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When Law Care asked me to pen this article, I was forced to considerably reflect on the turbulence and elation of the last 10 years of my life - from undergrad law student at UCC to being nearly 2 years qualified as a finance lawyer. During my time as a student, trainee and junior lawyer I have found a lack of confidence and a fear of rejection are very common for young people starting out in their legal careers.
By way of background, in our current society, it is readily acknowledged that ‘confidence’ and ‘rejection’ have become even more of a pressure point, especially for younger people starting their careers, or indeed in life generally. Some commentators theorise that the reason is that millennials are over-indulged and over-praised in response to the harsh upbringing of the preceding generation of baby-boomers. As well as that, young people are exposed to a nagging social pressure to be present online which has led to mass comparison and social expectation.
This social backdrop has undoubtedly affected the mind-set of young people and their levels of resilience compared to their predecessors, but it is not all negative.
Over the last 10 years, I have learned that confidence and rejection are neither feelings nor emotions, but are descriptions attributable to mind-set, based on a persons’ perception. Perception is the lens through which we understand or interpret scenarios, and is influenced by our beliefs and biases.
If confidence and rejection are regulated by perception, what factors influence our perception? Our perception may be skewed by the (irrational) fear of rejection, particularly social rejection, which nowadays has become more transparent due to the internet. Fear in itself comes from the preservation of some status quo or belief we have cultivated about ourselves. Preservation of these conditions is stimulated by the primal human desire to experience pleasure and avoid pain.
Narcissism is the ultimate form of self-generated human pleasure and entertains an idealised self-image where we are accepted and understood by others, with only our virtues on display. Narcissistic tendencies influence our perception of our circumstances because if we believe that we ought to be accepted by others unconditionally, we will naturally be surprised when we are rejected, causing us pain. Conversely, if we are somehow rejected by others, knowing that the opinion of is not material to the outcome, then we cannot be hurt. We can only learn and grow from the experience. If you are in the mind-set that you cannot be hurt, and that the opinion of others is not material to your goals, then your self-belief and esteem will soar, propelled by a genuine inner-confidence learned from trial and tribulation,.
Now that we are armed with an awareness of perception and its drivers, we need to practically address the triggers for confidence and rejection. From my experience, fear of social rejection has surfaced in job interviews, public speaking, and also more recently; on the start line of triathlons. Essentially, at any time where I perceived a potential threat to my status quo or pleasurable existence, the fear of rejection would surface and I would lose all my confidence. Some people call this shady place as: “being outside your comfort zone”.
Accepting the risk of rejection
In practising being outside of my comfort zone, I have learned to accept the risk of rejection and indeed failure. Thankfully, examples of failure are found in the biggest success stories. If you don’t believe me, google how many rejections J.K. Rowling experienced in her quest to have the first Harry Potter novel published. From this I have learned that although rejection is outside of my control, my perception is within my control, and is a choice. Rowling even had Dumbledore remind us that: “it is not our abilities that define us, but our choices”. The pain of rejection will eventually subside (and you will realise that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You bank the experience and use it to your advantage in the next attempt. This is called being resilient. Indeed, it was Thomas Edison who said: “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward”.
Speaking from personal experience, even though these stressors exist and even though I was praised and lauded by my elders, I feel enabled to express my vulnerabilities and failures as a young person in this high pressure environment. This is not insignificant. Being empowered to speak despite your experiences is a gift. n summary, the biggest lesson I have learned is that rejection is not a reflection of reality but rather of a perceived reality which we can change. On a broader scale, rejection in itself is integral to success . Inner confidence comes from knowing that rejection means you are moving forward even when it does not outwardly appear so.
To watch my You Tube video on this topic, please click here.
Jennifer O’Sullivan, Solicitor, Depfa Bank plc
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