Part two-Self discipline Module 6
Your person is more valuable than your success and achievements. Hence perception of being rejected or the possibility of rejection can provoke anxiety. This module deals with a common fear that handicaps quite many good religious. Their deeper vocational values are often sidelined in order to stay in the good books of others. While shaping oneself to fit to the requirements of others, one may end up ‘shapeless’. We need to squarely address the fear of rejection to live authentic lives. Self-discipline requires authenticity. Being authentic, of course, includes benefitting from the feedback and comments of others, even when they are unpleasant
Dealing with Fear of Rejection
Recall this familiar Story
Once upon a bright, sunny morning a man and his young son left their farm to make a trip into town. The boy rode atop their donkey as the father walked alongside. Along the road they encountered a fellow from the nearby village. “You should be ashamed of yourself!” the fellow said, admonishing the boy. “You ride comfortably while your poor, old father has to walk. You have no respect!” The boy and his father first sheepishly exchanged glances, then exchanged places. As the two continued their journey, they chanced upon another fellow. “You selfish old man!” he said. “You take the easy ride while your poor son wears himself out trying to keep up. You should at least let the boy ride also.” Not wishing to offend, the old man helped his son climb aboard. The pair then continued their journey.
Before long, they came upon a woman coming from the opposite direction. She, too, found fault with their arrangement. “I’ve never seen such cruelty! You two lazy louts are too heavy for that poor donkey. It would be more fitting for the two of you to be carrying the animal.”Not wishing to fall from favor with the woman, the man directed his son to bind the donkey’s front hooves together, then back hooves together. Meanwhile, the man himself cut a long, sturdy pole from a nearby tree. The pair laid the animal down, slid the pole through his bound hooves, then lifted the pole to their shoulders-the father on one end, the boy on the other, the donkey hanging upside- down on the pole between them. Carrying the donkey, the pair trudged along. As they crossed the bridge that lead into town, the upside-down donkey saw his reflection in the water below from an angle that he had never before seen. The animal became frightened and suddenly thrashed about violently, causing the pair to lose their grips on the pole. Before they could grab him, the donkey fell off the narrow bridge into the water below. Still bound, the donkey was unable to swim. From the bridge, the father and son helplessly watched as their donkey sank out of sight, into the deep water below.
Moral: After a moment of silent reflection, the father turned to the boy and spoke: “Son, we learned a valuable lesson today. We learned that when you try to satisfy everyone you end up losing your ass.”
Because we all like to be liked, fear of rejection often becomes a dominant force in many of our lives. Unless monitored, our need for approval can put us on a long and endless fool’s mission. Fear of losing favor with family, friends, employers, coworkers, or society is one of the most common blocks to establishing and pursuing personal goals.
Let’s explore some of the ways this subconscious fear affects self-discipline. A couple of real-life examples will shed light on how fear of rejection works.
David, during childhood and adolescence, could seldom if ever please his father. As an adult, one of David’s most vivid memories from his youth is one in which he was being chastised by his father for muffing an “easy play” during a Little League baseball game. David’s little teammates witnessed the incident. He recalls the traumatic feelings of inadequacy, humiliation, and loneliness that haunted him for weeks after the incident.
Although less vivid and less intense, similar recollections of rejection color David’s memories of childhood and adolescence. Consequently, as he grew into an adult his fears of displeasing his father grew into a general fear of displeasing anyone with whom he associated, especially authority figures, but often even strangers such as clerks, waiters, etc. Whenever he thought of putting his own desires first, before the desire’s of others, a wave of anxiety washed over him.
Prolonged anxiety always generates feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, which in turn create a defeatist attitude. Such an attitude precludes the possibility of self-discipline. So whether David’s chosen task was a diet or enhanced productivity at work, subconsciously the chosen task wasn’t viewed as worthy because David didn’t view himself as worthy.
Another example: Ann, as an adolescent, grew up in a tough neighborhood. She survived by being everybody’s friend. Non-assertiveness, coupled with an extreme willingness to help anyone, anywhere, anytime earned her a feeling of security. “If they like me, they won’t hurt me,” was the message she sent to herself. Consequently, neither her time nor her desires were ever her own.
