Fighting Against the Fear of Rejection

A few years ago, my company had a two-day working seminar that was all around increasing diversity in the company.  The workshop was an incredibly intense two days filled with mental and physical activities designed to open people up and get them to really examine their feelings.  I had never experienced anything quite like it before, and I remembered at the end of the second day, truly feeling like something had changed in me.  A few moments really stand out to me, when I think back on that experience.  Having to be lifted over two guys heads, blindfolded, and put through  a small hole in a “spider web” configuration.  Being in a circle with people in a “lifeboat” situation and having to decide who would live and who would die, and the enormous responsibility I felt when I was chosen as one of the three people who would live.  But mostly I remember the very last activity we did.  We had to write our greatest fear on a board and then say it out loud in front of the group and smash the board in half with our foot.

I was panicked.  The initial fear I wrote, wasn’t quite the truth, and the second wasn’t the whole truth either.  Finally when almost everyone else had gone, I wrote my truest greatest fear on the board and when I stood in front of everyone to announce it I froze.  Writing it was hard enough, but saying it out loud, even to this group of people I felt incredibly close to was almost impossible.  I opened my mouth to speak and nothing would come out.  Everyone was clapping and cheering and it was so loud, but despite all that I heard one of the instructors say, very quietly, “You can do this.”  So I said “Fear of Rejection” out loud and then I broke the board.

The instructor who spoke to me was a retired SWAT commander and later I asked him about the intensity of these classes versus his previous job, and he seriously said it was different but just as intense.  Take a bunch of middle-aged, uptight business managers, throw them into a room and make them talk to each other about real things for two days and you will be surprised what happens.  One person came out that he was gay (the first time he had said it out loud in over 20 years with the company).  Another talked about the abuse in her past and her struggles with weight loss.  Everyone had a story.  Everyone had deep-seated fears. And many people finally felt they were in a safe enough place to share them.

I on the other hand couldn’t speak beyond saying the fear out loud.  I knew where it came from of course, but I had no idea that this was at the root of so many issues in my life.  I could see so many choices that were made because of that fear. So many paths I might have taken if my almost pathological need to not be rejected had not made me what I was.  Things didn’t start to change overnight of course.  Real change is hard, and rarely occurs like a light switch, at least not for me.  But if I look back into my life, I really believe that moment of admitting the truth and breaking the board, was the beginning of my full timing journey.  I don’t know if I would have been able to do this if that moment had not happened, because coloring inside the lines of my life was the best chance I had not to be rejected.

I tell you this  because something happened today and I need to put it in context of that story.  I found out that I will not be getting the $250 bonus from the beet harvest.  On the surface of things, this is not a huge deal, and frankly not all that surprising.  $250 is not a small amount of money, but it certainly won’t break the bank, and as I wrote about in my post Some Thoughts on Social Media and Work when I made the decision to continue writing my blog through the beet harvest experience I knew there might be consequences.  I could have been fired immediately, but instead  the agriculturist decided to keep my bonus.  I even sort of get it.  It was her first year in a tough job and having someone chronicle the experience must have been really tough on her.  I tried to be fair, but I can see why she would be pissed.  I did call by the way and asked Express Employment if they knew why, but the comment section was blank and since the bonus is totally discretionary, she didn’t need to provide a reason.  I won’t even know if I am on the Do Not Rehire list until next August and again I was told they rarely receive reasons why, but it is almost always based on performance.

One thing I do know for sure was this isn’t about performance.  I worked hard all the way until the end and did more than my fair share.  Still, as I tell my kids, life isn’t always fair, and maybe in this case it was all she could do to register her complaint. It feels petty though, and kind of mean, and since I went to great lengths to be neither petty nor mean in my blog posts I am pretty sure I didn’t deserve it.   Still, actions have consequences, and this is my consequence for telling my truth.  That’s what the rational adult part of my brain is saying.  And if that is the only side of me that was dealing with this, I’d be OK. But that’s not all we are dealing with here.  I’m a person who has just been rejected and on a professional level, which is rarely something that happens to me.  Well it rarely happened to the old me, and that’s because I spent a ton of time not making waves, or no more waves than I felt I could politically survive.  For the first time, ever, I put my job on the line over something I really believed in and I was rejected.  And can I just say it really sucks that Lee wasn’t rejected?  He got his bonus, which somehow makes the whole thing worse.  If we had both gotten rejected I think I could have dealt with it better, but it was just me.

So the question is, how am I going to handle it?  I can stop blogging, or start blogging a more sanitized version.  I can ignore it and hope it never happened again.  I can be mad and cause a fuss.  Write letters to the president of the company, call the agriculturist and demand an explanation, go on rants on social media etc. I can refuse to take responsibility and blame it on them, blame it on Lee, blame it on society.   But none of those things will come close to dealing with the real issue, which is me.  I understand that the only way for me to get over this fear of rejection is to put myself in situations where I am rejected and deal with it.  And you have to understand for me this is like an arachnophobic putting their hand in a ajar of spiders.  Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl.  That’s how much I hate rejection.

