In a blog that he first published in August of 2011 on the subject of rejection, artist Robert Genn quoted author and historian Steven Pressfield: “Evolution has programmed us to feel rejection in our guts. This is how the tribe enforced obedience, by wielding the threat of expulsion. Fear of rejection isn’t just psychological; it’s biological. It’s in our cells.”
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years thinking about rejection, as both a student and a teacher. I’ve learned that it doesn’t take much for folks in either category to give up too soon. Goodness knows I have. Try for that date part in the school play? Try for that job? Try for that place on the team? Try for that (fill in the blank)? Hard to do with the specter of rejection haunts you.
I’ve read a lot of theories about why fear of rejection can paralyze us and I’ve formed a few of my own (mostly, I’m afraid, having to do with how I was raised, but that’s a story for another time). Pressfield’s theory is the first one that’s resonated with me mostly, I suspect, because it doesn’t lay blame anywhere. (See previous sentence.)
My reasoning will sound convoluted to some, but to my way of thinking, it can be easier to fight a fear of rejection if what I’m fighting is what evolution has programmed into me. After all, there’s neither blame nor guilt involved–two traits that to me are like an impenetrable fortress in any of the books by George R. R. Martin.
Oil on Canvas