Too afraid to even know what you want?
How do you figure it out when you’re terrified and drawing a blank?
Afraid to make a mistake. Afraid to get it wrong. Afraid to fail. Afraid to succeed.
This is where I have been and sometimes still am, especially after quitting my job.
While spending some time reflecting on this, several questions came to mind:
Is it even necessary to know for sure?
What if it’s OK not to know?
What if not knowing is a normal, healthy and temporary stop along the journey; one we visit time and time again throughout our lives?
What if not knowing does not equal never knowing and just represents where you are right now?
What if choosing doesn’t mean you must choose a perfect option and instead just means choosing something to learn?
What if learning becomes the focus instead of making the right choice?
What would happen if we lean into the not knowing and pair it with a willingness to try new things like you’d try on some new clothes?
You wouldn’t go to a store and try on a new pair of jeans, find that they don’t fit and then instead of taking them off and trying a different size say, “Well, I guess I have to stick with this pair because I tried it on first.”
What if it’s OK that you don’t know?
What if that says nothing about your worth, your intelligence, your success level or your ability to figure it out?
What if you don’t have to figure it out alone?
What if what you want can change again and again and again as you live, get older and gain new information?
What if the people you think know exactly what they want really don’t or have secret, late night doubts, or are living out their parents’ wants or are just staying stuck in what they used to want?
What would it be like to let go of knowing and just try what feels best at the moment?
What would it be like to gain your worth from a place deep within that has nothing to do with what you know, what you do or even who you specifically are?
How would you live if you gave yourself permission to not know?
What would be your next step?
I have a confession.
For much of my life I have been terrified of being rejected.
Not in all situations though.
I have been most terrified of being rejected in romantic situations. Yes, dating.
I debated on whether to share this. I feel a lot of shame and embarrassment around this – what will people think, I will seem weak, etc. But as Brené Brown mentions in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, “shame loves secrecy.”
I’ve been single for a long time. And I have a history of pretty consistently choosing men who are not seriously interested in me or who want all the benefits of a relationship without having to actually call me their girlfriend.
The more this happened, the more fearful I got about future relationships. The fear of rejection clouded whether I chose to date (which I often didn’t) and it influenced what kind of men I dated (ones that reinforced my fear of rejection).
It also determined what kind of things I said to myself. Things like:
Have you ever thought things like this? That rejection from another person means something about you at a deeper level? If not about dating maybe about friendship or family or a work relationship?
Sucks, huh? And it feels horrible! Even though these thoughts, these limiting beliefs, seem flimsy on a conscious level, subconsciously they still hurt and they can stop us from having fulfilling relationships. They’ve stopped me.
A little while ago I was asked to write about rejection. I wrote a whole nice post about how rejection can be helpful.
I kind of believed what I wrote, but then I started dating again, in person and online, and it seemed like everything fell apart.
Rejection was happening again and I wasn’t handling it well.
My over-thinking tendencies multiplied, my fear responses terrorized my body and I felt angry, embarrassed and defeated.
As painful as the fear was and as much as I toyed around with the “just stop doing it” solution, in my heart I knew that what we run away from just gets stronger. Never dating again or vowing to stop putting yourself out there to meet new people is not the answer.
So what do we do? How do we hug our fear in the face of actual or potential rejection and go for our dream of being in a new relationship (romantic or otherwise)?
Here are a few things that life has taught me so far. Hopefully they will help you as much as they’ve been helping me.
1. Acknowledge that you feel afraid. You can’t address what you don’t admit. Shame is tricky. It will tell you that it’s best to keep quiet, to not even let yourself know that you feel afraid. Admit that you are afraid to put yourself out there, afraid of being hurt, afraid of being vulnerable. These fears are normal, but you must admit them to yourself.
2. Reflect on why you feel afraid. What about being rejected freaks you out? Get as specific as possible. I stumbled across a technique that pretty powerfully combines these first two things (and a bit of #6). It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping.” It combines tapping on various acupressure points on your hand, head and chest with verbalizing your beliefs. It helps you feel what you’re feeling, accept it and let it go. When I tapped around my rejection, I had a powerful experience and felt so much lighter and at peace. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a general what is tapping video and here’s an example of tapping around rejection. If this isn’t your thing, that’s ok. Getting your reasons out of your head and onto a piece of paper can be powerful too.
3. Ask yourself what you really want from a relationship. What are you allowing this relationship to mean for you? Are you putting too much pressure on it? Are you giving the other person (or people) responsibility for something that is really yours? One of the things that I realized was that I was wanting other people to want and value me because I felt like it then proved that I was worthy. I now see that this was setting myself up for a lot of pain. I am a worthy person with or without the love of another person. This goes the same for you. You are worthy of love just because you exist. What’s most important is how you feel about you. See what other meanings you’ve been giving to relationships that could be causing you trouble.
4. Develop healthy, “worth free” reasons for being in a relationship. What feels better to want from a relationship (besides wanting someone to complete you, or make you feel important)? Perhaps for a romantic relationship you might want someone to grow as a person with or someone to enjoy Saturdays at the museum. Perhaps for a professional relationship you want someone whose skills and interests compliment your own so you can create a new product together. The more you focus on those, the less space you will give to reasons that either build or destroy your worth.
5. Remind yourself of the benefits of rejection, even if they’re hard to believe at first. Rejection can:
6. Take really good care of yourself in whatever way feels best. At its core, having a fear of rejection means that we care more about what others think of us than we care about what we think of ourselves. Practice self-love. Find a way that works and keep doing it. It could be exercise, meditation, hiring a coach or therapist, buying small treats, saying no, setting boundaries, speaking up for yourself, taking a bubble bath or anything else that makes you feel like you are cared for by you. The more you care about yourself, the less rejection will sting. And like everything else, self-love is a process. Start from where you are and just keep at it.
7. Keep doing what makes you scared, even if you have to pull back and take smaller steps. The only other way for you to learn how to deal with rejection is to give yourself more experience with it. Conscious baby steps work here though. With dating, I found that starting online, while still nerve wracking was a bit less scary than if I had met in person first. In a professional setting it could be reaching out to a colleague you already know a little and engaging with them just a bit more. It’s the steps that matter, not their size. Pay attention to how you feel while you’re taking action and then take one more step.
So that’s what I’ve learned so far about rejection. Does any of this resonate with you? Have you learned something of your own? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment.