The human brain and its capability of thinking make us distinct from other animals. Our brain is wired to think of the past, present, and future. That wiring further entails the thoughts to become fearful and worrisome quite often. These fears of the future, failure, dwelling into the misfortunes of the past become so aggressive and powerful that they start to control the present if not addressed and defeated. These worries and fears, of uncertainty, the things that might not even end up happening, failure, and rejection in future endeavors, held you back from moving towards success. Every person faces these fears and worries in life, but the degree of these fear can vary. The renowned author Dale Carnegie in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, addressed these irrational fears, their impact on one’s life, and how to get rid of them. He encouraged the reader to ask questions such as “what am I worrying about? What can I do about it? What is the worst that can happen?” Asking yourself these questions will help you to address these fears. Not dealing with these fears, they will become permanent residents in mind.
Fear of failure and rejection disturbs performance and day-to-day life. Since childhood, humans have become accustomed and conditioned to love and approval from parents. The things which please them to shower their love and approval make the child feel accepted and loved. In the same manner, the things which make the parents withhold their love and approval make a child feel rejected and failed. In adults, the same desire to get approval, acceptance from other people, at the workplace, from friends and family becomes crucially important. This desire for approval and acceptance then translates into fear of rejection and failure. The person with these fears is preoccupied with performance and expression of “I have to do this” to get the approval, but fearful of rejection and failure by repeating in mind “I can’t.” Although these fears of rejection and failure are normal, most people experience them frequently. The important thing is how to handle and cope with these fears of failure and rejection. Let’s begin with defining and understanding rejection and failure.
7 Helpful Steps of Handling the Fear of Failure and Rejection:
1) Fear of Rejection:
Rejection sensitivity (fear of rejection), as referred to in psychology, can become a hurdle to achievements or contentment in life. A great number of psychological research has been conducted on the causes of rejection sensitivity and its impacts on mental health, interpersonal relationships, and daily life. The fear of rejection affects the thinking and perception of things, and it also disrupts the way you make decisions and set goals. Fear is a natural phenomenon; it is a natural internal alarm that warns us against external threats. This fear alarm gets activated once the mind assesses a potentially harmful stimulus. Today human being’s worries are not limited to only staying alive. Physical, mental, emotional, financial, spiritual health and relationships are a larger part of human worries. The mind wants to protect you from all these worries and threats. Fear of rejection and failure also want to protect you from threats. Rejection and failure cause pain and sadness, the fear of rejection and failure wants to protect you from that pain. Mind, consciously or unconsciously, makes you avoid situations where you expect or fear to be rejected and failed. This fear is stemmed from experience or just expectation. As a result, avoidant behavior takes control of the mind. It has a serious impact on your future setting of goals and success.
To handle fear of rejection specifically, you need to recognize the fearful stimulus. Make yourself aware of the situations that you are evading because you fear rejection. Identify those ideas that you are not sharing with people because you fear people will not like them. What are the necessary steps which you are not taking to reach your goal because you do not want to feel vulnerable and fear rejection and failure? Think, are you afraid of listening “no” as an answer and hold your questions back? Stop avoiding and start taking action. If you ever get rejected, it will cause you pain but learn to normalize the pain. Remind yourself that the hurt and pain caused by rejection and failure are not a permanent fixture in life. It shall pass. Do not get too attached to the idea that the rejection shall completely demoralize you. Put your best effort and then leave it to be accepted or rejected. If you are rejected and failed, reframe your rejection as an opportunity to learn for future endeavors and to become emotionally stronger.
2) Define Failure:
Fear of failure originates from the worry of committing something wrong, not doing and appearing appropriate, or not reaching the set expectations. By understanding the epistemology of fear of failure, you can avoid the dread and anxiety caused by it. Failure is as difficult to define as success. Some people may define it as giving up, not achieving your goals, not getting the expected and desired outcomes. But failure can mean different for different people. Redefine fear and fear of failure for yourself as it is a hurdle in your way of success. Look at failure as a discrepancy. Think of failure and look at it from a different perspective. View it as a discrepancy between what you expected to accomplish and what might be accomplished. Before starting anything, study thoroughly, explain, don’t think of the failure but of discrepancies, assess and learn from them. Giving up should not be an option on the menu. Never stop making an effort. Because when you stop making any effort just because of fear of failing is too strong, nobody can make you succeed.
