I chatted with Emily after one of my workshops in the Word Up Club. She shared that she’s had a strong calling in her heart to start a hiking ministry. In an attempt to dip her toe in, she invited close friends and family to attend her first hiking event.

So many people showed! Okay, just her her niece.

Then she says to me, “I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time officially starting this ministry!”

Well, um. I know why. If your family won’t even show up, strangers definitely won’t. Right?

Well, not necessarily, but that’s where our mind goes.

Then she said, “I shared my idea with a woman who used to host local hiking trips. She was really jazzed about the idea and wanted to attend – she would be such an incredible resource, I have no idea why I haven’t called her yet!”

Well, um. I know why. What if this important person with all those resources comes on a hike – and no one else shows? And she’s like, “Oh, um, is it just the two of us?” and you say, “Oh, um, I guess?” and then awkward laugh until you cry a little?

I mean, what’s worse than creating an entire event, following your heart, trying so hard to do something good …

… and no one cares?

… it flops?

… we get embarrassed?

Well, lots of things are worse – but let’s just pretend this is the worst thing to ever happen to us because that’s how most of us feel anyway.

We all get these fears. After-all, in polls we rank our fear of public speaking (rejection) higher than death. We’d literally “rather die first” than make a speech at a wedding.

This is what I told Emily, learned from years of rejection and worse – fear of rejection, and it’s what I’d like to share with you: it’s an unavoidable byproduct of leadership, creativity, and following the bread crumbs to your dream. And it doesn’t go away, it evolves. It’s a tension you have to learn to live with, like running out of tampons or IBS.

Here’s the good news. It gets better. In fact, the more you face rejection yet continue to grow and experience little wins along the way, the less it stings. Eventually, rejection (especially from strangers) becomes at worst annoying and at best a tool you can use to your advantage.

When it comes to following the bread crumbs of our hearts, some days it will feel like no one cares. People might not show up. And if it does catch steam, we will face trolls, critics, and lots of mean people.  It will really suck at first, but over time – you’ll just feel sorry for them until one day you don’t think about them at all.

Before the fart story went viral, only friends or family read my stuff. Afterwards, I had tens of millions of strangers reading my stuff.

People said I was ugly. Made fun of my hair. People said I was a horrible writer. Or I stole it. And I wasn’t funny. You know what was really weird? Some close friends were taking screenshots of these mean comments and sent them to me. They were pretending to be outraged, but we all know the real reason they were doing it. That’s a rejection on all on its own.

There was a moment when I thought, “Oh god – if I keep putting my writing out there, more people will tell me I’m ugly. More people will say I’m a horrible writer. More people will say I’m not funny. I can’t do this.”

But I could, and I did. And over time, as I became more experienced and had more little wins, the sting of mean comments stung less until I can say now they barely register on my radar. I’m not ugly, so all those pathetic buttholes and can eff right off.

Ahem.

It reminds me of when Poppy gave me gestational diabetes (yes, I’m laying the fault at her doorstep). The first day I checked my blood, I winced hard every time the lancet snapped and pricked my finger. After a month, I could have snapped that thing all over the place without a second thought. It’s not that the sensation of the prick went a way, I just perceived the pain differently.

It wasn’t that big of a deal. 

I had to go through rejection from readers. To rejection from agents. To rejection from publishers. Once I have a book published, I’m gonna have to brace for some of those Amazon reviews where people say things like “I don’t understand the 5 stars, this book was garbage.” And in the Audible version, “Oh gawd, I’d rather listen to Fran Drescher sing drunk karaoke than listen to one more minute of this.”

It never really ends, it’s simply what happens along the way while following your bread crumbs.

So I’m afraid the only way to deal with the fear of rejection is to expose yourself to it. Over and over. It takes time. Lots of time. Lots of wincing – at first. There’s no way around it.

But I mean, what’s the alternative – you never try? You never see what you’re capable of? What kind of greatness is inside you? What kind of crazy stuff you can accomplish? All the people you can serve through your gifts?

Oof. No thanks. I’d much rather people call me ugly.

[PS: The Word Up Club is a donation based membership service (free for those who need it). Think bible study meets life coach. If you’d like to learn more, go here.]