We face the threat of rejection in our relationships, our jobs, our creative endeavors and anytime we put ourselves out there to be measured or judged. We even face it each time we post a status on Facebook, a picture on Instagram or send a tweet out into the world. What if nobody “likes” it? What if nobody cares?
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No person is exempt from rejection, and the aversion to it is inherent in our human makeup. According to Guy Winch, “We all have a fundamental need to belong to a group (or tribe). When we get rejected, this need becomes destabilized and the disconnection we feel adds to our emotional pain.” In fact, MRI studies have found that “rejection piggybacks on physical pain pathways in the brain,” which means rejection can actually cause physical pain, along with “surges of anger and aggression,” a temporary reduction in IQ, and psychological wounds that “do not respond to reason.”
But some let the fear of rejection stifle them, while others face it head on. Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan, to name a few, plowed their way through various forms of rejection to get to the top. Did these people succeed because they’re powerhouses, or are they powerhouses because they didn’t let rejection stop them from succeeding?
This article will discuss four factors that can put us in the driver’s seat when it comes to rejection — not allowing it to control, divert or stop us on our road to success.
1. Healthy relationship with fear
Franklin D. Roosevelt understood how fears could ultimately work to our disadvantage when he famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” In her article, “The Zen of Wholeness: Overcoming the Fear of Rejection,” Kerri Baruch says, “Fear — your Ego — is what dominates your actions. And that spells a crash course to disaster. It’s like handing over the reins of your chariot to an insecure two year old who’s throwing a complete temper tantrum.”
According to Marc Chernoff of the Marc and Angel Hack Life blog, the majority of our anxieties come from the fear of loss. Some of those fears include losing our youth, our social status, our money, our control, our comfort and our life. If we could get past the fear of loss, we would have little left to fear. Barbara O’Brien observes, “… we go through life grabbing for one thing after another to make us feel safe, or to make us happy.” But as the Buddhist philosophy teaches, we are one with the universe and there’s nothing outside of us. This positions us for “equanimity,” says O’Brien, freedom from “the compulsion to chase what we want and run from what we don't want.”
Clearly, rejection falls in the category of “don’t want.” But our tendency to run from it is the very thing that gives it power. Avoiding rejection is caving to our fear of loss. Not putting ourselves out there because we could flop allows the mere possibility of rejection to keep us from achieving all that we dream of. If we want to succeed in life, this kind of fear must be steamrolled.