Tackling My Fear of Rejection — All My Rejections in 2020
Sometime around September, I thought it would be a good idea to make a note of all the rejections I was receiving. At the time, it seemed like it would not only make good content but it would also act as a kind of barometer to how much work I was putting in. I felt like the reason why I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life was that I wasn’t trying hard enough and the reason I wasn’t trying hard enough was because I still had this fear of rejection. I got the idea from this Ted Talk.
A couple of months earlier, I decided to create a podcast interviewing guests on career and personal development and I knew I’d probably face a lot of rejection.
I wanted to be able to receive it easily and be able to move on from it quickly. My typical response to rejection was largely dependant on the day, my mood, and perhaps who I received the rejection from and what I was being rejected for. This could range from irritation, embarrassment, a mild sting to awe, yes, awe.
The human tendency is to want to avoid pain and rejections can be painful. That’s where the fear of rejection comes from, the fear is there to try to scare me away from making the ask in the first place. But if I can numb the pain by going through so many rejections, then I could take the fear away too. In theory.
I wanted to be so unemotional about rejection that I wouldn’t allow the fear of rejection stop me from approaching people.
This is how many rejections I got from July till now
To give some context, my podcast interviewed guests on their career challenges and discussed career change and development. I wanted a range of people from different backgrounds but I didn’t really know that many people so I used social media to reach as many people as I could — mainly Facebook groups that I was in and LinkedIn.
I was keen to have a management consultant on and so I posted a query on a Facebook group. A few people replied, I then sent direct messages (DMs) to all of them. I had one eventual NO and the rest did not reply.
Towards the end of the month, I commented on a thread about career change and I explained I was looking for guests on my podcast. I had about 3 or 4 replies. One of those was really interested in collaborating but soon after following up, their replies became more infrequent with longer and longer gaps between responses.
Eventually, they confessed to being really busy so I said we could revisit. A month or so later they reached out to me again. This time they seemed to want to take a different approach to the one we’d discussed beforehand. I asked for more clarification and then I was ghosted.
TOTAL = 4
In August, I applied for a part-time marketing role for a medical education company. I thought it would be great because I could work part-time whilst also working on my new projects. I sent an email and there was no reply.
This was also the month where I decided to start pitching to digital publications. After all, I was a writer and this could be a way for me to create another income source. Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic seemed to be drying up the cash flow. One of the publications replied to say that they liked my pitch but they couldn’t commission it.
More rejections for the podcast. One from a photographer who was also a friend who explained that they weren’t ready, which was fair enough.
I DMed a property developer whose post I saw on LinkedIn but they thought it wouldn’t be a good fit seeing as it wasn’t their business.
I came across another management consultant on LinkedIn. Again, there was a lot of back and forth, well it was more me following up every so often. This was a regular pattern. I would approach people who would seem keen but they’d either be hard to get a hold of or if they replied I couldn’t decipher their message: was it a yes or a no?
I later realized that this particular management consultant was keen but was waiting to have clearance back from their place of work. I explained that I wasn’t asking for work specifics and they didn’t even need to mention where they worked at all and as a safety net I always sent my guests their interview to make sure they were happy before it went live. They seemed reassured by that, so we set a date. Finally, progress! They then got back to me to say that work had finally come back to say NO. And that was that.
I had an encounter with an Instagram influencer which also went down in a similar way. An initial yes but again hard to pin down. I decided to leave it for a couple of months. I followed up with them, they apologized, I tried to schedule a call and again no response. (TOTAL = 7)
I continued pitching a piece on burnout to different publications. To save time I considered sending it to several places at the same time, but I wasn’t sure whether it was proper etiquette. What if multiple publishers came back to me and said yes? Ha! What a great problem to have.
I pitched to the Metro who was quick to reply, but they already had a similar piece.
I pitched to Bustle, no reply.
I pitched to the Stylist, that was also a no.
I decided to start marketing my first interview in one of the Facebook groups. They did not approve my post so I let it be.
I started writing another article called Confessions of a Prewoke Black Brit. I pitched it to Refinery29, no reply.
I then sent it to my first Medium publication, Zora after just joining Medium at the end of August. When I received no response, I decided to self-publish it myself.
Confessions of A Pre-Woke Black Brit
It has been a difficult year. But more than that, it has been a difficult year to be black.
Lastly, I asked another blogger whether they would be willing to have an interview and they declined due to time constraints.
TOTAL = 13
I responded to a recruiter on LinkedIn regarding a freelance writing role and I didn’t hear back from them so I assumed that they didn’t want me. I followed up via their email too, just to be sure. No reply. My last resort would have been to show up at their address, obviously keeping a 2-metre distance but I thought better of it.
In terms of calculation, multiple no responses from the same person count as one.
