Rejection. It shows up in all aspects of our lives. It affects us personally, professionally, and even spiritually. Any form of vulnerability carries with it the possibility of rejection. It is the possibility that we will hold our arms outstretched, wanting to be received only to be ignored or turned away. It is a sickening feeling to realize that they do not want us. There are many ways to cope with rejection. Some may put all the blame on the other party, while others fully take on the rejection as some fault of their own. Some will run towards the rejection and fully embrace the risk and unknowns in life.
There are others who, after having experienced rejection, retreat within themselves. As a preemptive defense mechanism, they will abstain from opportunities before there is someone else who would be able to take it from them. Before they can be put in the position of being rejected, they internally reject themselves. Internal rejection is something that people can easily allow to consume in their decision making process. It is easy to normalize these behaviors by telling yourself or others that you do not actually want the thing you are afraid of being rejected by. But if gone unchecked, this tendency can leave a person paralyzed by fear and low self-worth. How can you know if this is something you struggle with?
Do any of these statement apply to you?
- I do not apply for jobs I want out of fear that I will not get it.
- When I do apply, I go into job interviews expecting that I won’t get the job.
- I refuse to express romantic or platonic interest in someone out of fear that they will not reciprocate.
- I do not initiate making plans with people because I assume that they will have better things to do.
- I refrain from asking professors or employers for letters of recommendation because I am unsure of whether they would actually write one for me.
- I procrastinate on assignments out of fear that I will not be able to execute them well enough.
- Simply put, I expect the answer to be no, so I never ask.
The list can go on, but if you find yourself modeling these types of behaviors you may be prone to the habit of self rejection.
One common source of internal rejection is a misplacement of identity. If your identity is rooted in your ability to accomplish or perform, when those things are taken away you feel as though you are left empty handed. When your identity is founded in how people receive you, their rejection will have power over you. The truth is that your identity is not found in the acceptance or rejection of people. It is not found in how capable you are to perform. Your identity is found in the fact that you can fail every class and not have a single friend, but still be unashamedly desired and pursued by the Creator. When you build your identity on solid ground, then you will be able to experience freedom from the binding fear of rejection.
It is not all doom and gloom if you find yourself in this category. The best part of life is that we have the ability to learn, change, and grow. Last year, my mentor’s mantra for me was “healthy risk.” She would constantly ask me the ways in which I was taking risks within my life. As she shared with me the risks that she was taking, I was encouraged to step out. I will never say that it wasn’t scary, but as I got into the rhythm of taking risk that fear that was there no longer had a grip on me. When the temptation came to fall back into the pattern of internal rejections, I took a moment to pause. I was able to fall back on the promise of where my identity rested.
What is an area you need to take a risk in? Find someone who can keep you accountable. Go out and try something new. Pursue that job or friendship or academic endeavor, because you never know unless you try!