But do you know what I hate more?  I hate being held hostage by this fear.  I hate how it affects my life, my work, and my relationships in a hundred different ways.  I hate that I am not braver.  And most of all I hate that I believe I will never meet my full potential without letting go of this fear. At 50, I simply refuse to allow that to be my story. So I am accepting what happened as a consequence of the choice I made.  If the hard work and dedication I showed during the harvest did not outweigh the possible negative consequences of anything I wrote, I understand.  Ultimately it’s business, not personal, and none of us may ever know the lasting impact (if any) to future beet harvests of anything I wrote.  Actually just writing that it sounds pretty silly.  The beets will be planted and someone will end up harvesting them and if I may have turned a few people off, I am sure many others will be equally intrigued.  I can say anyone who reads it will have a better idea than I did of what they are getting into, and that should be a good thing for both the employer and the employees.

All of that aside though, writing helped me get through the experience.  It made it somehow worthwhile and got me through some pretty long and miserable days. As I have said before, chronicling these experiences matters to me. Putting it out there takes courage, and every time I open myself up to rejection and instead get a positive response, I win a little victory and take one more step towards conquering the fear.  Every time I open myself up and get criticism it does the same thing of course, but that’s not nearly as nice lol. This blog has gone beyond being about any particular job or even about full timing, although that is the catalyst for the change.  It’s about discovering who I am as a person and becoming my best self. Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s messy, and sometimes I flat-out get it wrong, but it’s my life.  No one gets to censor that but me.

Update:  About a week after I posted this I received my bonus in my checking account. I have no idea what prompted the change of heart, but I do know that it wasn’t a clerical error as my one phone call to the temporary company did verify that I was marked to not receive the bonus.  Whatever the reason, I do appreciate it. 


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30 thoughts on “Fighting Against the Fear of Rejection

  1. Bravo Trace! I’m going to say it again for the record – YOU ARE TRULY ONE OF THE BRAVEST PEOPLE I KNOW! Just saying the things you’ve said “out loud” in your blog is a testament to that! You seriously need to give yourself a huge pat on the back and and a lot more credit. At the same time, I get it! This thing we call life is a journey – with lots of awesomeness peppered with things to learn that are easy or pleasant. I gotta strong feeling you will continue to figure it all out, as always with courage and grace. Love you! ❤️

  2. Don’t be too hard on yourself. As you stated, the $250 bonus will not make of break you, at if that’s all it costs to be true to yourself, you got yourself a bargain. In a sense, this moment was much like breaking the board with the word “fear of rejection” written on it, liberating.

  3. I think the agriculturalist should appreciate your honesty and strive to improve the working situation. How can improvements be made without at least one person’s honesty, especially someone with your background? It takes courage to write what you do and not all of us are willing to expose ourselves as you do. I admire you and thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. When I don’t see a new blog post, I am disappointed, but know you are VERY busy. Keep doing what you’ve been doing.

  4. Tracy, don’t you DARE not continue with the style of your blog! it is your blog that has helped me realize that the Beet Harvest is not something I could do and I would hate to have been accepted and then had to leave early. I am sure the company would not have wanted someone to do that to them also. As I get older I realize that I can no longer do the stuff I thought I could or like I did before. Reading your blog and what these jobs are REALLY all about, the physical and the hours etc not necessarily the politics of them has made me realize also that I need to be honest with myself on my capabilities. Thanks and don’t ever give up. see you in Q i hope, Chloe aka

  5. Trace, I have read every blog post you have written but never posted a reply. This time, I feel compelled to respond. I admire the courage (and more than a little finesse) you have shown in posting about your experiences working on the road. But, wow, to boldly put this out there about fear of rejection–which is a pretty universal core fear for all of us, is incredibly brave. Thank you for your honesty, bravery, and the integrity you show in this and all your blog posts. If more of us were so willing to examine our feelings rather than react with anger when hurt, our world would be a better place. You hold up a light for all of us to aspire to in order to hold ourselves to a higher standard to be more self-aware individuals. I am honored to be able to call you my friend.

  6. You go Tracy!!!
    Tell it like it is and know that you are helping all of those coming after you!! I read all of those blogs and do not feel you were petty or unfair in your comments. It helps us understand exactly what we might be getting into and if the company feels that was an unjust depiction, then so be it. Sometimes the truth hurts for them too. So who knows, they might make some changes to make the experience for work campers! Don’t you change a thing!!!

