What are you afraid of? Its a tough question for some. Since we live in relative comfort, without fear for our lives or survival, there is little to be really be afraid of. But most of us, at some point, fear being rejected.
Think about it. We don’t pursue something because we fear not being liked or being judged, and then rejected. This applies to so many things — calling that client, applying for that job, asking out the guy next door out, asking for a promotion, confronting a friend, or starting a blog.
My personal experience suggests that at some point, we should just try. When I was teaching college-level writing at one local college, I had this idea to try teaching at another college that was more business focused. Given my background in business and English, it seemed like a good match. And, it was right next door to my son’s school – maybe even a perfect match.
I deliberated for months. I met with another professor teaching there and asked about the work environment and opportunities. I hemmed and hawed. I did some online research but it wasn’t very helpful. I knew better NOT to apply online because my resumé wasn’t stellar and success was very unlikely. But I also knew I had a good track record and a passion for teaching college-level writing.
Yet still, I hemmed and hawed. It was simple fear of rejection. We all want to be wanted and accepted, and asking for something puts us at risk of being rejected. But at some point, I got tired of wondering. At some point, I knew the fastest way to find out, was just to ask. So I forced myself to go to the campus and ask to speak to someone about teaching there. The administrative staff were very helpful and walked me over to the office of the person in charge of hiring. Wow – so far, so good.
I met with him immediately, and was duly told that first, I needed a curriculum vitae (CV), listing all the courses that I had taught, and NOT a resume. I was definitely a newbie. And second, the college was really only looking for professors with PhDs or who were currently working full time in business. I had a resume instead of a CV, and neither of those credentials. I’m sure I was crimson with embarrassment, but I gave him my bravest smile, thanked him for his advice, and reached out to retrieve my resume. He hesitated and said he’d keep it on file, “just in case.”
Less than 2 weeks later I received a call asking me if I’d be willing to fill in for a professor taking an immediate medical leave. It wasn’t the teaching assignment I’d hoped for — it was working as a tutor in the college writing center — but it was a foot in the door. I said yes. And by the next semester, I was teaching in the classroom.
Of course, this story could have turned out differently — but had I not put myself out, conquered my fear of rejection, and asked for the job, I would have never got it. It was all about conquering my fear. And while I would not have labeled it “fear of rejection” at the time, I did recognize my reluctance. Eventually, it got to the point where I was willing to “brave” the polite college administration rather than continue to wonder if I might teach there “one day”. So, how can you conquer your fear?
How can you conquer your fear?
First, make sure you WANT TO do this thing you’re afraid of pursuing. Ask yourself WHY you want to do it. Why do you want to switch companies, learn how to ski, or create that blog?
Your WHY is your purpose, cause, or belief—the driving force behind much of what you do. And having a clear “why” can be a key source of motivation. Whether it’s wanting to find a creative outlet, land a job you love, get more fit, or speak up about something important — it doesn’t matter what you want — it’s about why you want it.
So, assuming your “why” is meaningful to you, there still might be some fear — and there are lots of ways to get past our fears. Here are some suggestions:
- Ask: “what’s the worst thing that might happen?”
- What is your inactivity costing you? (Happiness? peace of mind?)
- Break your task into “bite-size” chunks. Big is scary, but little is do-able
- Look on the bright side – what’s the best thing that might happen?
- Be rational. If your inner critic is telling you that that you’ll be rejected, think about all the times that your inner critic was wrong. Then go back to #1
- Follow this advice from Carrie Fisher:
Stay afraid, but do it anyway.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention support. As a coach, I encourage my clients to build support in their lives so that they can move forward more with confidence; and so that they have a friendly safety net if things don’t go well. That might mean you share your secret dream with a friend, you convince someone to join you on your journey, or you have a strong support network that you know you can turn to. Whatever you do, don’t do it alone.
So hopefully you can now:
- recognize something you’ve been putting off
- confirm that it’s important to you (your “why”)
- put yourself out (and sometimes that means meetings or multiple emails, not just sending one — but really go for it, as if you want it)
- turn to your support system and gather your energy to try again.
Good luck venturing out of your comfort zone. It’s risky, but it’s worth it.