If someone told me ten years ago that I was going to write a post with this title, I’d be ecstatic but terrified. I’d be happy to shake the noose of the fear of rejection but I clung to the fear for dear life. It protected me from potential failure. And failure is simply the worst thing ever.
I wrote about how failure is not only good but necessary earlier this month, because it really is. No one knows how to do anything well the first time they do it. Even if you have a knack, it doesn’t mean you’re a world-beater; you’re not a pro. Besides, why cheat yourself out of the opportunity to learn something you value? Sure, it feels good to be that much better than others, but it’s a flimsy rack to hang your hat, especially when you then approach something you’re naturally untalented at.
I mention this to say that one should try to avoid developing an identity around how much better one is than others at something. You will cling to what you know and never venture out of your comfort zone. You will live in fear of failure and rejection.
Like failure, rejection can’t be a bad thing because, as I wrote earlier, there’s things you don’t know. And because you don’t know them, you will be unable to get what you want where you’re trying to get it and how you’re trying to get it.
Here’s an analogy. If you go to a pizza joint and ask for a burger, they will deny you because they don’t serve burgers. In your righteous indignation due to your inability to see that rejection isn’t bad, you complain about the pizza place, you complain that all pizza joints are the same (and they are — they all serve pizza!) and you begin to fear that you’ll never have a burger in your life, all because you didn’t just accept that they don’t serve burgers at pizza shacks.
You might think this is silly. “Why wouldn’t I just go to a burger joint?” Yes, great point! And I’ll raise you one. Why don’t you go to the places where you can get your needs met? Why are you reading this? (I’d assume that anyone who knows that rejection is okay wouldn’t have a reason to read it, but okay, maybe you’re curious.) Why do you complain about things not working out?
It didn’t work because it couldn’t. You can’t get burgers at a pizza place much less a pharmacy and what you’re aiming for cannot be guaranteed at the places you’ve tried. Therefore, we take the lesson and try somewhere else or with someone else.
I was in a band in university and we put out a song. It was recorded in a low quality but in the MySpace days it was understandable. Most people liked it but there was a few who expressed their distaste. But a few people was all it took to completely wreck my confidence.
I couldn’t handle the feedback, and while it didn’t come across as constructive either, I had this crazy belief that everyone who heard it would love it. My friends and I were super proud of it. We slaved over it. We made several iterations of it and put out the best one. It wasn’t received well by all, but I learnt a valuable lesson: do you.
Everyone can’t be a fan of something. If we did a poll on whether or not one likes water and air there would be some people who would say that they hate that shit. It’s life. There’s varying perspectives and while that can be frustrating at times, you literally couldn’t experience life if there weren’t differences. We can’t even imagine everything being all one undifferentiated thing.
Years later, I would get an apology for how heavy-handed one person’s critique of the track was but at that point I was okay. I was even thankful because it exposed two things. It exposed my desperate need to be liked/resentment of not being accepted at all times and secondly, it exposed that I was doing music for the wrong reasons.
Music was supposed to be my avenue to total acceptance and adoration. I don’t even know how I could’ve thought that but I was a teen so I can be forgiven. But this is how bad my fear of rejection was. A career path that should be about channelling emotion into sounds was hijacked by unresolved pains.
It’s one thing to sing about the pains, it’s another to sing to get love from others to escape pain forever. And a lot of us try to get a job, a person or a thing so as to escape never being rejected again. When that doesn’t work out, and we feel that pain, it’s our invitation to accept ourselves and how we feel. We want to be unequivocally accepted but we so often fall short for ourselves.
I feared rejection because I wanted some thing to solve my issues, so when I heard no, the suffering continued. My dream of ending the pain was dashed. If I had instead just did whatever I wanted as a means to itself and not to get something, rejection couldn’t be an issue.
But here’s the bottom line. If you still think rejection is a bad thing, have you ever said no to someone because you weren’t feeling them or their vibe? Have you ever said no to a job or task because you didn’t want it? Have you ever said no to damaging behaviours and set yourself up for a better life?
I’m sure you have, and I’m sure you didn’t think rejection was bad then.