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How to finally stop being afraid of rejection

If you’re afraid of rejection to the point that it’s caused you to miss out on a good opportunity, then this letter might just change your life.

In it, I’ll teach you the wrong perspective that causes rejection to hurt, as well as the right perspective to negate that pain.

Why you fear rejection

Rejection hurts, and for good reason. This fear, as with most of your other fears, is rooted in billions of years of evolution. It starts when we’re babies. As a newborn, you are dependent on others for your very survival from the first moment. It’s bananas how absolutely worthless human babies are compared to other species.

The reason? It’s because humans like to walk upright, and that restricts the width of female birth canals. At the same time, our heads get so damn big that females had to start giving birth sooner in the gestation period in order to… uh, not die. That’s also why newborns from most quadruped species are able to walk within minutes of birth.

The more you know!

As a result, humans are dependent on their parents to an astonishing degree. It’s no wonder that we learned an instinctive, pervasive fear of abandonment. If our mothers abandon us as babies, we die. Period.

So, naturally, the babies that were the most keen on this fact out-of-the-box were the ones who evolved. They learned to behave in a way that minimized the likelihood of abandonment. This increased their survival rate, enabling them to pass on their instinctive fears to their own offspring, etcetera, etcetera.

However, there’s no such thing as a perfect solution. Life is just too complicated for that. This fear of abandonment led to a fear of rejection (also a problem in the early days, when getting kicked out of the tribe was certain death at the hands of a hungry bear or something).

Again, a crucial key to our survival in the early days.

But, over time, some humans (inadvertently) figured out how to take these useful survival mechanisms too far until they started doing more harm than good. Which led to all sorts of other unhealthy problems:

  • Seeing yourself as worthless without the approval of others
  • Dependence on external praise and affirmation
  • Being willing to behave unethically in order to get praise or avoid criticism
  • Fearing rejection to the point that it paralyzes you into inaction
  • Having no actual personality of your own
  • Hating your life because your life isn’t even yours to begin with

So that’s the bad news. Yes, humans are fleshy, greasy bags of phospholipids and amino acids that do a lot of our thinking on autopilot. And just like an autopilot on an airplane, if you tell it to, it will fly you right into the side of a mountain.

But unlike an airplane, you don’t die on impact. Instead, you die a slow, painful soul death that eats you from the inside until you’re nothing but a bag of withered skin. It’s quiet, insidious, and pretty uninteresting. It won’t even be on the news when it’s over.

What the problem actually is

But fortunately, as good as we are at flying on autopilot, we’re also pretty good at flying ourselves. We have the uncanny ability to look at a situation objectively and remove our impulses from our decision making. It’s called reason, and it’s a straight up superpower.

And you can reason your way out of those bullshit feelings. And the first step, like it is with solving any other problem, is to know what the problem actually is.

Know your enemy

You have subconscious beliefs that are holding you in place. Even “subconscious beliefs” is too concrete a term for what I’m talking about. They aren’t even beliefs, they’re more fundamental than that. Think about gravity—unless you’ve been to space, you don’t believe in gravity. It’s too omnipresent and consistent to believe in it. It’s just the way reality is. It’s wired so deep in your brain that you don’t even think about it. You just intuitively know that if you jump up, you’ll come right back down again. You don’t believe that the color red is the color red… you don’t think about it at all. Red is just red because it’s red.

There are other foundational beliefs that you don’t even know about because they’re too much a part of the way you perceive reality for you to even notice them. Salespeople will understand this one fast.

Think about a brand new, 18 year old rep who’s approaching prospects for the first time. What do you think is going through their head? For most of us, our thoughts were somewhere along the lines of:

  • How do I get this person to like me?
  • What do I say to make them feel at ease and open up?
  • I really need this sale, how can I get it?

Now that’s all fine. Those are perfectly normal things to think, but they’re all based on ONE flawed assumption: that the person they’re talking to is their superior, thinks they are of little value to them, and needs to be convinced otherwise. The salesperson assumes that the commission they need so badly can only be earned if they put on the right show.

The same is true in the dating world. I can’t speak for women, but so many guys assume that every girl they talk to is so high above them and needs to be convinced to see the value in this lowly creature standing before them. Bro, what if she’s awful? What if she’s racist, rude to waitstaff, and hits her dog? You don’t know.

And back to that sales prospect, what if they don’t need your product? What if it’s just the wrong choice for them, or if they’re the wrong choice for the business? What if they’re going to blow up your phone five times a day with stupid questions and wind up being ten times more trouble than they’re worth?

When you let your fears of abandonment and rejection start making decisions for you, it puts you in the position of assuming that everyone is your superior, and that you need to somehow talk them or trick them into seeing your value. And that’s one of the most destructive perspectives you can have.

When you need everyone to like you

When you need everyone to like you, you’ll do just about whatever you need to do to make that happen. At the shallow end of the pool, you’ll avoid confrontation so as to not ruffle anyone’s feathers. You’ll tolerate a situation that you’re not happy with just so you don’t have to risk pissing off the people around you.

At the deep end though, it gets worse. People with this belief—that they must be liked by everyone, despite being fundamentally unlikable—have wants and needs, just like the rest of us. They want to make the sale, they want to get the girl, they want to feel attractive, they want to feel like they’re valued by their community. And since they’re so afraid of rejection to ask for it, they’ll do some pretty shady sh*t to get what they need.

