Rejection and the fear of Failure
Why not just enjoy the journey?

REJECTION, we have all experienced it right? It is a painful experience for some, acceptance or affirmation that what they do is never good enough. For others, rejection can be seen differently, a mechanism to learn and move forward positively and realise the previous efforts did not work. It can evoke huge emotions and affect confidence.

To reject, we consciously dismiss another person’s thoughts, ideas or experience. Within life we experience rejection all the time, no more than when applying for jobs. How then do we best deal with rejection and overcome that fear of failure? Before I answer this, I provide a little personal story.

I remember applying for the RAF back in 2003 and being rejected via a letter for having a welsh accent and nasal inflection that reduced my ability to communicate effectively (would not happen today). This was a huge blow to me as I had a dream of becoming a pilot in the RAF since I was 13. Initially I was distraught and could not accept that the RAF did not want me. I was in denial of course, frustrated I questioned my whole being and in retrospect I was realised I was highly sensitive to rejection.

There are people who actively avoid any type of rejection and will only do jobs or activities that sustain their comfort as to avoid the thought or potential realisation of rejection, as it is just too much. There are also individuals I will call ‘strivers’ who continually strive for excellence and become so obsessed to avoid making even the simplest of mistakes to avoid any critique and fear failure. These people ‘strive’ past their successes and never actually acknowledge their success and ability for fear of complacency and ultimate rejection!

I was once a ‘striver’ and the stress and fatigue I experienced in attaining standards that I could not sustain in the long term led to a bout of depression. I now realise that in life we must enjoy the journey or path that lead us to success. Failure is part of that journey, to learn and adjust and become more competent in our abilities. The reward of success should not just be a 30 second adrenalin rush or brief pat on the back that usually results in an anti climax, but the journey to that success should have fulfilment and joy, bringing others with you, making success even richer when it comes.

Once you recognise that you fear either rejection or failure then you can overcome it, avoiding it will stop you achieving your goals and ambitions. Here are 5 steps to think about which may help:

  1. Acknowledge that you fear failure or rejection
  2. Write down why you fear it; was it an event or perception that makes you feel this sensitivity or this way?
  3. Focus on the positives, what do you control, what would happen if you tried? Who can support you through the event?
  4. Avoid saying ‘cant’ - find a solution
  5. Enjoy your experiences, challenge yourself but not so much you will get disappointed

We must remember rejection and failure are normal, we must experience it to move forward, however do we choose to look at it negatively and avoid moving forward or embrace it and build a stronger and more confident me! I am now in the RAF and used my rejection to focus on strengthening my weaknesses - but importantly now enjoy the journey!

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Written by - Nick Carter, HR Manager Royal Air Force

Date - 09/11/2017