As an adult, whenever she attempted to follow through on desires that originated from within herself, inevitably she discovered that someone—friend, family, co-worker— usually caused her to abandon her plans in favor of something they felt was more important or appropriate. Because of her background, she had developed a reputation as someone who never says”No.” Whenever she felt the urge to say “No” those old feelings of anxiety and fear surfaced, as if she were still the endangered school girl who had to please everyone to feel safe. Never saying “No” to others meant constantly saying “No” to herself. Self-discipline cannot grow in such soil.
Frequently, a person who subconsciously fears rejection doesn’t consciously perceive it as a fear. Rather, this type of fear is perceived as a desire to be a “nice person.” Persons in this position unwittingly spend an enormous amount of time and energy satisfying others and neglecting their own desires. They then become haunted by thoughts of “I never seem to accomplish what I want to,” and experience feelings of unfulfillment.
Unfortunately, this “nice person” seldom knows why she never seems to accomplish the things that she really wants to accomplish. To develop self-discipline you’ll need to overcome feelings of guilt, anxiety, and insecurity for saying “No” to others and “Yes” to yourself, your chosen goals. You’ll then find that your legitimate goals take on a greater importance, which in turn means that your inner resources will rally around your efforts at turning those goals into reality.
As you can see, one’s inability to say “No” can have dire consequences. You will do well to know also that fear of rejection
has a second face that reflects our subconscious terror of being told “No.” Whether we risk hearing “No” to a job application,
a marriage proposal, or a pay raise, fear of rejection rears its ugly head.
One of the chief reasons for a high frequency of drug abuse, emotional breakdowns, and alcohol dependency among artists,
writers, and performers is that they constantly live with the fear of rejection. Indeed, to publicly perform or show one’s art work is to risk having it rejected, maybe even ridiculed. Many artists feel, however erroneous, that a rejection of their work is a rejection of themselves. Because members of the Hollywood arts community have finally come to recognize the emotional toll of rejection, workshops and seminars that teach artists how to deal with it have begun to spring up all over Tinsel Town.
Perhaps because of their emotionally sensitive natures, artists are more susceptible to the emotional pain that occurs as a result of rejection. But, like artists, we all quake in the face of rejection, regardless of its form. No one is exempt. We all do our best to avoid rejection, even if it sometimes means engaging in self-defeating behaviors. Simply stated, being told ” No” hurts. And because we are human beings, we don’t like to risk being hurt. For some of us the prospect is terrifying.
We learn about the pain of rejection in childhood and adolescence; and it follows us throughout our adult lives. Fear of rejection subverts our ability to employ self-discipline because we feel as if someone is constantly looking over our shoulder, judging and evaluating us. Thus we find ourselves constantly second-guessing ourselves, our choices, and our methods. We then hesitate to throw the total weight of our inner resources behind our endeavors. This approach results in false starts and half-hearted efforts. As a learned philosopher with whom you’re acquainted said to his son as they watched their donkey drown: “When you try to satisfy everyone, you end up losing . . .”
Exercise #3 – Exploring Fear of Rejection
The following exercise is designed to help you discover your hidden concerns and emotions regarding fear of rejection. On a sheet of paper you are going to explore three past experiences in which you did something you didn’t really want to do, or you didn’t do something that you really wanted to do. The only rule here requires that in these past situations or events, your behavior was based on a fear of being rejected by friend(s), family, coworker, or society.
Take your three experiences from your earliest memories.
Explore your childhood. Be specific. Name names. This will give you an awareness about how, when, and where your attitudes and beliefs about rejection originated.
Note: Spend no more than fifteen minutes on this exercise. Hyde will be peering over your shoulder and giving you a load of reasons to simply think about it rather than write it. Don’t listen to Hyde!
As you write take notice of yourself both physically and emotionally. Physically: Do you clench your teeth? Do any of your muscles tighten? Your stomach muscles? Neck muscles? Do you notice any changes in your breathing rhythm? Faster? Shallower? Emotionally: Do you re-experience the hurt? Do you feel frightened? Angry? Hostile? Embarrassed?
Again, it is important that you take note of your reactions as you complete each of the exercises throughout this self-discipline program. Your reactions will give you valuable insight into how much your current behavior is affected by the past experiences you are asked to recall.
Start writing NOW
For prayer and reflection:Peter in front of the Council: Acts 4.18. “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God..”
When you have to speak out your conscience which may evoke unpleasant reactions in other significant people in your life, how do you go about it?
Home work to be sent: Write a paragraph on how it was for you to do the exercise and what you have learnt about yourself. Summarize your important insights when you finish this module.