How to overcome fear of rejection - and stop procrastinating

As universities are set to re-open, Your Time therapist Gareth Fox looks at student life in four case studies, here considering procrastination.

Client J was 24 when he came to see me. The previous week he failed to turn up for another job interview - the fourth in three months - he was unemployed and had recently moved back in with his parents from his student accommodation, unable to pay rent.

He explained further that he didn’t obtain his degree. In fact, he had started four separate degrees, lasting only a year in each, due to either failing his first year or not being able to commit to something for long enough.

Now, no longer able to receive financial help with student tuition fees, he had given up on the idea of ever obtaining a degree.

Further inquiry into his past showed a history of not finishing projects - from a youtube channel and complementary podcast, gym and fitness aspirations, to university assignments, exam revision, even showing up for exams.

He said that he was an academic under-achiever due to a complete lack of motivation to do anything. And when confronted with a project, he found himself wasting full days online, gaming, or binge watching series.

And then he said something very interesting. He said, “There are so many things that I want to do. It’s not like I’m avoiding the things I dislike. I’m avoiding everything. I could write a list of 20 things that I would love to do with my life - that I have wanted to do with my life for a long time.

“I’m not lost, I just can’t get going. I’m stuck.”

Procrastination is an ever growing issue in our society - especially among students. It has previously been misunderstood as laziness or lack of motivation, but can now be defined as a subconscious fear of rejection.

Consciously there is a will to produce but nothing happens, they can’t get started. For procrastinators, it is easier to say “I should have/would have/could have, but I had this problem with procrastination, and so I never did.”

This is much less painful than saying “I went after my dreams and people said ‘Oh no, that’s not good enough, you’re not good enough.”

It can be debilitating to both emotional and physical health, if not treated properly.

You see, we are born with an overwhelming desire to be part of a group. In fact, for our subconscious mind, it is absolutely vital that we fit in.

Although our environment has evolved since the original hunter gatherers who migrated across our planet, our subconscious mind has not. It still believes that there are mortal dangers in our environment, like illness, hunger or predators. And so its main function is to protect us from rejection.

If we remain part of the group, then we will be protected from the predator, we will have food, and others can heal us from illness.

Our subconscious mind is constantly switched on and scanning our environment for potential dangers. These dangers can come in both physical and emotional form.

The pain of touching a burning flame for the first time creates a program so we don’t touch that flame again.In the same way, emotional rejection also creates programs so we don’t repeat the initial action that caused the negative emotion.

So how does this all relate to Client J’s issue?

During our hypnotherapy session, Client J recovered two very interesting and fundamentally important scenes from his youth - although negative beliefs can be programmed at any age. In both scenes, he was at school, and both contained very negative reactions from teachers to his work.

In one particularly traumatic scene, having worked on a project over a number of weeks, the teacher chastised his finished piece, and embarrassed him in front of his class, labelling him ‘useless’ and without the possibility to achieve anything worthwhile in later life.

Unbeknown to Client J - and his teachers - his subconscious mind was noting what was causing these feelings of rejection, and creating survival programs so that they would not be felt again.

When we looked at the scenes, we discovered that subconscious belief Client J had been living with - the root cause to all his issues: “When I finish things they aren’t good enough, and people get angry with me.”

Unfortunately, we can’t choose what programmes our subconscious mind puts in place to help us survive, but we can change them. The only person who can really reject you is you. You control what you think at any time, in any situation.

Someone may say that they dislike what you do, or who you are, but you control whether or not you let that in. When you understand that, you can’t really be rejected.

So the next time you find yourself lying on the sofa, instead of doing that thing, know that the only person who has the power to reject you is you. And you’ll soon see how your productivity - like Client J’s (who has just completed his first year of a new degree, while also managing a part-time job and a successful podcast) grows.

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