Rejection Won’t Kill You
Rejection — really the fear of rejection — is nearly universal. It is as irrational as it is pervasive. You are probably fearful of what people think about you. If the fear isn’t registering, all smug in your cozy cubicle office, try this. Pretend I’m your boss and I just sent you an email scheduling you to give a 30 minute presentation to a hundred of your peers one hour from now. It’s Mayhem! Has anyone died from rejection? This might kill you. It won’t, but you would rather die.
Fear of rejection begins with simple discomforting thoughts. “They might laugh at me” or “I might mess up.” In milliseconds the thought grows into a viral panic that reduces you to a stammering idiot. It takes your breath away, opens your sweat glands, disrupts digestion and makes you puke your guts. Then the most devastating tragedy. Fear of failure insulates you. You can’t feel anything at all. You can’t imagine doing anything significant, creative or daring. You cling to breath. You are soggy and heavy and whiny and ineffective. You retreat from taking any risks and hide in the status quo. You swear never again to volunteer for a challenging assignment.
Consider this. Maybe your fear is lying to you? What if things other people say about you is not all that powerful? What if you realize that they are not really saying anything critical anyway. What if you realize that you are the one shaking in your boots. You now realize that you are afraid of what they might say, not what they actually say. It’s your fear.
If it’s a lie, then you can face your fear. Walk toward the discomfort. See people not as threats of annihilation but as potential objects of your talented help. If they criticize, assume they will be filled with helpful suggestions. You find that you are overreacting. Even the worst critic is not in the same league as the devastating death spiral you are imagining.
As I write this short blog I feel the discomfort of the fear of rejection. I want to quit. I hear what you could be saying as you read. I think of the indefensible objections you will write in the “Reply” below. I feel myself limp and lifeless as you point out my mistakes. I anticipate your paralyzing potential criticism. Worst of all I dread the slow, tortuous death of being ignored.
But this time I triumph. I ignore the fear of failure. I resist. I endure the discomfort. I do not listen to my fear of rejection. I write on. I ignore what you might think or write. I courageously open myself to your criticism. And yet, I live. I shall not taste death by blog critics.
Now it’s your turn. I offer you a bit of hope and freedom for your creative inner life. I dare you to open your mouth. Tell me what you really think. Reply with critical wrath. Spare not your words. Shout the truth in all caps. Proclaim to the world what you really care about. Write your own blog. Tell your own story. Bring your own perspective.
I may criticize you right back. But it won’t kill you.