Why “No” Is Not The Scariest Thing You Will Hear

By Elisa Doucette | Articles | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Oct 20

Many people will never step outside their box of comfort and complacency because the fear the rejection.

They fear hearing that tiny little word: NO

I somehow missed that sequence in my DNA structuring.

The way I figure it, if I’m already not doing something I want to be doing, then I’m getting a big old NO anyways.

If this were a fifth grade logical word problem, the sequence would go something like this:

Elisa wants to do Thing A, but she is not currently doing Thing A. In deciding how to get to the end result of being about to do Thing A, Elisa is faced with two possible courses of action:

Solution #1 – Keeping with her current course of action and hoping that she will get to do Thing A.

Solution #2 – Asking the ominous Gatekeeper whether she can do Thing A

Which solution should Elisa select if she wants to have a greater chance of doing Thing A?

Folks often ask me how I launched my freelance writing career and got some of the gigs I have gotten. I’d like to say that I am a brilliant strategist that oozes such literary talent that people are veritably tripping over themselves to get me to write for them.

Sadly, this is not the case.

The truth is that I am just a super stubborn person who is completely unaware of the correct “protocol” for most situations.

On New Year’s Day of 2010, I was having an exceptionally crazy turn of the year. Staring at the course I had chartered for myself, that included opening my own insurance agency within the next 18 months, I became physically afflicted wondering “Is this what I want? Is this what is going to make me happy?”

I wanted to write.

Blogging was something that I loved, and people seemed to think I was half-way good at it, so I just needed to find a way to back up that life decision with tangible proof that I could sustain a life writing little articles and columns. Assessing the landscape for syndication, it was obvious that online media was the direction people were heading.

I spent a few hours looking at various outlets that I was familiar with and thought I might have a chance at getting a meeting at.

I knew less than nothing about pitching a column.

Finally, I settled on pitching Maine’s largest newspaper and media site with a column on relationships and dating. 2010 was, afterall, my year of love and it seemed like a good way to focus on my intentions. I researched Greater Portland’s single demographics, nearby media blogs, and wrote a sample piece. Scouring the site I found a tiny link at the bottom to email a content producer.

They absolutely positively could have/probably should have said “No” to me.

In fact, I was fairly certain that they were going to. I had an entire laundry list of reasons that they would be idiots to hire me for this gig. They included, but were not limited to:

  1. I had no experience with a regular writing assignment
  2. My only credentials were a few articles for local newspapers and my blog
  3. I had no idea how to write a pitch “correctly”
  4. Having not been in a relationship for over a decade, I was one of the least qualified people ever to write about relationships
  5. I felt like I had no real business passing myself off as a writer when (in reality) I was a low-tiered-middle-manager for an insurance company

Somehow, though, something I wrote caught the attention of that crazy amazing content producer and she agreed to meet with me on a Thursday. Within 30 minutes I was walking out of the paper’s offices with a contract to write their newest online blog, The Single Slice.

You could say I am a potential rejection junkie.

Wherein some people get their adrenaline kicks from jumping from planes or mountain biking over cliffs, I get my thrills from setting myself up for failure.

How is that thrilling you ask?

I love looking at an impossible situation, and figuring out how to make it possible. Then I gather all the data and information I’ll need to make it happen. Finally, I present all my findings in a way that now makes it impossible to NOT give me my way.

Ask any of my friends, they’ll tell you how ridiculous I am about this. I ask for things often that any normal person wouldn’t even think of asking.

You’re already getting the NO by not asking for it.

So why not ask and see what happens.

You are already rejecting yourself, how could it be any worse letting someone else do it?

Sure, you’re not in control when you hand the decision over to someone else. But you are only fooling yourself into thinking you are in control when when you avoid the situation all-together.

That isn’t control.

That is running away.

“No” is not the scariest thing you will hear when you are asking for something you want.

The scariest thing you will hear is that little voice in your head.

With its thoughts and regret churning through your mind in the silence.

Because you never even gave yourself the chance.

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About the Author

Elisa Doucette is a freelance writer and editor who currently travels the world looking for great stories to live, interesting tales to share, and new ways to make words sexy. She has worked for over a decade creating compelling content and writing for various businesses and publications, including her popular column on Forbes called Shattering Glass. She is the Founder and Executive Editor here at Craft Your Content.

  • So why do I LOVE this post? I need to start thinking like this. Not now, but *right* now. It’s so scary and surprising how we can get in the way of our dreams because we’re too busy answering questions for everyone else. People think, “They’ll say no because of this or I don’t have that.” And you need to replace what you think other people will say with what you are actually thinking about yourself. Then, you get to see how much you are limiting yourself with that damned voice in your head.

    • Haha, thanks Raven! I must admit, there are times when I still tread on the side of “What will happen – what will they think?!” I mean, I didn’t apply to the TMBA gig until 10 hours before the application deadline cause I didn’t think I’d be qualified/worthy/good enough!

      That little voice in our heads can be SUCH a pain! Knows just what to say to make us doubt ourselves and make us feel like crap. Damned voice… 🙂

  • Honestly Elisa, this is one of the best pieces you’ve ever written – anywhere. And you know I wouldn’t just say that to blow smoke up your ass. I only give out praise when it’s deserved and this post deserves a leaping “FUCK YEAH” through the air!

    I remember when you pitched the idea of you writing that relationship column. I remember saying to Jenny “she’s fucking crazy and it’s awesome.” I was incredibly proud of you for stepping outside your comfort zone and having enough confidence in yourself to think you could rock it. And you did rock it – hard.

    Anyway, it’s been a real joy watching you (and your writing career) grow. I only see big things happening for you. And I only see a lot yeses in your future.

    xoxo,
    This Dumb Boy

    • Thanks – I wasn’t sure how I felt about this one, so it is good to know that hitting publish ended up being a good decision. 😉

      As for the kind words, here’s hoping that my career continues to follow the trajectory you foresee. That would be great!

  • I think this is interesting because I saw Ramit Sethi’s webinar earlier tonight about getting your dream job. He talked about the top 7 mistakes people make when looking for their ideal job. And one of the things he mentioned was the habit people have in rejecting themselves before an employer/whomever was in charge could.

    So, you’ll participate in self-sabotage, saying, “Why would they want me? I’m not qualified.” He calls it, I believe, the invisible scripts we tell ourselves about ourselves (and our situations).

    To me, telling yourself “no” is a form of pseudo-self-empowerment, “beating someone to the punch”. It’s this idea that you’re more in control of yourself if you tell yourself “no” than if someone else says it to you. To be rejected by someone you like, or something you crave can be debilitating – perhaps more so depending on your emotional/mental health.

    Also, there’s this idea that many people don’t like to take risks either. My friend told me some great info about it, and I totally forgot! 🙁 I don’t think I could fault someone for sticking to their comfort zones however. I would go a step further and argue that very few people challenge their own comfort zones, preferring to stick with what they know than to venture out and risk being wrong – in very many, if not all, aspects of life.

    • I would never fault anyone for anything. Deciding what is right and wrong for anyone else is not only a lesson in futility, it is also a kinda yucky thing to do in general.

      I * do * however, hold exception as so many people have said to me before “I wish I had your audacity” or “I wish I took the chances you did” or “I wish I could do what you are doing”. The thing is, I am not an exceptional person. In fact, I am less-than-ceptional in many ways. I just do a lot of asking “Why not?” and pushing boundaries. It is uncomfortable, sure. I often reference the “vomit moment” – that precise time when you are so scared/nervous/overwhelmed you feel like you are gonna puke all over yourself. I have those a lot!

      But it has given me some great life experiences so far!

      From talking to folks on both sides of the fence, those who ask and do generally live lives with a lot more rejection but a lot less disappointment/regret. For many, those emotions are probably six for one and a half-dozen for the other!

  • Inspirational stuff my lovely. You do realise I’m stalking you? Im going to ask the gatekeeper and right now and say: will you marry me?

    • Haha, you’d be a much better stalker if you didn’t TELL ME you were stalking me. I’m not sure what a stalker who announces that they are a stalker is, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t a stalker. 😉

      Good for you for asking! We weren’t married before, so what did it have to hurt?! I’m not sure I’m the marrying type…I break out in hives when people ask me on second dates. But if I ever come around on my relationship beliefs, I’ll be sure to let you know!

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  • This is dead on. Especially the very end. Sometimes I find myself not asking for something because I’m afraid they WILL say yes, then I will be out of my comfort zone and totally screwed! But, working very hard on getting over that and getting out there. Thanks for the reminder to do it!

    • Haha, excellent point Liz! Sometimes we use the gatekeepers as an excuse for avoiding an outcome we feel like we aren’t prepared for. Like, “Holy hell, if they say yes I’m in it. Shit…” I went through that after my final interview with the guys for TMBA. I was like “Oh my god, if they give me this job I’m moving to effing Bali. Wow. What the hell was I thinking?!” Quickly got over that, but I understand totally the sentiment!

      Good for you for the working on it and getting out there! I used to live in a very carefully constructed and planned comfort zone. Through a myriad of different experiences and situations, I get UNCOMFORTABLE being COMFORTABLE now. Hoping to find a nice balance between all the two soon enough. 🙂

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