In October, I did more reach outs than ever. I sent an email to a medical aesthetician who replied warmly. Then not at all.
I also asked two YouTubers, one I received no response from. For the other, their assistant came back to say their schedule was full and I could try again later.
I emailed another person who worked in health tech, again no response.
I emailed someone else who had a start-up but it didn’t end up happening.
Fed up by now, I decided to reach out to someone who was so left field that it would have surprised me if they said yes. If I was getting rejected, I may as well get rejected on a larger scale. It was someone I’d seen on an hour-long documentary on weddings on the BBC. Two weeks later to my absolute surprise, I saw that they did not respond to my DM.
I sent another DM to someone in the Facebook group, no reply.
I made another attempt with Metro and failed.
TOTAL = 22
I joined matchmaker.fm after an invite from the owner on LinkedIn. It’s sort of a podcast social networking site where you can search for different podcasts to be on or alternatively look for guests for your own podcast.
I found someone who I thought would be interesting to talk to. I also came across another person on Facebook who had moved into something atypical. I contacted both one after the other and the interactions were nearly identical. Initial interest, followed by no responses. I followed up both and received radio silence. Plus Facebook messenger also lets you know when your message has been seen (they were) and so I’d been ghosted. Twice.
Which was also the same for the next person I approached. This person worked in medical education.
Then there were 3 final asks that I had been avoiding. I was avoiding them because I thought I wouldn’t be able to survive the rejection. Too painful and embarrassing. How would I be able to show my face again? My fear of rejection was at peak levels. Eventually, I bit the bullet and decided to ask one of them.
It was probably the quickest NO I’d received over the last few months but it was also the best one. I’ll explain why later.
After that, I felt more compelled to get the other two out of the way. Like a bandaid/plaster, I wanted to rip it off as quickly as possible and get the pain over and done with.
To the second ask, I had no reply (I may have sent it to their wrong email address) and the third came back with a yes. I nearly fell off my chair I was that surprised. I had to go out and walk it off because I couldn’t sit still.
Obviously, I followed up with them and… no response. You have to laugh at these things. I wasn’t too bothered by it.
At the end of the month, I tried my luck with another management consultant who didn’t want to be recorded.
TOTAL = 28
At this point, I was winding down to the end of Series 1 of the podcast. I was still asking people but I was more interested in people who were an instant YES. I had less time for continuous follow-ups so if a person didn’t seem keen I sort of left it there.
I asked a software developer and a healthcare venture capital investor neither of them replied.
I messaged another management consultant who said he was game but, yes, you guessed it, stopped responding.
TOTAL = 32
Though I mentioned Medium before, I thought it would be easier to count up all the NOs this way. Altogether, I pitched several articles and had 11 rejections. It honestly felt like more. The publication that rejected me the most was PGSG with a whopping 7 in total.
TOTAL = 43
And in total my rejections amounted to 43. It’s probably a little lower than the true figure but I’m still pretty amazed by it. It doesn’t really express the hours, discomfort, and misery it took to get 43 rejections. I have mixed feelings because on the one hand, I look at that number and I think, wow that’s a lot and on the other, I think, is that enough? Yes, definitely some mixed feelings there.
Writing and podcasting gave me ample opportunities to put myself out on the internet in ways that were new to me. I was able to try and fail and I did so many many times. And though there were many NOs there were many YESES too (maybe not as many YESES but YESES all the same).
Listing my rejections and failures is proof to me that I tried. That I put myself out there often and that I was uncomfortable on at least 43 separate occasions. Regardless of what happened next, I have evidence of my effort.
By far most of that effort was spent chasing people who were probably on the fence. Maybe they wanted to say NO but didn’t know how to which I can relate to. I don’t like saying NO either. I realized through this process that a straight NO is often way better. You know where you stand. I now prefer that to the ‘will they, won’t they’ tango which is a time and energy sucker.
The quickest NO I received was so succinct and clear that it gave me more respect for the other person. They were clear, confident and assertive. They knew their boundaries and stuck to them. I wish I was more like that.
Sometimes a NO would come as a relief to me especially if it was someone I was already scared to ask and would have been even nervous interviewing.
It’s good to follow up even though yes, sometimes it can be a timewaster. Sometimes people do just forget to reply or get distracted by something else. But I’d also say it’s way easier to work with someone who is keen and gets your idea straight away. I would probably spend less time trying to convince people who weren’t sure.
Finally, when I was able to make the three scary asks I was better for it. I probably didn’t help myself by putting others on pedestals regardless of how many followers and businesses they had. And it was also evident to me that when I do the thing that I am scared to do I probably won’t die afterward.
Is my fear of rejection cured? No. However, I do feel my resilience has increased so though I anticipate that I may always be a little nervous about approaching people, I know that I’ve got it in me to do it anyway.