Facing the Fear of Rejection Head On

Does worrying about what others think ever stop you from doing what you think is best or matters most? Do you filter what you do, say or feel through someone else’s lens instead of your own? In today’s episode, we’re looking at why what others think matters to us and what happens when we live from this number one fear of judgement. Plus, I offer concrete ways to address this fear head on.

You can listen to the full podcast episode here, or continue reading below.

Recently, I’ve been acutely aware of the negative impact worrying about what other people think has at home, in the workplace, and in society at large.

In these last weeks, I’ve noticed individuals’ hesitancy to voice opinions about topics in the news, the tentativeness of managers to provide much needed feedback to colleagues, reluctance to share experiences that could help the team, and wavering to identify ask for or even identify what they want. It’s stopped people from asking for the sale, acting on their ideas, and even being vulnerable with their spouse. As a result too many are living, leading and positively influencing at a fraction of their potential.

I understand it. I recall in my 20’s when I ran for an office at the end of my senior year in college. It was for a three year board seat.

I campaigned in each of the 23 living units and spoke to my fellow students as they ate dinner. In one dining room I recall my heart racing. I broke into a sweat as I looked out at the crowd. I remember my lips sticking together as I tried to convince the audience to vote for me.

My Reptilian brain, (the part designed to keep us safe and responsible for fight or flight) was sounding the alarms — Abort! Abort mission now!! I was terrified. Of what specifically? Rejection.

We all yearn to be accepted. In fact, it may be our number one need as human beings to feel part of something. When we are included we feel like we belong. We are validated and a part of the world.

It makes sense then that if our number one need is to be accepted, then our number one fear is being rejected. I’ll tell you just how universal our fear of rejection is — that woman who looks like she has it all together, that CEO who looks like nothing daunts him, that business person who’s leading hundreds –they ALL suffer from this same fear of rejection. It doesn’t matter who they are. There is not a person out there who doesn’t have a fear of rejection. If you ever think you are alone, my message is: you are not.

It’s not a matter of whether or not you fear being rejected; it’s a matter of whether that fear of rejection stops you. There are all types of implications…

Does it stop you from introducing yourself, presenting your best talents at an interview, building your community of friendships, starting the company you always wanted, taking the next level of accreditation, offering your service or product, stepping into a leadership role or having a deeper connection with your partner?

You think if you let someone get to know you, they might not like the real you, they may judge you or find you unlovable. Maybe they’ll think you’re an imposter. As a result you hide, stay on the fringes, dance around the edges, and miss the opportunities to truly live.

There is a reward you get from worrying about what others think. You avoid judgment and leaving your comfort zone.

The consequence, of course, is you play small, live for others, experience a half version of your potential, and live a life fraught with inner frustration.

You’re left with one of two choices: either avoid the risk of judgment by doing exactly what you think others want you to do OR live the life you’re called to. It’s one or the other. You can’t have it both ways.

So if your vote is to live your best life, how do you stop this fear head on?

First, people are a lot less likely to reject you, if you don’t reject you. It’s amazing to me how many of us reject and judge ourselves–harshly. What this means is, love yourself. It’s a painful place to live carrying an ogre on your back saying, “You’ll look foolish. Nobody’s going to like that. You’re never going to get this right.” Instead, be your own source of validation. Give up making it someone else’s job to do that for you. In short, be kind to you. It’s likely you are most scared of the berating and rejection YOU will give yourself.

Second. Embrace reality: people are judgers. Yep. Some will like you. Some will not. The human brain is designed to discern, shortcut, and organize information and it does that by judging. (Think about it. You are judging me and what you’re reading right now — and that’s ok.) Embrace that you will be judged –no matter what. The key is to like what you are doing while you are being judged.

Third, don’t make the judgment personal. If someone doesn’t like your product or the way you introduce yourself, or your boss judges you for what you said in a meeting, it doesn’t mean you are an inadequate human being. In the case of a boss who judges something you said or did, listen to the feedback neutrally. Make the judgement about the action, product, or outcome — not about your value or worthiness. Then move forward in your right direction.

Finally, nothing has meaning but the meaning you give it. What meaning do you give when someone judges you? Do you say, “She has special insight that I am not enough,” or do you say, “That’s interesting. I wonder what I am triggering in her. What can I learn from what she’s saying? Next.”

Choose the meaning that supports you. Life is a reflection of your interpretations. The interpretation you choose will determine whether you take action or remain stuck.

Recently a teacher of mine judged me. He didn’t like that I hadn’t effectively used what he’d taught. He was pushing me and clearly irritated. As I listened to him, I thought — this is perfect. This man I admire isn’t going to validate me or tell me I belong. It’s not his job to do so.

I took the feedback and got back to what I know I needed to do. I had zero lag time between his judgement and my moving forward. I didn’t argue with him. I didn’t chastise myself or stew in self-criticism. I took the part of his feedback I felt was valid, and I acted on it. In yesteryear that judgement would have put me asunder for weeks. Today, I consider how quickly I stand back up as a sign of my personal power.

The next time you feel stuck on what others might think of you ask yourself this question, “What’s the worst that could happen if people judged me?” Usually, the answer is that you’ll be in the EXACT same place as your current circumstance.

Of course, I still fear rejection, but I’m learning to not make it as significant a part of my life. Sure, it would be nice if everyone loved you. But that can’t compare to what it feels like to love yourself.

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About Rita Hyland

As a Business and Life Coach, Rita works with highly motivated professionals who, despite their level of success and achievements, are not happy or satisfied. Often, they’re “successful” by traditional standards, yet unfulfilled based on their own. They know they want more and are ready to have it.

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Rita Hyland is host of the “Playing Full Out” podcast, where you’ll discover tips to break through the personal and professional barriers in a hectic world that are preventing you from leading your optimal vision of life at work and home. This is the podcast for passionate life travelers and leaders who want to live a deliberate, confident and fulfilling life, and change the world while they do.