Kick Starts

Rethinking Rejection

February 12, 2024 Episode 41
Kick Starts
Rethinking Rejection
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, I discuss the far reaching fear of rejection. From dating, to job interviews, or asking for what you want, I emphasize how everyone experiences fear of rejection at points in life. I outline the origins and why fear of rejection is ingrained in our brains due to our evolutionary need to belong to a group for survival. However, in today's times, fear of rejection is largely misplaced and holds us back. Drawing on a couple of personal stories and referencing exposure therapy designed to overcome fear of rejection, I encourage listeners to embrace their individuality, be courageous, and normalize the inevitable experience of rejection. Yes, rejection is uncomfortable, but facing these fears will most assuredly lead to personal growth, self-confidence, and positive life changes.

Rejection therapy website : https://rejectiontherapy.com

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Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

Hi and welcome to Kick Starts. I'm your host, sylvia Flanagan, and before we start talking about rejection, if you like this podcast, please leave me a rating or review. It definitely helps motivate me and it also helps me get found on the platforms like Apple or Spotify. But let's talk about rejection, more specifically, the fear of rejection. No one gets away from that. We all fear rejection to one degree or another. It might come about when we're thinking about dating or when we're actually dating, maybe presenting a new idea, trying to make new friends, putting ourselves out there in that capacity, or just trying out for a new job or a new position in a job that we already hold, and there's just tons of situations where we fear rejection because we wanna ask for something. It's when we put ourselves out there to ask for something and a lot of people don't. They hold themselves back because they're afraid if I ask, I'm gonna be told no, and they have all these associations wrapped up with being told no and what they think that means. And again, no one's completely devoid of that and keep listening to the end of this episode because there's something at the end that's pretty fun, it's challenging and it's also practical. But before I get into talking about why we fear rejection. I just wanna share two stories. I remember when I was starting off in my private practice and every once in a while I'd read the paperwork before somebody came in, and every once in a while there'd be someone that was like a pretty high level attorney or a surgeon or somebody that was really upstanding in the business community and I found myself intimidated. Basically, I was worried that I was gonna be rejected as not good enough, as inadequate and not being able to help these people. And that didn't happen, and over time I've seen so many people from all walks of life and just so many different types of people I figured out it didn't take that long. It's like we're all the same and so I don't have that kind of fear of being rejected. But I do remember being in a situation where I didn't think I was gonna be rejected and I was, and that's why I'm sharing these two different types of stories.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

For the life of me I can't remember what it was, but it was something for my dog. I don't know if it was like dog bandanas or something I had, but I had way more than I needed and I had to go to the post office for something and I decided to bring the bandanas in with me because I knew there'd be a lot of people there. I think it was around Christmas time. So after I mailed my package off, I went to one person at a time in line and I said, oh, excuse me, do you have a dog? And they'd look at me really skeptically and then either say no and then I'd say okay, well, when people would say yes, I said oh well, would you like this, I'd like to give it to you. And I think three people rejected me and the look of like scorn almost, because they didn't trust me. They think. I think they thought I was trying to sell them something, but there was the biggest wall and I couldn't even give something away. And I was there. I was like, oh, I'm gonna make people really happy today and give them something. But I finally was able to give away what I had. And again, I can't even remember what it was, but what I do remember was that feeling and I couldn't wait to get out of that post office. So again, we all get rejected and it doesn't feel good, but at the end of this episode I'm hoping that you can look at rejection differently, so that it won't feel so bad and you can completely reframe it and put it in a different type of context.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

Hey, it's me quick break. So you wanna buy me a coffee a virtual coffee that is, if you like my podcast. Consider supporting me and fueling my inspiration. Any support received goes to my heart and not to my pockets, and helps pay for the various expenses needed to produce the show. A coffee is $5. Just go to www. buymeacoffeecom/ kickstarts. I'll also put the link in the show notes. Thanks so much for any support.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

So where does this fear of rejection come from? Because, again, all of us have it. The main reason is that we're hardwired for it biologically, because, from an evolutionary standpoint, our brains are wired to have a fear response when we're not accepted by other people. Because for most of human history, if a person wasn't accepted by their tribe, if they were rejected by their tribe, they were going to die because they needed those people. They needed their tribe in order to survive. So if we get rejected by somebody, it's going to affect us in some way negatively. It doesn't feel good, we usually get anxious and we just feel bad. But luckily we live in a totally different kind of world now. In community it's not defined by the tribe anymore and we don't need our immediate neighbors to like us in order to live, although it's really good and it feels good to have good neighbors and get along with them. But we're not going to die if we don't have the support of our neighbors or the people even in our immediate community, because life is so different and it's so much safer.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

