I spoke in front of a room of about 150 engineers, delivering a talk with content I hadn’t developed, and I knew before even going in that it wasn’t going to be a good fit for this audience.
Boy, I was right. The engineers turned on me midway through the talk. It started with a worthy question about the content, and I didn’t have the proper knowledge to back it up. I lost any credibility I may have had at that moment; it was clear they were done with me.
But I still had about 15 minutes of the talk to deliver! It was so painful. For anyone who has a fear of public speaking, I was living out your worst nightmare at that moment.
Afterward, the point of contact for this keynote could see my embarrassment and shame. She asked if I wanted to stay for dinner; I politely declined. I couldn’t wait to get back in my rental car and drive to the airport and lick my wounds.
I’m sure you’ve had your rejection moments, and I bet we can agree they’re painful experiences. In fact, research shows that the same area of our brain lights up when we feel the pain of rejection as when we experience physical pain like a broken bone.
In this blog post, I want to share five basic truths of rejection so you can gain a better perspective of what it is and perhaps take a small step to deal with it more effectively.
Truth #1 – There’s No Magic Pill to Help You Stop Being Rejected.
I wish I could give one. But here’s the thing, knowing that it’s going to happen can sometimes help you lessen the fear. Instead of thinking….”What if they don’t like me, or don’t like my speech, or my proposal?” You can think…
”There’s bound to be a few people who won’t like this. And that’s okay; they’re not my ideal audience.”
If you go about trying to avoid rejection, you’ll end up trying to please everyone, which will please absolutely no one.
Author and researcher Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, has an exercise where you put all the names of people whose opinion matters to you on a 1×1 inch post-it note. Everyone else doesn’t count.
So, maybe knowing that rejection is a universal experience will lighten your fear. You are not alone in fearing it, and you’re definitely not alone in experiencing it.
Truth #2 – We Can’t Stop Rejection, But We Can Learn How to Deal with it Better.
The Buddhist parable of the second arrow can be extremely helpful in understanding the pain of rejection.
The Buddha once asked a student, “if an arrow strikes someone, is it painful?” The student replied, “It is.” The Buddha then asked, “if a second arrow then strikes the person, is it even more painful?” The student replied again, “It is.” The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with the second arrow comes the possibility of choice.
Our internal narrative and our beliefs about rejection can cause us even more pain than the rejection itself.
Often with very little knowledge about why we are being rejected, we create whole narratives about our defects, personality flaws, and failures. We shoot the second arrow.
But you learn how to deal with it better, so the second arrow never gets in the bow.
Truth #3 – People Judge and Reject for Reasons We May Never Know.
It’s helpful to realize that the most judgmental people are often in the most pain. Think about your own life. When you’re in a state of joy and happiness, how much energy do you spend judging and rejecting others? I’m guessing very little. You’re in such a high vibrational state that judgment would bring you down, and that’s the last thing you want to do. You want to spread your joy!
People judge and reject others from a fear-based, emotional state, leading them to faulty conclusions.
The next time you’re rejected, instead of shooting the second arrow, become curious about the rejector. What’s going on in their lives? Often an act of rejection says way more about the person doing the rejection than the rejectee.
Truth #4 – You Have Everything to Gain.
When you try to protect yourself from the pain of rejection, you end up living a very small life because the only way to avoid rejection is not to do anything new.
What if you could let go of this fear of what other people might think of you? My guess is you’d get a lot more of what you want out of life.
When you spend all of your energy trying to protect yourself from being rejected, you’re reinforcing the fears of being rejected that are stopping you in the first place.
Yes, being vulnerable can be scary as hell; it’s also the quickest way to a genuine connection to others. It’s a risk for sure, but when you get better at handling the emotional pain of rejection, the rewards of relationships are even sweeter.
Truth #5 – You Don’t Have to Keep Reliving Your Past.
I felt one of the earliest forms of rejection by being put up for adoption by my birth mother. Of course, as an adult, I recognize that she made a tough decision that she felt was the best for both her and me.
That first primal rejection can be felt for a lifetime.
But our past doesn’t have to be our future. If you grew up in a chaotic, dysfunctional home (I fit that category too), it doesn’t have to continue.
Your past stories don’t have to be your future stories unless you decide they are. You don’t have to live out the same pain, shame, and dysfunction.
You can stop rejecting yourself.
The recovery is a process, and there are no quick fixes. It’s work often done best with therapists, coaches, or a helping community. You can create a life that allows you to bounce back from rejection by creating a new mindset and a new set of beliefs. It’s sometimes challenging work, but I always say it’s the most rewarding work you’ll ever do.
So, that’s it—five truths about rejection that might open up a new perspective for you.
If you want to go deeper, join me for the next Live Moffitt Talks on Wednesday, April 28th, at 5 pm PT. This month’s theme is all on Rejection, and it will be an hour of part fun, part education, and part coaching.
Check out lu.ma/rejectionrehab for more information.