The word rejection stems from the Latin word rejectio, meaning throwing back. Isn't that the perfect way to look at the act of rejection? Someone is simply tossing the ball back in your court to take the next steps.

Yet a pervasive fear of rejection is often why entrepreneurs hold back and take excessive caution. So excessive that it can keep even the most promising businesses from thriving.

How do you know if you have a fear of rejection?

  • You make excuses. When opportunity comes knocking, you are too busy, claim that it's bad timing, or dismiss it as not a big deal.
  • You hide your true self. You feel safer if you take on a phony persona so that the real you isn't rejected. It's as though you're living behind a mask.
  • You complain. You feel so frustrated with yourself that you blame others, complain about your circumstances, and feel negative emotions toward others because it seems easier than assuming responsibility for your lack of assertiveness.
  • You're a people pleaser. The fear of confrontation or, worse, losing someone is so disconcerting that you place the needs and desires of others ahead of your own. You have a difficult time saying no, even if it's not in your best interest.
  • You don't seek opportunity. You may have great ideas and many opportunities to connect to the right people, but you put it off until tomorrow. Of course, tomorrow rarely comes.

Thankfully, fear of rejection isn't permanent. Here's how can you minimize fear of rejection.

1. Check your thoughts.

Some psychologists say as much as 90 percent of self-talk is negative. Track your daily thought patterns. Do you criticize yourself much? Do you have a negative view on the future? Do you replay old nagging thoughts based on past events?

Use affirmations in the present tense to begin to erase these patterns and replace your thoughts with more positive, uplifting beliefs. Soon, you will notice a change in your environment, and things will begin to look up. If affirmations aren't working for you, try a powerful method called The Emotional Freedom Techniques. I refer to this as my secret weapon and have helped countless clients shed their limiting beliefs to achieve happiness and outrageous success.

2. Reprogram your brain.

Do you know when your fear of rejection began? Trace your feelings back to certain life events and play the memory over and over in your mind, as if it were a movie. Each time you replay your movie, add one of the following features to morph and distort it.

This neuro-linguistic programming trick is simple yet extremely powerful. Add static like an old-fashioned television; play the movie backward at warp speed; put funny wardrobe additions on the star players, such as bunny ears, a clown nose, and fuzzy slippers; turn the movie upside down.

3. Separate what you do from who you are.

Fear of rejection in business is often present because the entrepreneur has poured heart and soul into the business and sees it as an extension of him- or herself. Your work is not who you are. You have values, dreams, likes, and dislikes. You may be a parent, sibling, spouse, son, or daughter. You are probably a friend and confidant. Understand what is important to you outside of your work.

This is key to the success of even our greatest leaders. Who are you aside from your business?

4. Use your imagination.

Visualizing your ideal outcome, rather than a negative scenario, is also a powerful form of reprogramming. There is overwhelming evidence that visualization actually alters the outcome because your brain does not like the cognitive dissonance between the current reality and your visualization. After a mere 30 days of imagining your desires, you will begin to recognize opportunities to bring them to fruition.

5. Throw it back.

Make a list of small risks that will help you move forward one step at a time. You might consider cold calling, connecting with past customers, and going to some networking events. If someone feels that your product or service isn't right for him or her, ask why.

Toss the ball back into that person's court and discover what you could change, add, or represent differently. Your offerings may not fit into every area, but with some research, you'll better understand where you fit and who your ideal customer really is--a real confidence boost!