say no, no, no no

Key ideas to overcome the fear of rejection

Being rejected by someone is one of the worst feelings. All of us fear rejection. “What if she rejects my proposal?, Will the company accept my job application or will it reject me?, What if people don’t listen to me?” etc are some of the ways our mind plays out negative tracks over and over, making us take no action on what we intended to do. This stops us from doing anything which moves us towards our goal.

My story

I had the fear of rejection right from my childhood. I won’t approach anyone to talk, feeling that they might think low of me or I won’t apply for that job in a Multi-national company thinking that I don’t have the necessary talent. One or two incidents in my childhood where people would have rejected me in social situations might have been the reason.

This also lowered my self-confidence and whenever I am about to act or speak something in public, I always think “If I reacted like this, what they’ll think of me?”. I always cared about what others would think of me. I needed their approval and acceptance of my act. Even if I had an idea in a discussion, I would keep it to myself, thinking that my idea would not be accepted by people.

This affected me a lot. I remained stagnant in life without taking any action that would take my career to the next stage. I won’t talk and express myself fully in any social situation.

The root cause of fear of rejection

I want to make one thing clear here. The fear of rejection won’t kick in, in all social situations. You’ll fear being rejected when you think that people around you are more intellectual and have more wisdom and experience than you. For example, let’s say you’re a student. The tutor points you out and asks a random question about how you spent your holidays. You may answer, but you’d avoid saying any embarrassing experience that you had during the holidays, thinking that the tutor or the other unknown students in the class might make fun of you or look down upon you.

Now, let’s say that you’re with your group of friends. Now the same question will draw lively images, enthralling experiences, even embarrassing experiences in your answer. Why is it so? Because now you feel that you fit in your gang of people. There is no fear here.

Let’s say you have fallen for a beautiful girl. You want to approach her and express your love to her. But you’re afraid that she might reject your proposal. Why? It’s because you think she’s so beautiful and you’re not worthy of her. Now let’s say you’re a movie superstar and you’ve fallen for the same gorgeous girl. But this time, you’ll approach her without any fear because you know you’re worthy enough for her.

Considering the above two examples, there can be only one main reason that you fear rejections.

You think that you’re not worthy enough

As I mentioned before, not in all situations that you’ll feel unworthy. Only when you think that the person to whom you’re opening up is superior to you in terms of intellect or beauty or wisdom, that you’ll not feel your worth.

How to make fear of rejection your friend

Life is all about perspective. Instead of seeing rejection as something to be worried about, see it as an opportunity for growth. But having been rejected from childhood and connecting that experience with pain and fear, it’s not so easy to do so. So the key here is to take the pain away from rejection. That is, desensitizing yourself from the pain of rejection. Even if someone rejects you, you won’t feel the pain. But how to achieve this state?

If you’re an ardent TED fan, then you might have listened to a popular TED talk by Jia Jiang, a Chinese born American entrepreneur, about his experience from 100 days of rejection. The concept is simple. Each day for 100 days, he has to be rejected by someone. He started this experiment to detach himself from the pain of rejection.

The experiment started with having to borrow $100 from a total stranger. He went and approached a stranger and asked him for $100. The stranger replied, “No. Why?”. Jia immediately apologized to him and ran away. In this first attempt, what he learned was that the guy who he approached demanded an explanation, and if Jia had negotiated and explained to him, he might have got $100 from that guy. But he didn’t do that. Further moving on in his journey of 100 days of rejection, he realized that instead of running away from rejection, if he stood and explained to them, he could make them say “Yes”.

Where to start from here

So I am not going to ask you to try this rejection experiment, but there’re some key takeaways from Jia’s 100 days of rejection experiment, which you can use in your own life to overcome rejection.

  1. People are not so mean as you think
  2. You’re worth more than you think
  3. Instead of seeing rejection as something to run away from, embrace rejection and make it your friend
  4. Not taking rejection personally, will make you go after your passion and love.
  5. Fearing rejection now, and not moving, will make you regret later

Summing Up

The steps that you didn’t take today because of fear of rejection, will make you feel regretted years after. Don’t let your fear of rejection stop you from approaching that girl or applying for that company. Move on. Life is so short to stay stagnant. Meet that client, make that sales call, you’re going to make it! Even if you don’t, it means something better is coming.

I would like to close by quoting my favorite part from Jia Jiang’s TED talk

The people who really changed the world, and changed the way we live and think, are the people who met with initial and often violent rejections. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or even Jesus Christ did not let rejection define them. They let their own reaction after rejection define themselves. And they embraced rejections.

Excerpt from Jia Jiang’s TED Talk


TED talk by American Entrepreneur Jia Jiang

My previous blog post on “How changing your perspective can change your life”

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