I met with someone the other day and she said, "you know, making new friends and networking in general can be a lot like dating. You spend some time getting to know someone and you might be like, nahhhh. Maybe not."
I concur. I think the same goes for jobs, recreational sports, spiritual communities and really anything that we decide to get involved in outside of ourselves. Putting ourselves out there in any capacity involves a certain amount of trial and error--and that process sometimes involves huge risk.
The risk I'm speaking about is the threat of rejection. Anytime we step outside our comfort zones personally or professionally, we risk being rejected for some part or piece of us. We risk being rejected because we are weird in some way. We risk being rejected for everything we are or everything we are not.
I wrote about this very recently, about winning some and losing some, and anyone who has been rejected by a person or in a job setting or something else knows it can be extremely painful. There's nothing trite about having your soul killed. I know someone who was let go from her job with no notice a few years ago and she's still in that stuck, paralyzed state. It shook her to her core and her confidence hasn't been restored. I feel sad about that, having had so many experiences where I was rejected, and I can certainly relate.
Some people seem immune to rejection. Or I think some people might just be better at pretending it doesn't hurt.
Urie Bronfenbrenner said we simultaneously shape and are shaped by those around us. Our culture(s) thrive on the weird that exists in the diversity of human beings. If we live our lives constantly scanning for the threat of rejection we do ourselves and the world an injustice. If we get knocked down and stay down, we deprive ourselves and others of the potential of what we can provide.
Having bounced back almost immediately from a recent professional rejection, because #theirloss, I'm also constantly testing my courage in the personal sphere by making new friends, showing up in new public settings and even getting into dating. It is much scarier to do that now as a transgender person; I've lost some of my old mojo from fear of never finding someone ready, willing and able to date me--not only because I'm trans but also for the other aspects that other people haven't wanted. It helps me to remember I have been turned down WAY before being out as transgender. People may not choose me because of that identity or for any other number of reasons. Or they might choose me BECAUSE I am trans* and all the skills, talents and quirks that make me, me. Sure, it will take a special person to choose the complexity of who I am, but I am no different from anyone else harboring a secret fear of inadequacy for some body part or personality quirk or identity, visible or otherwise.
Listen, we all make choices every day. From what we wear, to what we eat to how we behave and interact with others. We put the results of all those choices out into the world and get feedback--and we can decide how to interpret that feedback and what to do with it. Do we agree? Do we want to change something to work better? Both/and?
Hiding out because of choices I've made or the reality of who I am limits my life and that won't serve me or others in any way. As Paul Jarvis said, living our lives fully and authentically helps us find our rat people.
It's true that putting ourselves out there, personally and professionally, involves huge risk but it also shows us who wants us and needs us, exactly as we are. It shows us who isn't up for it but it also shows you will want your weird.