But again, that part of our brain, it doesn't know that. So it responds to rejection with a lot of fear usually, or some degree of fear and anxiety. And so historically, like I said, people needed to conform really strongly, because if you didn't conform you were probably going to be ostracized. So you just went with the group, you went with the crowd in order to stay alive and of course that led to individuality being suppressed. So, although individualism is pretty much baked into our culture right now, it didn't start until really about the early 1800s and it was revolutionary because up until that point no culture practiced that, because, again, they couldn't afford to, it wasn't an option. And so, in terms of human history, we're really playing a new game and, like I said, our brains, they haven't caught up and they may never. Who knows you and I? We're not going to live long enough to know that.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

Another reason that we want to avoid rejection at its most basic level is just that it doesn't feel good. I mean, who wants to be rejected? It's disappointing. We want something, we go out there and we try to get it and we're turned away, so it sucks. So who wants to be rejected? It hurts.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

Other reasons of why people avoid rejection on a deeper level or have a lot of anxiety around it it might be the family that they grew up. Maybe you had a lot of family expectations. You might have had critical parents. You might have an insecure attachment style. Attachment style can have a lot to do with how you interpret rejection or whether you're going to set yourself up where you're possibly going to get rejected. In other words, you might avoid those situations.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

Another reason is you underestimate your value and your abilities. You basically might undervalue yourself, and you know that example I gave earlier. As a younger therapist, I wasn't valuing my skill and I compared myself and so forth, and that's the other thing. If you're comparing yourself to other people or you have some idea of perfectionism that you're trying to aspire to, you might have unrealistic standards for yourself and then avoid putting yourself in situations where you might get told no or get turned down. Another reason why you might have a lot of negative emotion around the possibility of rejection is you don't have much positive and reinforcement in your life. Maybe you don't have people there, are there for you and are gonna see, recognize and make a point of telling you about, about what you offer and what kind of person you are and how you're good to have around.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

So, stepping back, though, if you avoid putting yourself in situations that can sort of propel you forward in life and Help you manifest your authenticity and all your gifts, if we avoid that, it's gonna have a pretty big impact on our life. It's gonna keep I'm gonna keep this anxious and we're gonna keep doubting our own abilities. And someone that avoids putting themselves in those situations and who wants to steer clear of rejection they're gonna probably be a people pleaser and, like I said earlier, they're not gonna develop authentically and they're not gonna develop the assertiveness that they need, so they'll just keep living safe and they'll be guided by fear Instead of being motivated and propelled by possibility. If we keep avoiding rejection, we're gonna have a lot of negative patterns and those belief systems that's just gonna keep guiding us in the wrong direction. Also gonna have poor coping skills because rejection is inevitable unless you literally isolate yourself from everything. So we're not gonna be able to cope with the situations that don't go our way. It's definitely gonna lead us to be more alone if we fear rejection because we're not gonna put ourselves in social, social situations where we might not be like because, let's face it, nobody's gonna like I mean nobody. Hopefully some people do. Everybody's not gonna like me and everybody's not gonna like you, and that's okay, I mean, and people have different needs, they're looking for different things in people and and we're drawn to different qualities. Also, if we step back from taking chances and fear rejection, we're gonna have more anxiety because we're gonna have to go into certain situations in life when we may encounter rejection and if we're not seasoned in practice, we're gonna get anxious. And if we manage to keep ourselves away From a lot of situations when we could have rejection, we're gonna get depressed because again, we're gonna be stagnant where we're not gonna be moving ourselves forward and inner. Personally, if you don't know how to deal with rejection, you're probably gonna get defensive whenever you get feedback from somebody that might be from a friend, someone you're married to or dating, or somebody at work, you're not gonna be able to handle it. Look at yourself and look at the situation. You're just gonna get defensive.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

So then the question becomes how do we overcome the fear of rejection? We can't completely get rid of. The fear of rejection is like I said, it's hardwired into our brains. But what? What we can do is really minimize it and learn to put rejection in its proper place. Is it the end of the day? We're afraid of the wrong thing. It's not rejection that's gonna hurt us, and we're afraid of something that isn't gonna harm us, because you know if, if somebody, if you ask somebody out on a date, or I ask somebody out on a date and they say no didn't kill us, it's the story we're making up that leads us to be afraid, but in that moment they just say no and our life is no different, except at least we went for what we wanted and we have an answer, and then we can go to the next thing. So, when it comes to overcoming rejection, the first thing is normalize it. You're not going to fit in every mold, and neither am I and do you really want to? I mean, if everybody liked you, I mean, think about it. It's just that adds, I think, so many dimensions to life.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

