There was just a space where my condemnation used to be.
There was no need and no point to taking things personally anymore. Let’s face it, if I was in the seat of judgment and someone presented something to me and it just didn’t fit my values or what I wanted, is my rejection of their work or whatever the same as condemnation? No. Is my rejection of their work supposed to mean that they should hate their work? Of course not.
Those of us who also struggle with rejection know that this is true, but it didn’t make the bitter pill of getting rejected yourself any easier to swallow.
Maybe due to how we were educated in school, we developed this notion that once your answer is wrong, there is no way that it can ever be right. Sure, 1+1 is not 3, and an essay on your summer vacation could be marked down due to grammatical errors, but it doesn’t mean your effort was wrong.
Very possibly due to how we was parented, when we did a bad thing, it felt like we were bad, when in reality, it was the event or behavior that was wrong, not us inherently. But as a child that is difficult to understand.
So when it comes to rejection, it’s not rejection from others that you fear. You too have to accept or reject people all the time. What you hate is when you reject yourself. It’s an act of terrorism against yourself that sends shockwaves throughout your system. It’s natural for us to want to play it safe because we don’t want to feel that kind of pain.
However, we don’t really need to play it safe because no one’s judgment of us can actually hurt us. It is only when we take their rejection and then begin to condemn ourselves that we suffer. As long as we don’t do that, we’ll be left unscathed.