Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Truth About Rejection

My wife picks over bananas each week in the supermarket, carefully selecting a couple that were still green, a couple that were solid bright yellow, and two with peels that are being overtaken with brown spots.  She knows that the bananas will ripen over the week, and she knows from experience what degree of ripeness she prefers.  So with her, bananas have an equal chance of being selected no matter what their degree of ripeness.  Entire piles of bananas still get rejected by her each week, but only because we can't possibly eat every banana in the store.  She doesn't think much about the feelings of the bananas that get left behind (or the ones she buys).

A friend recently purchased a new truck.  It looks a lot like his old truck, except that it's a little bit bigger and it has fewer miles on it.  Before he got to the dealership, he had already rejected many possibilities of cars, minivans, and SUVs.  He had some very good reasons for wanting a truck, and he wasn't concerned about how all those cars would feel when he didn't even give them a glance.  Somebody else will likely prefer a car over a truck and the cars will get their chance.

We make selections every day about things, which means we choose some ideas and reject others.  We absolutely have to reject some ideas, otherwise we would be paralyzed by the number of choices we have.  When it comes to food or cars or other purchased goods, it's easy for us to narrow down our options based on what we want.  When people get involved, rejection becomes a much more loaded issue.  People actually have feelings that we intrinsically care about, and we know from personal experience how many decisions we make every day out of fear of rejection.

Why do we hold acceptance in such high esteem?  Do we really believe that any person can be accepted by everyone?  Or do we care more about what it says about us when someone rejects us?  Something must be wrong with us if we get rejected, right?

But, wait a minute.  Nothing was really wrong with all of the bananas left for other shoppers at the grocery store; it was a simple matter of knowing how many we can eat in a week.  And nothing was really wrong with all of the vehicles my friend passed by to get to the truck he wanted; they just weren't what he wanted.  When we face rejection ourselves, it's really about someone else expressing a preference.  On the one hand, we would like to be "preferred" for a relationship or a job.  On the other hand, we wouldn't necessarily enjoy just any relationship or job.  We have our preferences, too.

I want the music I write to have broad appeal, but everybody isn't going to like it.  The key is for me to find the people that prefer what I compose and focus on partnership with those people.  It doesn't mean that I have been rejected as a human being just because my music wasn't chosen for a particular project, and it also doesn't mean I need to change what I am writing into something universally appealing.

The same is true as I continue to build my coaching practice.  If I try to be all things to all people, I will fall short.  I have areas of strength, and there are honestly some people I would prefer to work with.  By defining a niche, I focus my energy and my attention.  Choosing to focus on a certain group of people means setting myself up for rejection by people who are not part of that group.  When that happens, it will be an indication to me that I have defined a niche well, and hopefully the people who are a part of that focal group will be able to see that as an advantage for them.

Whether it's with the music I compose, the people I choose to coach, or the relationships I nurture, the key is to be honest about what I want in my life.  Some would call this authenticity.  When I am being true to myself, there are some people who love being a part of what I am creating, and there are many others who ... well, reject me.  That's alright.  It means that I have defined myself more clearly for anyone who sees me.  And when I'm being honest about who I am, and when I'm not afraid of rejection, being seen becomes a much easier thing to do.

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