How to overcome fear of rejection

By amandaalexander | Courage

Have you ever held yourself back because of thoughts like these?

– What if people don’t like me?

– What if people reject me?

– What if people are mean to me or belittle me?

Of COURSE you have. You are human. It’s ok to be afraid of people rejecting you – it doesn’t mean that you are lacking in any way. When we are rejected, our “lizard brain” kicks in. It produces cortisol and we want to run away…. Fight or flight! You’ve heard the metaphor “like a slap in the face”? It’s a very apt metaphor for how we feel when we are rejected.

But the problem is, you know that your fear of rejection is holding you back.  Good news – this post will help you how to overcome fear of rejection!

This week I listened to an interview with a man called Jia Jiang on a podcast called Bulletproof Radio. Two years ago Jia decided to embark upon his own personal project called “100 days of rejection”. His goal was to desensitise himself from the pain of rejection and overcome his fear of being rejected by making 100 requests over 100 consecutive days.

The Krispy Kreme Olympic Donut Experiment

On the third day, Jia went into a branch of Krispy Kreme and asked for a series of donuts made into an Olympic ring, fully expecting to be rejected. However, the assistant said yes, disappeared for 10 minutes and emerged having made him an Olympic ring of Krispy Kreme Donuts!

Jia recounts that he was completely overcome, surprised and touched at this “yes” as it was counter to his expectations during his experiment. 


“How many Olympic donut experiences have you missed because you’ve been scared of rejection?”

In fact, out of the 100 days of asking things which Jia thought were sure to get him rejected, he was only rejected 49 times. That’s right – the majority of times, even though Jia designed his requests to be rejected, he experienced the opposite.

What might you achieve if you gave up on being afraid of being rejected?

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway!

Rejection therapy did, as you’d expect, desensitise Jia and it meant he became more courageous and more adept at questioning the “nos” However, stretching outside our comfort zone is not always a upwards trajectory, as Jia demonstrated on day 97 of his 100 days of rejection. Day 97’s challenge was to give a speech on a street.

I guess that, like me, you’re probably thinking that by the 97th day, it was probably a breeze for Jia to give a speech on a street.

Not so…

Jia was so afraid of being rejected by strangers, the build-up leading to him making his speech was a real psychological struggle. This is simply because our “lizard brain” takes over – the amygdala that kicks in to prompt us into flight or flight mode.  We are biologically programmed to be part of the tribe and we don’t want to do anything that might threaten being excluded from our tribe.

Jia concludes:

“Sometimes no matter how hard you train yourself, the fear of rejection will still be there. However, you’ve strengthened yourself and minimized your enemy – fear. If you rely on the strength, and “feel the fear and do it anyway,” you will always be glad you did.”

12 lessons on how to overcome fear of rejection

Here are 12 lessons for overcoming fear or rejection that I took from listening to Jia Jiang:

  1. You have the freedom to ask whatever you want
  2. Other people have the freedom to respond to your request however they want
  3. Detachment is key: This will give you the confidence and freedom to ask.
  4. Even if you become a master of being rejected, you’ll always have to combat your “lizard brain”. That’s just a normal physiological part of being human. Don’t sweat it (although you actually will!!)
  5. Focus on what you can control. You can’t control acceptance or rejection, but you can focus on your actions, one by one.
  6. Celebrate failure! For me this is about looking for golden nuggets of learning from each failure
  7. If you don’t face your fear, you’ll always live in a certain amount of fear, because you’ll never know
  8. When you are the one doing the rejecting, there is no reason for you to be a “jerk”! Be kind and be reasonable
  9. Remember that “No” is the most painful word in any language. There’s the key for why we take on too much, eh? We don’t want to be rejected. This is a biggie for me. I don’t know about you, but I actually don’t like saying “no” to my kids. I don’t want them to be upset, angry with me. It’s much nicer when they think I’m the best mum in the World!
  10. Help your kids to get a bit more comfortable with failure by asking them “Tell me something you failed at today”. Help them to think about what they have tried hard with. Help them to get used to the fact that it’s not the end of the World when they fail…. And that they can keep on trying.
  11. Set up a system whereby people HAVE to reject you. For example, set up a number of rejections that you will take before you give up. Then you can “give up”, honour satisfied!
  12. And if all else fails, ask yourself – How many Olympic donut rings might you miss out on if you don’t ask? 🙂

I hope this post has given you some food for though on how to overcome fear of rejection.  Let me know what works for you! And if you’ve enjoyed this post, please TELL YOUR FRIENDS…  They won’t reject you for it! 🙂

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