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Overcoming Fear of Rejection

By Marty Nemko

You're afraid you'll get rejected: you'll sound stupid; you'll seem like a loser; you'll pay a big price for asking.

So you decide it's better not to ask: Better to keep that yucky job than to ask for a better one, better to accept that unfairly low salary than risk getting a no, better to be alone on Saturday night than to ask him or her out.

True, sometimes fear of rejection is a valid warning sign that you shouldn't ask. Examples:

-- If you're barely worth what your boss is paying you, your boss might fire you for asking for a raise: "He thinks he's worth more money?!"

-- You think you should ask for a promotion but have unconsciously calculated that a promotion would mean more stress than the extra salary and prestige are worth.

-- You're a job seeker and know you're not fully qualified for your target job.

But sometimes, rationally, you know you would be wise to ask, yet your fear of rejection renders you inert. One or more of these may get you

-- Remember that you suffer more from not asking than from a rejection. You can survive a rejection, even 20 rejections, but if you consistently don't ask, you'll get only what life hands you. And in a world in which most people go after what they want, you're left with sloppy seconds. Now that's something to be scared of.

-- Picture the benefits: How would your life be better if you asked and got what you wanted? Keep a list or picture of those benefits in front of you.

-- Even deeply flawed people deserve as a good life. Don't punish yourself.
Ask for what you want, if not for yourself, for those who will benefit from your better life.

-- One yes negates many nos. To have a better life, you need only an occasional yes. I got turned down by many women before one deigned say yes.
My first book got rejected by 18 publishers before one said okay.
After each
rejection, I tried to get feedback to improve my pitch; thus my odds of success improved with every rejection.

-- Set small daily goals. Good things happen to those who act. So, set a goal for yourself, for example, that you'll get three rejections a day.
You'll find that the pursuit of rejections reduces their pain, and along the way, you'll likely get yeses.

-- What would your wiser twin tell you to do? Let's say you say, "I'm
still healing from my husband having left." Your wiser twin might respond, "You know you're just making excuses and the therapy just fed into that.
Your husband is history, so let's make a fresh start."

-- Remind yourself of a time you were successful. That may give you the confidence to try again.

-- Pretend you're an actor playing you at the top of your game. Write a script for your pitch, but don't memorize it--you'll sound scripted.
write a few key words to remind you of your pitch's essence. Then practice it aloud into a mirror, cassette recorder, or with a friend.

-- Tell your loved ones you're going to ask. You'll feel accountable.

-- Schedule the time you're going to ask. Put it in your datebook or PDA.

-- Breathe. A few slow, deep breaths lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and helps you stay focused and calm.

-- Manage your depression. The right medication, exercise, and/or a bit of cognitive therapy enables most depressed people to function. For more on depression, see

--Be in the moment-- Just focus on pitching well. Don't worry about whether it will work-- you can't control that. Over your lifetime, you'll get many more yeses and thus have a better life than the millions of sheep who were too afraid to ask.

-- Now force yourself. Feel the fear and ask anyway. If the person says no, ask someone else. If he says no, ask yet another person. Moderate persistence is key to having the life you want instead of the life that fell into your lap.

Marty Nemko was named "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach" by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and is author of "Cool Careers for Dummies (3rd
edition.) 500+ of his published writings are free on

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