Rejection And Why No Doesn't Always Mean No
Last night I got sucked into watching the two hour season premiere of The Voice. If you aren’t privy to reality television (I don’t blame you) The Voice is a reality singing competition where 4 judges watch blind auditions and only turn their chairs around if, based solely on someone’s vocal performance, they want that artist on their team. There was one thing each of the artists had in common and understandably it was a fear of rejection. What’s more terrifying than standing on a stage in front of not only four extremely successful artists but all of America and asking for a yes? Every single one of them audibly spoke the text, “I don’t want to fail” or “I just want one chair to turn.” One chair? Why not all the chairs? One of the new judges, bad ass woman powerhouse Gwen Stefani, continuously affirmed all of the contestants fears by equating them to her own. It’s her first season on the show and she isn't afraid to let everyone know that. There is HUGE power in vulnerability. There is something empowering about saying, “I have no clue what I am doing, I have this record to make, I get to coach all this new talent, and I need help from all of you to inspire me.”
Fear of rejection runs in all of us. We all want to belong. It starts innocently when we are young when someone decides they don’t want to play with you. Then it manifests itself in our careers and love lives. We all are afraid to humiliate ourselves in front of people we want to be like or that we want to like us. No one wants to speak up, step out of line, rattle the cage, say what they are thinking, stand up for someone (or themselves), allow themselves to be vulnerable, or be the first person to dance in a crowded room.
We spend all this time trying to make our lives appear perfect. We try to sweep all of our pain and flaws into a box and put a BEAUTIFUL bow on it. "Nothing to see here," we say, "Just your average beautiful box. Everything is fine." Everyone has skeletons in their closet, we all make mistakes, and we all have an overwhelming fear that we don’t belong. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to hide what we’ve endured or what we're going through? Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to feel ashamed of the things we can’t control? How glorious would it be to walk into a room and not have to worry about making a “good” impression!? It would be liberating if we could all take off the social mask, cut the bullshit, and just be our flawed selves!
I will be completely honest with you, I was born with a foot on the fearless side of the fence. Maybe it’s because I was a middle child and had to demand my attention, but I can’t remember a time where I had a problem marching to the beat of my own drum. I was always independent. My mom says I potty trained myself. I one day said, “I’m going to use the big girl potty” and that was that. I will freely admit that my relationship to rejection is parallel to the fact that I don’t consciously conform to societal norms. And yet here I am facing one of the largest mountains I have yet to climb and I am shaking in my boots, terrified that nothing will come of it, I will embarrass myself, and that I will “fail” in front of an entire world. I want to share with you an additional definition of “no” because I need a refresher. Sometimes no means no, this is 100% accurate, but more often than not no actually means not right now.
You apply for something (a job, a speaking arrangement, a book deal, a partnership, a loan, a college, an opportunity, you try to talk to a girl at a bar etc. etc. etc.) and get a no, what do you do? The normal reaction is to turn inwards. You think your worst fear has just become your reality, that you don’t have value. But what would happen if instead of retreating and giving in to embarrassment, you simply said, “Your loss, what next?” It’s actually that simple. We have to remember what we bring to the table. We have to remember we are invited to the party. No doesn’t affirm anything, it just means not right now. Back to the drawing board.
You know the saying dance like no one is watching? We should all actually live our lives that way. What is the worst case scenario? You look like an idiot? Define idiot for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been shooshed by someone who didn’t want me to be different. You can’t be afraid to be the first person on the dance floor. What we fail to realize is that the first person on the dance floor isn’t doing it for attention; they are doing it solely because it brings them joy. Stop worrying about what other people think. If someone wants to judge you and allow your good time to offend them, I want you to run far away from that person. That person is an asshole and I wish them nothing but luck because it's a miserable and lonely life to be that angry.
Stop holding back. Stop believing that little voice that keeps telling you what you have to offer isn’t valuable. We all need to stop allowing a fear of rejection stop us from making an effort or putting ourselves out there. I don’t care if it’s your personal life or your work life. Be bold. Speak up. Challenge yourself and everyone around you. Nothing gets done when everyone agrees 100% of the time. 20 minds are better than 1 only because 20 minds think differently! I don’t want to problem solve by myself. I want to work with people who question me and challenge me. Life is made for participating and if you are holding yourself back you aren’t actively participating.
You can’t expect anything to come to you. Sometimes you have to knock, knock again, ring the doorbell, throw rocks at windows, or just grab a sledgehammer and tear a wall down. Sometimes you have to be your own advocate when no one wants to stand behind you. Sometimes you have to make your own opportunities. It may happen overnight, it may not happen for a decade. It’s not always fair, you may be the perfect candidate and yet someone less qualified gets the job. Keep going. Put yourself out there. Try something new. Let every NO empower you and humble you. Getting a no will never be easy. We all wish we could get infinite yes’s, but sometimes it’s the no’s that make life more exciting.
I leave you with this; failure isn’t a state of being it’s only a state of mind. And like a tide it will recede, rise, and recede again. Now everybody try to be more like this guy. Until tomorrow, #RunSelfieRepeat.