Actualized Leadership: Integrating Your Leadership Shadow Part 3 of 5: Affirmers and the Fear of Rejection

Actualized Leadership: Integrating Your Leadership Shadow Part 3 of 5: Affirmers and the Fear of Rejection

We don’t fear the unknown; we fear separation. 
Dr. Jerry B. Harvey

We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.
Ethel Barrett

In my last blog, Integrating Your Fear of Failure Leadership Shadow, I provided an overview of Carl Jung’s concept of the “shadow” as it relates to the Achiever Style and the Fear of Failure Shadow. The purpose of this blog is to examine the second Leadership Style and Shadow, Affirmers and the Fear of Rejection Shadow, and to offer a framework for integrating this darkness into your conscious awareness and thereby stepping into your highest potential.

First, if you have not yet done so, please complete the free assessment to determine your Leadership Style and corresponding Shadow:

Affirmers are the social glue that connects and holds us together in our organizations. Affirmers are warm, friendly, loyal individuals who care deeply for others. Their primary motivation is to develop and maintain harmonious interpersonal relationships. Affirmers are excellent connecters and team members and take on many roles, often in human resources, counseling, social work and teaching.  

While all of these and many other positive characteristics are ever-present with Affirmers, there is a dark side that emerges when their Leadership Shadow – Fear of Rejection – is activated. When this occurs, the Fear of Rejection Shadow transforms the Affirmer in negative and unproductive ways, where friendliness becomes conflict avoidance, concern for others leads to being overly accommodating, and different opinions and perspectives create indecisiveness. And just like the existential and ironic tragedy associated with Achievers and failure, Affirmers are more likely to experience the rejection and separation they so fear when their Shadow is activated.

Connection: Internal vs. External

Too often we think of connection as having an external-only dynamic: our connection to family, friends, and community. In this instance, however, I am referring to an internal connection – a connection to purpose. Individuals who are willing to invest the time and energy into discovering their authentic purpose become much less concerned about the approval of others. When you find and connect to your purpose in life, winning the approval of others becomes a secondary concern, if one at all.

The Role of Solitude in Connection

Ironically, spending time alone in quiet reflection and contemplation is the most effective way to discover your purpose. Affirmers often give all their time and energy to others. And while that is an admirable quality, it is ultimately unsustainable. Too often, Affirmers sacrifice their true needs, wants, and values by trying to please others. Deciding to spend a weekend alone in order to take stock or to reflect on purpose cultivates a powerful sense of connection and confidence for achieving your highest potential.

Cultivating a Sense of Connection

If you are an Affirmer you have so many qualities to celebrate: loyalty, humility, empathy, and an intuitive sense that allows you to notice and appreciate the many nuances of human experience often missed by Achievers and Asserters. Here are some tips for cultivating the antidote for the “Fear of Rejection Leadership Shadow,” connection:

  1. Confront Your Shadow – As with so much in life and leadership, development starts with the profound awareness that comes from confronting your Shadow and acknowledging that your Fear of Rejection is currently preventing that from happening.
  2. Examine Your Negative Thoughts and Fears – Our thoughts are always with us, always “on.” We often think worst-case scenario and catastrophize every possible outcome. Pay attention to your negative thoughts and the world they have created for you. Irrational thinking can only lead to irrational behavior.
  3. Step into Solitude – One of the greatest challenges for Affirmers is to spend time alone. So much of this style is driven out of a need for others: connection to, and approval from, those in your life. Time in solitude is essential to renew, reflect, and most importantly, connect to purpose.
  4. Practice Saying “No” – If you are going to achieve your highest potential, you need to create a “To-Don’t List.” We all have so many demands on our time, and Affirmers often feel guilty when saying “no.” Harvard business professor and strategy guru Michael Porter’s insight on what makes companies great applies to individuals too: “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Same goes for purpose.
  5. Take Action – Affirmers need to make an intentional and focused effort to try new behaviors (e.g., saying “no,” etc.) in order to translate intellectual and emotional insights into a new way of being. It is simply not enough to have an insight or an “ah-ha!” moment; we must act on this new awareness.

Carl Sandburg said that, “One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude.” It is my hope that you will make spending time alone a part of your routine and, in doing so, discover the wonderful secret that solitude holds for all of us: when you embrace the “down time” of being alone, it becomes the place where we discover that we are not alone.

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