Fear holds people back professionally in all kinds of ways. It can make it harder to take risks, which makes workers less innovative and creative. Fear can also limit the growth of professional relationships — with bosses, coworkers, new clients — because it’s more difficult to authentically connect when you’re afraid.
The fear of rejection, specifically, can really put a damper on your career. So, if you want to advance professionally, you need to conquer your fear of rejection. Here’s how to shake it off once and for all.
1. Understand the benefits of making mistakes.
Of course it doesn’t feel good when you make a mistake at work. But, don’t beat yourself up or start clinging to the false hope of perfectionism in an effort to avoid ever making a mistake again. Instead, accept that mistakes, disappointments, even failures, are a part of life. Better yet, start to understand how making mistakes is crucial for career progression. It teaches you what works and what doesn’t.
Sometimes you’ll be rejected at work, let’s say by a potential client, because you made a mistake. But, perhaps this will ultimately allow you to land 10 new clients in the future because you learned from that error. When you can start to see rejection as an opportunity to learn something new and valuable, you’ll be on your way to overcoming your fear.
2. Accept that it’s painful.
Being rejected in a professional context can really hurt. Struggling against that hurt and trying not to feel it won’t do you any favors, though. It’s better to accept that the situation is painful. That acceptance can help you move through the experience more quickly and let it go.
“If we can notice our self-criticisms and tendency to sink into the shame of being a failure and accept our pain just as it is, we move toward healing,” writes John Amodeo, PhD, at PsychCentral. “Our suffering is intensified when not only do we feel hurt, but we think something’s wrong with us for feeling it.”
3. Talk nicely to yourself.
The fear of rejection can run pretty deep. It’s perfectly normal to feel disappointed when something doesn’t go your way. But, it’s another story to feel like you’re the disappointment. Just because you fail, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It’s important to move through your feelings, yes. But, that doesn’t mean you should linger on negative thoughts about yourself.
Start to tackle your fear of rejection by being careful about the way you talk to yourself. Try not to say things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend. Instead of beating yourself up when you’re rejected, start to re-frame it as a normal part of working life and maybe even a learning experience.
4. Focus less on being judged by others.
Our minds are powerful. The fear of rejection can sometimes become so overwhelming that it’s virtually paralyzing. Some might avoid applying for new jobs, or even turn down promotions because they’re too afraid of ultimately being judged or rejected.
Instead of worrying so much about how people might see you, try to focus on how you can impact others in a positive way. If you have a meeting with your boss or a big client, think about what you can do to make them feel more calm and comfortable. Focusing on how you can improve some else’s mood and mindset rather than on what they’re going to think of you is a game-changer. It puts you in the driver’s seat and makes you more active than passive in the interaction. Plus, it can help get you out of a self-critical mindset. That’s essential if you want to overcome a fear of rejection.
5. Face your fear.
At the end of the day, we tackle our fears by facing them head on. If the fear of rejection is holding you back professionally, the consequences can be tremendous. Continuing to avoid what’s scaring you will only make matters worse. Instead, remind yourself that everyone goes through things like this. Fear is a normal part of the human experience. Seek out some support from friends or colleagues who understand and will offer encouragement. And, remind yourself of your previous successes and accomplishments. Then, face that fear directly. Do what scares you — knowing that you are armed with the right tools and mindset to learn something valuable from this, no matter what happens.
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