I hate rejection! (Well, Duh!) My fear of it has strongly and negatively influenced my life—and I'm sure denied me many opportunities—by keeping me from making any move which might result in it. I'd been painfully aware since elementary school how very much it hurt to be rejected....to be the last person standing there while sides were being chosen for a game.
Of course at this stage in my life, rejection is not as much of an issue as it was when I was active in the gay community, searching for long-or-short term partners. I would never, now, even dream of approaching someone I found sexually attractive. Even I would reject me.
I still and all to clearly remember an excruciatingly embarrassing situation I placed myself in while I was still active in the bar scene. Even then I was constantly frustrated because I could not bring myself to approach someone to whom I was attracted unless I had clear indication that the interest might be mutual. My single friends had no such constraints, and as a result I would watch in frustration as time and time again as they'd go off to approach someone—sometimes the same person I was interested in— and strike up a conversation. Often they'd be back a few minutes later, unfazed by being rejected. But just as often, they'd end up going home together, while I just stood there, afraid to take a chance.
So when I saw, in a couple of the community's newspapers announcement of a seminar promoting itself as being specifically designed for gay men with rejection issues, I signed up for it immediately, and arrived at the designated time and place full of hope that I might at last learn how to resolve the problem. There were at least 50 guys there, and after a half hour of general mingling, one of the two psychologists moderating the session gathered us together and said, "All right, now. The first thing we're going to do is a series of exercises to make you feel more comfortable. We'll take three minutes for everyone to select a partner for the exercises." Excuse me? I paid $50 to attend this thing and the first thing they want me to do is pick a partner? I was instantly furious, but a guy I'd spoken with briefly who'd said he was as uncomfortable with rejection as I was standing near me and we looked at each other with mutual unhappiness and partnered up.
The exercises were basic...uh....basics. "Tell your partner three things you like about yourself," etc., then the partner would do the same. Neither I nor the guy I was with paid much attention, both being too angry to do so. But after about twenty minutes of this crap, the moderator said: "All right now, everyone stand up and mill around." I figured the next section had to be better than this. They'd come nowhere near to addressing the issue of rejection. Five minutes later, the moderator was back for the second half of the program. "All right, now, we'll take three minutes for everyone to pick a partner and...."
I walked out the door without looking back. It was one of the most excruciatingly uncomfortable and infuriating evenings of my life. I was so outraged I looked up the number of one of the “moderating psychologists” to tell him exactly what I thought of the fiasco. He was singularly unimpressed and I carved one more notch on my wall of rejections.
One would think being an author would be an odd career choice for someone who feared rejection, and one would be right. But if an author can get through the finding-a-publisher rejection gauntlet, rejection becomes somewhat removed. If a potential reader picks up one of my books in a bookstore and then puts it down in favor of another, it's still rejection, but with the distinct advantage that I'm not there to see it. I can live with that.