The other thing to do is rewrite your script. If you have a negative one about yourself. Ask yourself who you've positively impacted and how, and who you've influenced and who chooses to stay in your life because they want to, instead of focusing on who hasn't accepted you or who hasn't accepted an idea that you had or whatever thing that you went for that didn't work out. So flip that script and remember again that what you have to contribute, know your worth, know your value by the people that are in it who choose it voluntarily. If you've listened to some of my other episodes, when you start to flip that script and change the story that you're making up about yourself in these situations, you're then working to rewire your brain and rewire those neural pathways to become accurate, and that's going to reduce the anxiety you feel or depression that you have, and it's just going to help regulate your nervous system and allow you to move back into more of those situations where you can move yourself forward.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

So don't let rejection define you, but instead let your courage that you have to face rejection be the thing that defines you. Also, I think it's worthwhile ask yourself what's driving your fear of rejection. Is it because you want to be liked or is it because you want to make a difference or contribute something positively or develop your own unique and individual personality, your own quirks, your own skills? Because if it's only to be liked I mean, if you think that through, I don't know if that's the most normal goal. I mean, yeah, we all want to be liked, but it's better to be liked for who you are Again, with all those quirks and your unique personality and the skills and the talents you have to offer.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

Use each rejection as a reminder to remember and know who you are. It's an opportunity where you can stay focused, you can redirect and exercise the resilience that's inside, even if you haven't seen it yet, and it really tells you about your strengths, your limitations, your insecurities. It's okay to fear it, but just keep moving into it. Be bold enough to put yourself out there and ask for what you want, and also be grateful, be happy and put in a perspective that we're living in a sliver in history, where we have the safety and the encouragement in our culture, to develop ourselves as an individual and to be able to risk that rejection. We're given a green light to be who we are and become who we want to be, and this is such a gift.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

But the risk goes along with the opportunity. We can't have one without the other. If you and I, if we're living well, we're always going to be in a state of creation. And again, there's risk in that we're going to be driven by the expression of who we are as an individual and, despite what you might have been told as a kid, color outside the lines. If you want to go outside the lines, go for it. If who you are and what you're inspired by and how you roll means coloring outside those lines, then just do it. You might get rejected by some in fact you will but at least you'll be real and at least you'll know that the people who are cheering you on that they see you and not some image that you've constructed that's not real. You may as well practice it, and this is where I said I think it gets a little bit of fun. Put yourself in situations where you know you might get rejected. So I didn't know this until right before I was done doing some work on putting this episode together, but there's a website called rejectiontherapycom and it was several years ago.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

A man named Jason Comley he was a freelance IT guy and his wife had left him and he was depressed and he was isolated. And it just came to him one day. He's like I got to do something and he knew about exposure therapy and exposure therapies where you just put yourself in the situations in which you're afraid of and eventually the fear goes away. So what he did is that once a day he would voluntarily put himself in a position where he'd most likely get rejected, in fact, and if he wasn't rejected, he had to do something else that day until he was rejected. And he made a card game out of it where and you can still buy the cards where you draw a card and then it tells you to do something where you're most likely going to get rejected.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

And he did this and he found not only did he really didn't fear rejection much anymore, but of course his depression went down, probably went away, his anxiety went down, he thrived professionally, personally you name it and then, not that long ago, a younger man named Jia Jiang he essentially bought the name and the website and I would go there. I'll put it in the show notes, the link in the show notes and he documented by video every day for 100 days. Jia Jiang would go into a situation where he'd most likely get rejected, and the one I like the best is when he goes into a fast food restaurant, he eats his burger and then he goes back up to the counter and says can I get my burger refill? It's classic, but what he found is that a lot of times he wasn't rejected and he also learned that the rejection that he was so afraid of it held no power, that there was no reason to be afraid of the rejection, but it was again. It was made up in his head. The stories he was placing to be to being rejected led to all the anxiety and withdraw and was holding him back in life.

Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT:

So I think we could all benefit by doing a little bit of that. Maybe not all 100 of them, but I would rethink your relationship with rejection and maybe even put yourself in a couple of these situations where you know you're going to get rejected. Start thinking about it. I mean, it's silly and it's scary, but it's a brilliant idea and you don't have to pay a therapist to do it. You can just do it alone. It's exposure therapy at its finest. So again, just really take a look maybe about how rejection or the fear of it has held you back. Rethink it. Know that you're in a period in history where you get to celebrate yourself as an individual, so why not take advantage of it? You got this.

Fear of Rejection's Impact
Overcoming the Fear of Rejection
Conquering Fear of Rejection