In today’s podcast I’m talking about a topic I see come up quite a lot, rejection – and specifically, the fear of rejection. Here I talk about why we fear social rejection, some tools to help you move past the fears and some extra tips to cope when rejection happens. There are lots of helpful links for this one, so do check them out below.
Listen wherever you get your podcasts or below:
Links and further reading
- Study that shows rejection activates the same areas in our brain as physical pain
- Brene Brown video – Why your critics aren’t the ones who count
- What is rejection sensitivity dysphoria?
- Episode 28 – six steps to discover your worth
- Free e-book on understanding self-worth
Today we are diving into an uncomfortable topic – rejection! Being rejected is painful, but the fear of it can hold us back in ways which, I believe, will ultimately cause more harm. So here we’ll talk about ways we can move past the fear of rejection that’s stopping us from doing what we truly want.
Hello everyone, how are you doing? I’m doing well, I’ve just come out the end of quite a full-on week in my day-job and in Blue Jay work, so I’ve booked myself some time off next week for a long weekend which I’m really looking forward to. I have no plans for it, so it’ll be nice to just switch off for a bit. Do you have any time off booked? If not, consider this your prompt to book in a break!
OK, so today’s topic is fear of rejection and it’s a big old topic. Rejection can come in so many different forms, whether it’s someone rejecting you or an idea you’ve had. It can come from strangers, friends and even family. And it hurts when we’re rejected, in fact in my research for this episode I found a study that shows when we’re socially rejected, it actually activates the same regions of the brain as physical pain (source). So yeah, you’re not imagining it.
This pain of rejection, like most annoying things our brains do, is of course designed to protect us. Being rejected by a tribe back in cave-man days would likely lead to us trying to fend for ourselves and potentially dying. So our brains, understandably, became wired to avoid rejection at all costs and even to fear it.
And even though social rejection won’t kill us now, the fear that it will is still ingrained. So it’s no wonder so many of us struggle with this. The fear of rejection can hold us back in so many ways though. It encourages us to hold parts of ourselves back, to keep that idea tucked away where it’s safe. It stops us from speaking our truth. So how can we move past this fear of rejection?
A really helpful first step, I think, is to think about who’s opinion really matters to you. It’s so easy to get caught up in the opinions of other people, but when you break it down, do they really matter? Do these people know you as a person? Do they know what they’re talking about? I love the idea from Brene Brown of getting a one-inch square piece of paper and writing a list of people whose opinions truly matter to you. This list will be small! Purposefully small. Keep it to hand so when other opinions or rejections come your way, you know if they’re not on the list… it doesn’t matter. I found a really helpful video from Brene Brown on why your critics aren’t the ones who count, so I’ll put the link to that in the show-notes.
OK, the next piece I believe is important to work on when it comes to fear of rejection is your self-worth. Because when we recognise our worth, we know who we are and what we can do. And we know that rejection, while it may still hurt, it doesn’t change who we are. I wrote an article a few months ago about rejection sensitivity dysphoria RSD, which is a condition where people experience an intense sensitivity to emotional pain caused by rejection or feeling like they don’t belong and interestingly up to 99% of people with ADHD will experience this. In the article I interviewed Sara Tasker who you may know as ‘Me & Orla’ online, as she has RSD and when talking about her advice for others, she said: “Remember that you are not what other people think of you. That’s not what defines who you are in this world. Really recognising this, and starting to slowly internalise it, has been the biggest change for me with this issue.”
And this is why getting to the core of who you are and valuing your worth is so important – I’ll pop the link to this article in the show-notes and if you’re working on your self-worth, I’d recommend listening to episode 28 of the podcast which discusses six steps to discover your worth and signing up to my newsletter to get my e-book on the topic for free (bluejayofhappiness.com/newsletter)
Something else that can be helpful is connecting with common humanity and recognising that rejection is a normal part of life. Rejection can feel more intense when we combine it with a sense of isolation, when we feel as if we’re going through it alone. So, when we remind ourselves we’re not alone in feeling or fearing rejection, and even reaching out and talking to others about it… it can help.
In a similar vein to this, zooming out and gaining perspective can also help. When a fear of rejection comes up it can often lead to us catastrophising and getting into a negative thought spiral about all the things we think will happen if we get rejected. Taking a second to pause and remember all the other amazing things you have in your life outside of this particular thing can help. Remember, our brains have an impact bias which means we forget about our natural resilience. Try writing a gratitude list when fear of rejection comes up – what else do you have to be grateful for? This helps us tune into the positives and gain that valuable perspective.
So hopefully these ideas will help you move past the fear of rejection, but what happens when you actually do get rejected? Hopefully the tools mentioned here will soften the blow, but here are some extra tips:
First, look at your list of people, were you rejected by someone whose opinion matters to you? This might help ease the sense of rejection, but it’s also important to identify it for what it is and allow yourself to feel it. Validate your feelings and try to get to the root of the hurt, what’s sitting under the fear of rejection? I’ve been doing some deeper work on this recently and was surprised to discover that a big fear I have is of being alone. Once you identify and validate, you can move forward – remember you cannot heal what you don’t feel.
Next, recognise that you’re not alone with this feeling. Again, this is about connecting with common humanity and it can really help to take the sting out of rejection to recognise you’re not alone here.
Finally, try to reframe rejection. Sometimes being rejected simply means we need to try again. We need to persist and keep going, depending on the context of course. Sometimes it offers us a learning opportunity, redirecting us to something different, something better. I recently launched my new e-book on building confidence and finding your purpose and during the launch period I sold less than I was hoping for. Instead of seeing that as people rejecting my book, my idea, I see it as data, as a chance to learn what my audience finds helpful and what they don’t so I can go away and refine my offerings. I know it’s not personal and it’s not a rejection of who I am.
There we go, that’s all I have for you this week, as always I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic – will you be trying out any of the ideas mentioned? Come and chat to me over on Instagram, I’m @katbluejay there. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, until then – take care.
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