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Is playing it safe holding you back?

Growing up and into my college years, I had a major fear of rejection. In fact, I tried to avoid experiencing rejection at all costs.

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I remember applying for colleges and deciding not to apply to any schools that I considered major reaches because I did not want to receive the dreaded rejection letter. I didn’t apply for internships that I felt I might have a chance of being rejected from. When I did receive rejections, I remember feeling completely crushed, with a sense that somehow I had not measured up. Every rejection felt like a personal failure and created a small dent in my sense of self-esteem. A few years ago, my stance on rejection completely changed. I listened to a podcast episode that talked about a process known as “rejection therapy,” where people actively try to seek out rejection over a specific period of time. Through this, I was inspired to challenge my own views on rejection. I began to put myself out there by submitting my writing to various websites for publication. I enjoyed writing but had told myself that it would be too difficult to get my writing published. I received some initial rejections and lack of responses, but I continued to submit my work with the same spirited enthusiasm. Within a brief period of time, I became a blogger for a variety of major websites including The Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

In that period of time, I graduated with my master’s degree in social work. I was rejected (or flat out ignored) by some of the jobs that I applied for, but also landed my dream job working as a psychotherapist with adolescents. I applied the principle of embracing rejection in other areas of my life and was met with amazing results. The best part of it all was that I still received rejections along the way, but my relationship with rejection had changed. Rejection was no longer this scary thing to be feared, rather it was just a normal stepping-stone on the path to achievement and growth. Many times we miss opportunities because we are afraid of being rejected. Rejection might be unpleasant or uncomfortable, but it’s just a feeling. You can start small by setting a weekly goal of asking someone for a request that they might say “no” to. Then, you can gradually work your way to facing your larger rejection related fears. The worst-case scenario is that you feel some moderate discomfort, and the best is that you receive new opportunities that you never imagined could be possible. The following are three ways that you can change your relationship with rejection and improve your life.

  1. Remind yourself that rejection is simply an opinion

Tying our self-worth to whether we receive a rejection or acceptance can be crippling and harmful long-term. It’s important to remind yourself that getting a rejection actually says very little about you as a person. Rather, rejection is simply one person or organization’s opinion, which is largely based on their own personal preferences, biases, and experiences. For instance, many wildly successful authors had their manuscripts rejected by multiple publishers. J.K. Rowling, the author of the best-selling "Harry Potter" series, has said that her manuscript was rejected multiple times before it was eventually accepted for publication and became a worldwide bestseller.

  1. Recognize that rejection is a normal part of any process of growth

If you aren’t experiencing any form of rejection, it’s likely that you aren’t growing and learning as much as you can. If you can begin to reframe rejection as a normal part of any process of growth, you can work to accept and even welcome the experience. Many times people do not take risks or “play it safe” because they are afraid of receiving some form of rejection. I would urge you to really think about the areas in your life in which your potential has been limited. You’d be surprised to find that often with rejection does come new opportunities. If you feel that your fear of rejection is limiting you in your personal or professional life, set a goal to try to be rejected at least once a week. You might be surprised to find what you learn about yourself and the opportunities that may start to come your way.

  1. Be persistent in the face of rejection

One common theme among individuals who succeed is that they do not give up at the first sign of rejection. Being persistent in the face of rejection is truly the key to experiencing success. I pitched The Huffington Post three times before my writing was accepted. I applied for many jobs before I landed the one that I have today. Often people give up at the first sign of rejection, unaware that they were just on the verge of a success.

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