A Lesson in Rejection and Acceptance from a Very Unlikely Source

Larry Olsen July 3, 2020

Rejection is the number one fear of most people. Humans will also do just about anything to avoid rejection, which can damage your self-esteem. People will go out of their way to avoid rejection, perhaps by avoiding new things or new people. When you avoid doing something because of a fear of rejection, you limit your successes and lower your self-esteem.

How many things have you talked yourself out of? How ironic—you fear rejection because it will lower your self-esteem, but the avoidance techniques employed to avoid rejection do exactly the same thing.

Rejection comes from others, right?

Consider this: in one of my many careers, I taught psychology to high-school seniors. On one particularly beautiful spring day, my students’ hormones were going wild, and I found it nearly impossible to hold their attention. I thought, “Wow, what do I need to do get them to stay here mentally?”

Suddenly, I said, “Today we’re going to talk about rejection.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, a girl in the class burst into tears. (One can only imagine what had gone on that morning in her life, but that’s how visceral the reaction to rejection can be.)

I asked the class: “Would there be any value to life if you never experienced rejection?” Most of the class said yes, so I asked, “How would you go about avoiding rejection for the rest of your life?” I had no idea what the “right” answer was at the time, but the question sure got their attention!

Out of the mouths of babes

Some of their responses were pretty obvious – never leave home, don’t try anything new, stay away from other people, and so on. After a while, silence fell, and one of the boys who sat in the back of the room raised his hand. I was surprised, because the kid hadn’t said a word in class all semester. I pointed to him, and the genius of what this seventeen-year-old said still impresses me today. “Accept yourself first.”

Accept yourself first

How powerful is that? Accept yourself first. Don’t look to others to accept you. You have to accept you. Change begins with and ends with you. This is so powerful it deserves special mention:

If you want recognition, go outside, and get it from others. If you want true power, go inside yourself, where your God-given resources are abundant.

What areas about yourself do you find it hard to accept and thus vulnerable to rejection?

How can you start today by taking the advice of this 17-year-old kid to begin “accepting yourself”? Begin to envision what that would look like and how you would respond to any attempted rejection.

What you’ll find out is, once you’ve accepted yourself with your weaknesses as well as your strengths, there is no more rejection, since you’ve already accepted yourself. Remember this; should you begin to feel any kind of rejection, it’s a gift because upon opening your instructed to continue the work of self-acceptance. . . once achieved, rejection is just information, not the judge.

Acceptance from a Very Unlikely Source

Sign up for our insight-driven NEWSLETTER T.I.P. "The Inside Perspective”

The Inside Perspective offers insights for achieving more of what you want in life and work through bi-monthly T.I.P.’s, articles, and videos.