“Death would be an easier option.”
I heard the warning loud and clear in my mind, “Death would be an easier option.” My body didn’t feel like my own: my heart pounding out of my chest, breathing shallow, limbs suddenly feeling paralyzed so even if I wanted to run away, which I desperately wanted to do, I couldn’t I was trapped. My friends offered words of encouragement but I couldn’t process them. I faced the depressing thought that my fear might win. That perhaps I had finally met my match and that going up to a strange man in a bar with the sole intention of chatting him up, (to get the rejection that I fully expected) would outdo me.
This didn’t make sense. I had packed a suitcase and moved to another continent by myself when I was 18 and then again when I was thirty-three. I had been the one to stand up to the school bully when I was 12 years old and then survived a lonely year of being shunned by all the girls in my class. And yet here I was, in a cushy hotel bar in LA and the fear I was experiencing was so primal and so completely overwhelming. I knew that if I didn’t conquer it, I would never be able to utter the words “The Rejection Advantage” ever again with a thread of integrity.
Here’s the thing about rejection, it is part of our human experience.
People who avoid rejection are avoiding the fullness of life. Those of us who avoid rejection are, usually, highly skilled at creating our lives to naturally avoid the rejection we fear. How do I know this? To tell you the truth, it is because I am somewhat of an expert in rejection. You see, if there was an Olympic event in which people were measured on their fear of rejection, I’m pretty sure I’d be on the podium receiving the gold medal. But some time ago I learned that this shameful little secret wasn’t just mine.
It turns out that when I began talking to people about rejection that everyone instantly knew what I was referring to because they too experience a similar fear of rejection. Whether it is the taxi driver who tells me that he really wishes he could give inspirational talks to at-risk youths but doesn’t try too as he worries he won’t make a big enough impact; or the millionaire CEO who is fearless at work but holds back in her relationships at home, despite wanting to be closer with her children and partner. Fear of rejection is an equal opportunity stalker. And so the taxi driver tells himself that he doesn’t have time to talk to youths and the CEO takes work home with her so she can hide away in her home office because she has work to do.
But what if there is another way? What if we could begin to perceive rejection differently? What if we could begin to acknowledge the advantages inherent in seeking rejections…yes you read that correctly…the advantages of seeking rejections. We reject in many ways, letting potential growth experiences and opportunities pass us by, often without even noticing them. When we do notice them, we frequently have excuses about why we will still just let them pass us by. But all rejection truly begins with self-rejection, so let’s start there.