Strengthen Your Rejection Muscle

Most people fear it.

Fear of rejection is one of our deepest human fears, bypassing pain, loneliness and yes even… public speaking!

Fear of rejection hits all aspects of our lives and prevents us from:

  • Seeking new experiences
  • Meeting new people
  • Taking risks

I’ve read articles and watched videos that take the perspective fear of rejection is a common emotional event and can be overcome by simply stating to yourself ‘don’t take it personally.’ All I can say is, “I wish it was that easy!” No matter how many times you say to yourself “don’t take it personally,” “it doesn’t matter” or “it’s no big deal,” you will not eliminate your feelings of rejection. Why? Because research indicates rejection does not respond to reason.

Fear of rejection is much bigger than reciting a mantra.

I did a little digging and fear of rejection feels so painful because it follows the same neural pathways (as evidenced in MRI studies) as physical pain … Ouch! No wonder it hurts so much. In fact, when the study participants received Tylenol prior to a rejection, they reported significantly less emotional pain, then those who just received the sugar pill.

I’ve been rejected many times (I’m guessing you have too).

One of my most painful rejections was with my master’s thesis. After I had finished writing my thesis and my first and second thesis advisors had approved it, I sent it to my third thesis advisor. Her written response was, and I quote “this is the worst thesis I have ever read!” Owww! That stung … especially since my first two thesis advisors said my thesis was ‘really good’. (Wish I had taken Extra Strength Tylenol prior to reading that feedback).

Fear of rejection is real. And it comes up more often than most people would like it too, especially if you are moving outside of your comfort zone.  I recently asked someone to mentor me (twice) and was met with crickets both times – Stinger!

Here’s the thing … rejection is part of life. What you need to know is feelings of rejection often elicit feelings of anger and aggressiveness. Think of school shootings, many cases of domestic abuse, retaliation for getting fired etc. Studies have also shown that even mild rejections can lead people to express their aggression on innocent bystanders. The good news is there are strategies you can learn and use to strengthen your ‘rejection muscle.’

Strengthen Your Rejection Muscle

My favourite resource on dealing with rejection is called “Rejection Proof” (book by Jia Jiang). He strengthened his rejection muscle (and in the process learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work when dealing with rejection) by planning to get rejected 100 days in a row. For example, he asked a stranger for $100, asked to teach a university class, fly a plane (crazy stuff). In the process of being rejected, he learned what it takes to get a ‘yes’. Some of my favourite strategies from Jiang are:

1. Every rejection has a number.

In other words, keep trying and eventually you will get a ‘yes.’

2. Diminish your ask.

Each ‘no’ is surrounded by many ‘yes’s.’ If you diminish your ask, you will likely find a ‘yes.’

3.  Give a reason for your request.

If you tell people ‘why’ you are asking, they are more likely to respond favourably.

And if you’ve got a spare 15 minutes, have a listen to Jiang’s TEDTalk

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