3) Differentiate Between Real and Imagined Fears:
Fears are not always stemmed into real threats, as most of your fears are imagined. If you observe your fears closely, the result of the observation will be surprising as 90 percent of the fears are based on things that will most likely never happen. There is a dire need to distinguish between real and imagined fears. Delivering a speech in front of people does not pose any threat to your survival, so there must not be any fear involved. Although delivering a speech in front of savages or beasts can be a threat to your survival and fear is justifiable, but are you ever going to deliver a speech to beasts in a forest in any scenario? Most probably not. If the imagined threats are eliminated, the imagined fears will also be reduced. Try to study the immature and unnecessary fears, and don’t let them be the dictators of your life.
4) Write Down the Fears:
Writing down your thoughts, good and bad, is always considered cathartic. Like many authors and coaches, Tim Ferriss recommended writing down the list of fears. He called it “fear-setting,” a list of all the fears that are clouding your mind. Enlist all the things that you are afraid to do because of fear of failure. Ferris gave the Ted Talk on this topic and narrated his journey of fighting and overcoming these fears those were holding him back from succeeding in life. By handling these fears, he stated that he achieved the greatest successes.
Susan Peppercorn, a career transition coach and author of a best-selling book, Ditch Your Inner Critic At Work: Evidence-Based Strategies To Thrive In Your Career, also suggested a method of writing down your fears to get rid of them. According to Peppercorn, first enlist the worst-case scenario in which you failed an interview, next write down the solutions that you could do to avoid the failure, and next try to think and write the repair strategy once you have failed. After reviewing all the above-written lists, enlist the benefits of attempting. It will help you reduce any anxiety and fears of failure and rejection. You will realize making an effort is better than just walking away from any opportunity due to fear of failure.
To overcome the fear of failure, practice the following writing exercise. Write the definition of the problem that is causing you to worry. Take a page and divide it into parallel sections by drawing a line. In one section, write your fears and problems; on the other section, write the possible solutions. You will realize by writing your problem and fear, half of it is solved.
5) Accept the Failure and Rejection:
In this step, prepare yourself to accept the worst, failure, and rejection if it happens. Remind yourself, “if I fail, if the worst happens, I will accept it, learn from it.” Also, tell yourself that there are a lot of things that are beyond your control. You can not keep dwelling on those things for the rest of your life. Once you decide and prepare yourself to accept the failure, if it ever occurs, there will not be much worry left about it. In this manner, you get yourself out of denial, once you are ready to face the failure, the stress of worst will disappear, and you will have the energy and grit to move forward.
6) Learning from Failure and Rejection:
Learning from past experiences, mistakes, failures, and rejections is the most important thing. It is the only positive way of dealing with failure and rejection. If the worst has not happened and you are only dreading it, follow all the above-mentioned steps with this last one. Define the failure, worst-case scenario, write down your fear of failure, rejection, and worst. Assess them, write solutions to prevent failure, rejection, and worst outcomes. Prepare yourself to accept the outcome and move forward. In the last step, learn from every resolve, every answer. Once you are ready to accept everything, your mind will be capable of thinking constructively. Even if you have failed and faced rejection in the past, it should not hold you back from moving forward in the present and future. Learn from the mistakes and eliminate the fear and possibility of failure in your life. Learn to love yourself. Being hard on yourself and using a negative approach towards matters will only hold you back.
7) Set promotion goals instead of prevention goals:
Set smaller goals for yourself. Fear of failure will prevent you from even setting goals.
The difference between promotion and prevention goals is the first is achieving and accepting the positive outcome, and the latter is about avoiding and fearing a negative result. Prevention goals are based on fear of failure like “I don’t want to get a negative review; “I don’t want to lose my job or client.” They are rooted in low self-esteem and more fear and anxiety. Re-examine and re-describe your prevention goals to promotion goals. Remember “what doesn’t kill you, make you stronger.”