My emails always have an entry that offers a course which can help me to attain the best version of myself. Beyond the first lines which promise discounted prices and other promotions, most of the courses sadly tend to sound esoteric and unrelated to my circumstances. I am especially alarmed when course providers say “a really wild thing will happen” if I enrol with them.
The quest for a better version of self is a time-honoured pursuit; one that has perhaps assumed increased value with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. With questions that focus on the future of the workplace and other social networks in the age of changing public health measures, one sees added pressure on the search for excellence and achievement.
In my recent reading, I have been reminded that one of the obstacles to finding the best version of self is the crafty yet sinister voice that terrorises the mind; the destructive voice that afflicts with self-doubt, self-sabotage and self-flagellation.
On many times, negative self-talk leaves one paralysed under a mountain of fear and worry. This handicap is called the fear of rejection. In 1978, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term, “impostor syndrome” to refer to a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”
It appears that once upon a time, it was thought that only high achievers succumbed to the fear of rejection or the impostor syndrome. Now, there seems to be agreement that 70% of people experience the phenomenon at some stage.
One needs only to think about the fear and crippling worry which overwhelm people when they are set to meet new persons when going to a job interview, or starting a new class. But it is not limited to a new undertaking. Veterans have also been known to experience episodes of self-doubt.
Experts agree that the fear of rejection has a severe impact on personal and professional situations because it takes away one’s confidence, and leaves a sense of insecurity and weakness.
Linda Fritscher writes that “most people experience some nerves when placing themselves in situations that could lead to rejection, but for some people, the fear becomes crippling. An untreated fear of rejection may worsen over time, leading to greater and greater limitations in a sufferer’s life.”
Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sindhumathi Revuruli notes that, “impostor syndrome in the veins of academics, from newly-arrived graduate students to those nearing retirement...can be deeply painful and damaging.”
The fear of rejection causes stress, overthinking and other maladaptive behaviours. The feelings of inadequacy lead the victim to “disown praise...they begin to view those who have complimented them as too blind to the truth.”
The impostor syndrome phenomenon is similar to abandoning people and retreating into a shell because of the fear of failure. Commentators say the phenomenon leads people to live masked and pretentious lives which need careful monitoring and scripting.
Obsessive worrying about appearance, crowd-pleasing behaviour, and checking on a partner’s phone messages are some of the obvious symptoms of the fear of being rejected. While it is an equal opportunity condition, psychologist Gina Barreca says, “it is easily overcome and causes less frustration than in one’s younger years, but it remains.”
Writing in The New York Times newspaper, Carl Richards advises that, “when I start to hear that voice in my head, I take a deep breath, pause for a minute, put a smile on my face, and say ‘welcome back old friend. Now, let’s get to work.”