Overcoming the Fear of Rejection

BY Tim Londergan
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Clearly, I recall when a long-​time six-​figure advertising account said: “We are heading in another direction.” An aggressive proposal to a dependable multi-​year account collapsed. I offered alternatives. I scrambled to salvage bits and pieces. In the end, I failed the people who counted on me. It was physically painful! Even today, I remember the crackle of intensity telling my boss the bad news. Actually, I was in physical pain. And today, as I remember that ache, I've learned that sustained fear of rejection is entirely reasonable. This became even more obvious as I understood that rejection is directly linked to physical pain. Further, according to Dr. Nicole F. Roberts, “we recall emotional rejection more strongly than physical pain and it can cause long-​term sensitivity.”

I accepted that my client’s rejection of my proposal was a rejection of me.” – Tim Londergan

The fear of rejection is reasonable.

The pain related to rejection is real – it’s a chemical process deep in our primal lizard brain that we can do nothing about. The fear of rejection has ancient origins of being banished from our tribe – which would result in isolation and certain death. Neuroscience confirms it’s a neural response. Rejection fires up parts of our brain and generates the sensation of pain in the same way that stubbing our toe or bumping an elbow does. Still, not unlike these discomforts, the pain of rejection is brief. Surprisingly, you can find relief by taking acetaminophen. Nevertheless, the negative power of rejection persists only if we allow it. But much like anger, embarrassment and self-​blame, it only survives if we feed it.

Learn from rejection and move on!

Getting rejected is out of your control. But how you treat yourself afterward is totally on you. The damage rejection causes is usually of our own choosing. And, just when our self-​esteem is suffering, we go and damage it even further with negative self-​talk. Elizabeth Scott, PHD explains how you can break that pattern.

Check-​in with your self-talk

Scott offers that self-​talk takes many forms, and it can be a source for good or evil. Certainly, it keeps us motivated and helps us complete our goals. Likewise, positivity and resilience are personality traits that boost our self-​talk. However, negative self-​talk can bring us down. This harmful inner dialogue can limit our ability to believe in ourselves and diminish our capacity to make positive changes. These unhelpful internal chats give our fear of rejection an exaggerated status and paralyze our progress. In a separate article, Scott addresses cognitive distortions that may be easy to see in others but hard to identify within ourselves. It may be worth clicking the link to see if you can identify any familiar spins that you put on events in your life that are less-​than-​accurate interpretations.

Imagine a brighter future

Author, Kendra Cherry, MS, provides 10 ways to build resilience for verywellmind​.com. It seems resilient people have a stronger or more adaptive protective response to the fear of rejection. According to Cherry, they can deal with and bounce back from the difficulties of life. “Resilient people tend to maintain a more positive outlook and cope with stress more effectively.”

Fortunately, resilience is a personality trait that can be learned. Coincidentally, the strategies to build resilience follow the same path to personal growth and improved mental health. Finding purpose, believing in yourself, embracing change, and learning self-​care are challenging goals and deliver exceptional rewards. When you believe you can succeed and follow through on your convictions, the momentum will carry you forward to achieve more, believe more and build on your existing strengths.

Photo by Keira Burtonon on Pexels​.com