It’s not you, it’s me….
Has anyone ever told you that? It is the classic line that people (supposedly) use when they are dumping someone and it is (supposedly) to make the person being dumped feel better. Of course who feels good when they get dumped? Even if it isn’t them! Rejection sucks… Always. No one wants to feel rejected, and I REALLY didn't like it. I did NOT like it when people told me “no”. It made it hard to ask for stuff. I would spend ages trying to figure out how to word the question to make it impossible for the answer to be no. If I thought there was anything more than a 50/50 chance that the answer would be no, I wouldn’t even ask. If I could do it myself I would and if I couldn't, I might even leave the task undone. And what I found really surprising was that this was strongly associated with not wanting to say no to people. I hated it when people told me no, and so it would be gut wrenching for me if I had to tell them no.
I suppose that most persons reading this may not have such a strong fear of and aversion to rejection. In fact I have friends who seem to barely notice it when someone tells them no (I guess it depends on how important the request is). They simply move speedily on. One of my biggest lessons this year was how to deal with rejection. Now I will say that like with most of the lessons I learned, I did not set out to learn this intentionally. In fact, if someone had come along and offered me the opportunity to be resilient where rejection was concerned, I would have said no thank you (yes – I would actually have said no!!!) I say this to say that it wasn’t an easy lesson, and the truth is I still cringe every time someone says no to me. But now – I ask anyway, and I am able to move on regardless of the answer, without having nightmares before or after.
How did I learn this lesson you ask? Well I learned how most lessons are learned – through many experiences. And the most memorable ones came while I was President of my Optimist Club. Now that it is over, I can say that being president of my club was like a grueling routine at the gym. The result are fantastic - growth and improved strength and skills, but the process is hard, and can be painful. And I handled it like how I handled all gym classes in my 20’s and early 30’s – with a smile on my face and a song on my lips - mostly because I was too proud to show weakness. (This is unrelated but I got to tell this story. In my late twenties, I was a devoted gym member, and one day I went to a class that I had never gone to before - Body pump. I actually ended up in there by accident, and I should have known something was awry when the instructor asked me if I had gone to the introductory session that they had before the class. Being pig headed and not wanting to be seen leaving the class before it started with my tail between my legs, I said yes. This class was a combination of cardio and weights, and it was BRUTAL. The instructor offered to let me do it without any weights on my barbell, but I selected some small weights so that I didn't look stupid. The class was brutal. It was only pride that kept me from running from the class screaming halfway through it!) Never underestimate the power of pride. Whilst it may seem like an unwanted personality, my refusal to give in or give up has allowed me to achieve much.
Anyway... I digress. Being president necessitated close work with a number of teams and put me into a position where my usual approach (of just doing it myself rather than asking someone) was impossible - there was simply too much to do, and in all honesty - that is not the role of a leader. I can say that I found it to be an extremely vulnerable and exposed position, and one of the hardest parts for me was that I had to approach persons and ask for help. And as you can imagine, they said no. And they said no a LOT. And at first it stung – badly. I cried some tears, I was angry and a whole host of other emotions played out. And still they continued to say no. And my emotional response continued. Then one day something phenomenal happened. While they continued to say no, and I continued to get upset, I realised that it was no longer stopping me from asking. I decided that I was just going to ask and if they said no, and I got upset that life would still carry on. And that is how I learned to handle rejection.
I know... You were hoping that I would say that eventually I stopped feeling sad upset and disappointed in the face of that rejection. Believe me – I would love to say that was the case. But it wasn’t… However what did happen was that I became ok with feeling angry, upset and disappointed. And believe me – that is a far more useful state of affairs than anything else. The truth is – rejection will happen, and it is never a nice feeling. So will negative emotions and things that leave us feeling hurt, disappointed and broken. But to live a life of avoidance simply to prevent those emotions is the true tragedy. Partially because it means that you might miss out on opportunities that arise when the person actually says yes… Or you may miss out on the creativity or strength that comes about from an idea you get when the person says no… Or you may simply never develop resilience that comes from getting up after falling down.
In addition – these emotions will always be here with us. And one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the ability to know this, and allow ourselves to go through and come out the other side. Because the truth about rejection is the same as the truth about fear. The real courage isn’t found in being fearless, but is found in the ability to do things despite the fear.
So that my lesson today may seem like a tough one - realising that negative emotion isn’t going away, and rejection didn’t get any easier, but there is greatness in being able to accept tough emotions and carry on regardless. In a recent class, one of the speakers said that when it comes to selling, one of the greatest things you need to remember is that when someone tells you No, in your head simply say Next!!! And move speedily along to the next person.
As for me - I will be moving along to tomorrow's post. Let the 31 day challenge continue!!
Big love from a small island...
PS - my nostalgia from the big island continues - with the above photo being taken in Port Isaac - in Cornwall the South of England. Those of you who saw Doc Martin would recognise it as that is where it was filmed. It was a beautiful town, and I was glad that I spent the afternoon there.