They’ll be nice to you to get you to like them. They’ll say what you want to hear so that you give them what they want, and when you don’t, they’ll be passive-aggressive about it while insisting that nothing’s wrong. They’ll bribe you with gifts, lie to you to avoid upsetting you, and manipulate you however they can so they don’t have to actually be honest with you (or themselves) about what they want and how they feel.

The need to be liked makes people evil

What’s the alternative?

The key to getting past your fear of rejection is replacing the beliefs that led to it in the first place. Your fear of rejection is not the problem—it’s a symptom. The problem is your subconscious belief that you are lesser than the people around you.

See yourself as their equal

The next step on the path forward begins with realizing something important: we are equals, and being rejected by somebody is not a condemnation of your character. In fact, usually, it’s not even about you. It’s about the other person. When you realize that, it’s like finding out that the psycho holding you at gunpoint is actually just a mannequin, and you totally forgot that you were in a Halloween store.

It goes beyond that, though. Not being deeply affected what people think is easier said than done sometimes. We wantpeople to like us, very badly. And the fact that someone doesn’t like us, even if we logically understand that it isn’t really about us, can be a really scary idea. But again, this basically comes down to a subconscious belief that you are lesser than other people.

And this isn’t true.

There are all sorts of people out there. And not all of them are worth your time and energy. In fact, some of them are, uh… rather unpleasant. Instead of constantly worrying about whether a given person like you, you should spend time considering whether you even like them.

Now, I’m not saying treat everyone like an asshole until they prove you wrong. Because guess what? That’s what assholes do. Instead, be polite, funny, and charming—but take the time to discern whether you even want these people in your life. Qualify people like a salesperson qualifies potential clients. Are your personalities a good fit for each other? Do your values and goals line up? Yeah, not everyone will fit the bill, and that’s okay. We’re all just people, doing our best.

A quick word on physical confrontation

If your fear is a problem that you’re not able to get over easily, then I have an unconventional idea for you that really helped me. Learn combat sports.

When I was in elementary school, I took taekwondo classes. I got all the way to purple belt and thought I was hot shit. Then I got in my first actual fight a couple years later, and, uh… it did not go well. I had no idea why a big, strong, 98 pound, 14 year old purple belt like me was able to be defeated, and I was petrified of physical confrontations from then on.

Later, I learned that a physical confrontation is about the scariest thing you’re likely to face in this life. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

Go out and get a membership at an MMA gym. Take classes for 6 months. Learn basic striking at a minimum, and pay special attention to ground work. But mostly, fight actual sparring matches with people. Work on your mindset and learn to understand what it’s like to be in a fight. Put yourself in positions where you are genuinely afraid. (Disclaimer: it’s not my fault if you do something stupid and get hurt, I’m not a therapist, stuff like that).

The goal is not to become a UFC champion—it’s to cultivate confidence and the ability to face fear without being paralyzed by it. Like so many other aspects of life, it’s not about winning. It’s about being willing to face your fears and risk losing.

And when you’re able to face a bigger, stronger opponent without giving into the urge to back down, you’ll be astonished by how much it takes to make you genuinely afraid. Once you’ve gotten choked out a few times, talking to a pretty girl at Barnes and Noble or making a sales call is a cakewalk.

Don’t take it to the other extreme

So many people who find themselves uncomfortable on one extreme end of a given spectrum will rush to the other extreme as a way to take back control. This is a huge mistake (have you seen Taxi Driver?).

If you discover you’ve been unconsciously allowing yourself to be diminished by others, please don’t make the mistake of vilifying them instead. This only leads to resentment and negativity. (Seriously, man. That’s how incels are formed.) When you hate what you believe you can’t have instead of changing your beliefs, everybody loses. Especially you.

Instead, recognize that nobody is inherently superior or inferior to another. Everyone who lives on this planet is inherently flawed, but most are essentially good. And all are your equal. They have wants and needs, just like you do. If it’s okay for them, it’s okay for you.

Accept the fact that you have needs, desires, goals and dreams. Seeking ways to meet them is not only reasonable, but essential (as long as your pursuit of happiness doesn’t infringe on that of others).

Hating what you believe you can't have turns men into beasts

How to know when you’ve made it

Picture a life where you almost always feel a sense of “it’s okay for me to be here.” This innate sense of self-acceptance and comfort in any given situation is a birthright you should have never been denied. As you move closer and closer to it, you’ll find a feeling of strength, freedom and confidence that you might never have felt before.

You’ll be able to give generously of yourself without expectation of reward. You’ll be nice, charitable, kind and helpful just because you can be, not because you feel like you have to be in order to get what you need. And holy shit, is that one of the most liberating feelings in existence.

You’ll never feel like you can’t get what you need. Whatever you want in life—money, love, happiness, comfort—will seem to find its way to you as if by magic. People will be drawn to you. They’ll trust you instinctively. They’ll like you immediately, for the most part. And those that don’t won’t bother you in the least, because you’ll realize that it’s not even your problem. And if they make it your problem, you’ll be able to set boundaries and enforce them with confidence and kindness.

But the most impactful change will present in the way you feel in any given moment. One day, you’ll cock an eyebrow and realize that for the last few weeks, even when things didn’t go your way…

You felt… fine.

Just fine.


I'm John Kakuk.

I’m a brand designer, web developer and marketer working with architects, engineers and construction companies. My purpose is to help others achieve the best versions of their businesses and themselves.

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