When what you have to say or offer or ask for is rejected, remember, you are not being rejected!
An interesting conversation with an acquaintance brought up the subject of ‘fear of rejection’. She said that deep within her she was having trouble with reaching out for help or perspective or opportunity because she was never sure how she can handle a ‘no’. Now, she isn’t alone in feeling this way. A lot of the people, a lot of the times, struggle with the ‘fear of rejection’.
I too have feared, and disliked, being rejected.
I have come to understand ‘fear of rejection’ as the sum of two things – ‘fear’ and ‘dislike for rejection’. Clearly fear is a feeling within you. You fear something. Darkness. Uncertainty. Or even a pet – like I feel extremely uncomfortable in the presence of dogs. But fear can be overcome by facing it, by looking it in the eye. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is what fear delivers when you look what scares you, your fear, in the eye. So, in every sense, when you fear something, you do have the power within you to face the fear too. Try this: whatever you fear most in your Life, turn around, instead of running away from it or brushing the issue under the carpet, and face it – and believe me, your fear will dissolve. The situation may not change, but you will not fear it any more. Whether it is breaking off in a relationship or asking for a raise from your boss or whatever. ‘Rejection’, on the other hand, is not in your control. Someone else is rejecting you. What can you do about it? It is their prerogative to accept you or reject you. You only have a choice to influence their decision. You can’t enforce their decision – ever. So, ‘rejection’, to me, is a way to learn to accept Life for what it is. And it is always what it is. Yes, when you are rejected, you do dislike it – who doesn’t? But if you understand that your disliking it is not going to change any reality, you will let the dislike go and instead focus on what more can you do, what can you do next to be accepted.
Among the most difficult things to ask for in Life, according to me, is money. And unfortunately, for almost 5 years of my Life between 2002~2007, and on some occasions in the past decade, I have had to ask people for money. It was extremely humiliating in the beginning and the ‘fear of rejection’ gnawed at me so, so many times. But when I realized that I had to do what I had to in the given situation, of having to survive, and keep our family afloat, I faced my fear and asked people. I was humbled by many who came forth and have supported me and Vaani. But my requests have also been rejected by people. In fact, even as I asked people for money, I gave them the option to say ‘no’ saying that I will never misunderstand if they said they can’t support me or Vaani at that time. This is how I learnt to be non-judgmental about being rejected. To say ‘no’ is anyone’s prerogative – including yours – in a given context. And I learnt that we should never hold it against anyone for choosing to say ‘no’. This experience, humbling and awakening at the same time, has helped me deal with many other contexts with equanimity – rejection when a prospective client either does not award an engagement or does not even respond to emails/messages despite showing a keen interest upfront, rejection by a creditor of the evidence we place before them of our enduring bankrupt situation, rejection by a judicial authority of our pleas for more time to honor our commitments and several other instances. So, over the past 10 years, I have learnt to deal with ‘fear of rejection’ as follows:
- Stop running away from whatever you fear. Face what you fear, look it in the eye!
- When someone rejects you or says ‘no’ or implies that they are not interested, don’t be judgmental. Respect their choice to reject you, your offering or proposition. Remember: they are saying no to your proposition, your idea, your pitch, they are not saying no to you!
- Don’t dislike the situation when you are rejected. Instead ask yourself what you can do to be accepted. Try again. And again. And stay willing to keep trying.
Both ‘fear’ and ‘dislike for rejection’ are debilitating. Don’t let them pin you down. Face what you fear and accept the situation every time your proposition is rejected. You too can then experience equanimity and be happy despite the circumstances!
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