For the second time in as many months, I’ve been told by a potential professional partner that my energy is not a fit. Smart? Unquestionable. Capable? Absolutely. Experience? Spot on. Fit? Well… (This reminds me of the song from “A Chorus Line” that begins “Dance Ten, Looks Three,” but we’ll save show tune analogies for another musing.)
Even while remembering the many times we DO connect, it’s hard not to take “we doubt your fit” personally. Humans are hard wired to be tribal. Those not in communities succumbed to the harshness of nature, to roving beasts and unpredictable weather. Humans not in communities were outcasts, nomads, hermits. Shunned, cursed. Invisible. The situation for most humans has changed since we lived in caves and killed animals with spears. But our deep desire to be liked, to be welcomed and cared for by our tribe, remains.
Being told you’re not a fit triggers a primal fear of rejection. Fear causes biological reactions throughout our system, sidelining the prefrontal cortex responsible for decision-making, goal setting, and problem solving. Despite extensive experience navigating the intersection of humans and work, years in human resources, and training as a coach, I admit to losing coherent thought upon hearing my energy wasn’t a fit. Experience can’t unwire your biology, but it does help you build resilience to bounce back and re-engage your human brain, to put aside panic and immerse yourself in future-focused mental processing.
It is from this calmer place that we can observe and assess this notion of “fit” – to nurture our resilience and create a strategy for getting to plan B (or C…or D) quickly and gracefully. And, more importantly, to remember how to celebrate our unique, whole, authentic selves.
Observation #1: It IS about you – but don’t take it personally
Rejection hurts. While it feels good to place the blame on the rejecter, it really is a shared covenant. You choose to be “seen” by someone or something – like an organization – that can’t or won’t see you. I don’t mean “see” as in what you look like or what you wore to the interview. You asked to be seen for your essence, for everything that makes you YOU – your intelligence, experience, personality, humor, and capabilities. You asked to be seen for your authentic self. And if the person or organization is unable or unwilling to celebrate your authenticity, you will not and cannot thrive in that relationship. Own your choice. Own choosing NOT to be merely tolerated.
Observation #2: Identify who DOES see you – and how it feels to be seen.
You are seen. Trust me. You have many individuals, teams, and organizations who adore your authentic self who have stuck by you or been instantly attracted to our radiance. You’ve been in successful, healthy, happy relationships, both personal and professional. Look for the patterns and recognize that as your authenticity evolves and strengthens, the kind of people who see you may evolve as well. Remember what it felt like to be seen. Wee you giddy and bouncing? Joyfully content? Relieved? Visualize having that feeling in every relationship, every time you are seen.
Observation #3: Put yourself in the path of those who see you – and be willing to experiment.
You’ve assessed the patterns and have a working hypothesis about who is likely to see your authentic self. Good. Now experiment – gather the data you need and refine your hunch. Have you historically been seen by seasoned leaders in large, structured organizations? Then stop going to the silicon beach MeetUps and find your real tribe. Have you been happiest when seen by maverick out-of-the-box innovators? Don’t apply for traditional roles in traditional companies. Have you had love-at-first-sight experience with entrepreneurs and those pursuing their own unique paths? Find them. Invite them for coffee. Experiments cannot fail, as they always produce data. So go on those dates.
Observation #4: Trust yourself when you feel the fit.
After receiving blows of repeated “your energy is not a fit,” you may have your guard up and shields on maximum. So when the sparks DO fly, when you ARE seen for your whole beautiful self, you may be wary. Trust yourself. You know how it feels to be seen. Are you feeling that now? If so, drop those shields and bask in the reciprocated energy.
While you may feel the occasional twinge from past rejections, relish what and how much you learned from the experiences. By not letting in what is wrong, you have that much more room for what is right. We each deserve to be celebrated for our authentic selves, to be in roles and cultures and with colleagues and leaders who can’t believe their good fortune to be partnering with us.
Be grateful for not being seen by the wrong eyes. Your amazing energy fit awaits.
Tina is CEO of WorkJoy, changing the world by harnessing the power of the collective to unleash human potential. If that sounds like a fit for you or your organization, let’s talk.