  7. You should get twice the bonus for the beet harvest because you did management a favor. Letting others know what to expect may avoid some taking the job and leaving early. Some of us also surely learned about the physical requirements so now believe we could also handle the job.

  8. Thank you for a great post. Not many blogs address the the mental challenges they face in living the full time nomadic lifestyle. It is a life that allows us to grow and change as people. This small lesson was well worth the cost ($250) to gain and grow as a person.

    We love our life as we have worked through the fears and challenges of living in a foreign country and adapting to a new culture. Without working through the challenges we would not know the pleasures of a different lifestyle. Keep writing and growing.

    Greetings from Mexico.

  9. We all know you two rocked that job. Sometimes, as I’ve seen with my job, management can feel threatened when the employee is smarter than they are. Sometimes, in order for me to be as efficient as necessary at my job, I will do their job when they won’t. Then, for some reason when that task is successfully completed, they get bent out of shape. Weak management will always blame the employee.

  10. I can only echo what has already been said, that you are a very talented blogger who absolutely deserved that $250 bonus! How petty of the person in charge of giving it to you to have withheld it, especially when you fulfilled all the expectations for receiving it. You never wrote anything that wasn’t truthful and should have been useful to your employers in making the experience better for their employees. Lee should return his bonus in protest! (Fat chance, I am guessing!)

    I must admit I was never a fan of the kind of “training” session you experienced. It took great courage on your part to do what you did in sharing your fear, and you seem to have learned about yourself from it.

    • (From Lee) Believe me, my first thought was to return my bonus with a note that said something to the effect of “Perhaps you could use this for an online management class” or something equally snarky. I am beyond pissed on her behalf. But, I plan to let her use my bonus to get a few pedicures, and maybe a visit for both of us to a Chinese buffet on a really crappy day. Don’t tell, it’s a surprise. – Lee

  11. Shame on them! You have shown yourself to be fearless, brave and willing to “walk the talk”…I am honored to be your friend❤️ It is a true reflection of who you are that your voice rings true!

  12. Tracy, I believe that was a well spent $250!!! As you said, “chronicling these experiences matters to me.” Therefore, you marched right through your fear of rejection and did what matters to you. Your intent was to tell it like it is and that takes courage. Not a lot of money to help you discover your best self:o))) Keep writing and growing…It’s all about the Journey!!!

  13. Wow! First feeling I got was how ridiculously petty, vindictive and immature the agriculturalist was for denying your bonus! You showed class, restraint, professionalism and honesty when blogging about your experience and for her to punish you is uncalled for! Particularly since what you were saying was true and if she could let go of her obvious insecurities, the information could be beneficial to the company.

    Second thing I thought was how incredibly brave you are in posting your about your fear of rejection. I don’t know that I would have the courage to open myself up like you have done and admire you so much for it! I am beyond impressed with your intellect, your integrity and your insightful contemplation of the life you are living and the person you are and want to be.

    And finally, I just want to thank you again for continuing to write and share your journey with us. Seeing a post from you in my email inbox is one of the small joys in my life. Thank you!

  14. You’re not alone in your fear. Fear of rejection is shared by many people. We all face it at some point in our lives. I think you should try to talk to the agriculturist and find out why you didn’t receive your bonus. It might having nothing to do with blogging. It might be she had a limited amount of money for bonuses and she tried to save money, not realizing her decision would have consequences or it could be something else. At the very least if other people have questioned her decision you’ll be adding your voice and next year she will will give a little more thought to how she hands out bonuses.

  15. Wow, just wow. I had all sorts of complex thoughts and after reading the comments I realized that anything I might say had already been said, and very eloquently. I will be honest as well here. Sometimes I speed read….sometimes there are too many words and I move on, but not always. And then sometimes I take the time to really go into it, as I did when you were doing the beet harvest. When I take the time, I am so rewarded by your thoughts and the fact that you are willing to share them. A very different picture of the blogging world shows up in your story, and I am glad you are willing to do it. As everyone said, courageous. Go Tracy!

  16. I’m hoping “the agriculturalist” has your blog bookmarked and was waiting for this post. I’m also hoping she learned a big lesson once she read your post and all of the comments. Seems pretty mean-spirited of her to not give you the bonus. You can go to sleep with a clear conscience and that is worth a whole hell of a lot more than $250.00. Cheers and Merry Christmas!

  17. Frankly, I think they should have doubled the bonus for telling it like it is which can only help them to improve their processes in the future.

  18. The support you are getting is an obvious testament to you and your stories. I read because of the specifics you give which have never been pointed or loaded with detailed specifics but do offer great insight. That is the tight rope you walk rather gracefully I believe. I have been reading for 14 months as we plan on hitting the road in 2 years. Maybe some day our paths will cross and I can “Thank You” for your valuable insights. Also having Lee add commentary gives the great contrast. Kudos to you both and Merry Christmas.


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