Many of us struggle at times with an inner voice plaguing us that “you are not be good enough”. Call it a sense of insecurity or inferiority, a challenge of your true identity, or fear of rejection. Whatever. But this is an undermining voice which can be very real, keeping you from stepping out and risking to be successful.
When I was in grade 7 I started the year at a new school after we moved house. Changing schools was difficult, but not unusual for me – this was my fifth primary school. But I was not prepared for the challenge to have to deal with what I experienced as very degrading and criticising teachers. I felt dumb and stupid in their presence and tried to catch up because the school was more advanced than my previous school. It was also a double medium school, and English at this level was something to get used to.
And then one day, Mr. Uys, pointing to me, remarked in the presence of the whole class: “Is this boy always so stupid?”. What a devastating experience, one that stayed with me far longer than it should have. I was also criticised by another teacher for not playing rugby that year (transport issues), and another one could not stop finding fault.
In that year I had to rewrite my IQ test. Yes, you can “fail” this test. I guess I scored low in the first one (something that happens easily when the participant is not in an emotional happy space), but my school test marks were good. Our class teacher even called my dad and asked him that they as parents should not push me so hard, meaning that someone with such a low IQ should not do so well. With the second IQ assessment I was in a happier space and apparently fared better. After that no one questioned my abilities. But of course as a grade 7 kid, everything “confirmed” to me that I might not be the sharpest pencil in the box – something that I strongly internalised and even generalised to other areas of my life.
Only many years later, as an adult, I could get a better perspective on the events. But for many, many years I felt stupid, not good enough, fear of being rejected, and sometimes fear of being caught out as dumb. It was only after my doctoral degree, (perhaps, in a way, still trying to prove myself) that I started to realise that after all I might not be that stupid…
The fact is that most of us are rejected and criticised at times, and then we internalise that. Most people fear rejection and criticism. This can twist your identity and eat away your inner security, happiness and confidence. And keep you from living a productive life to your full potential.
I recently listened to Jia Jiang talking about his journey with rejection untill he decided to step out and face his fears (check out his Ted Talk). He did a 100 day rejection programme as rejection therapy. During that time he requested people for crazy stuff, like asking a traffic cop to let him drive his car, a pilot to let him fly his plane, an unknown neighbour to let him play soccer in his backyard…. And he got many, many “yesses”. This helped him to overcome many of his fears and excuses, and catapulled him into a new career as an entrepeneur.
The following, I think, are important for many of us:
- Anchor yourself in your true identity as a valuable person with a God-given purpose and reason for life.
- Remember: rejection is just an opinion of the rejector, and often has nothing to do with you. Do not take every rejection (and criticism) so personal.
- Acknowldge and embrace your fears and doubts. Then manage it and rule over it. Do not let your fears manage you.
- If necessary, get emotional healing of your past. Acknowledge what happened and the lies you started to believe about yourself. Forgive those that you need to forgive, let go of untrue beliefs, and redefine and reclaim who you truly are.
- Then bravely step out to reach towards your destiny.
May you, on your journey on planet earth be set free to fuly live the life you were destined and created for!