No one wants to experience rejection, yet we all go through the unpleasant feeling of being turned down, ignored, or pushed away at least a few times in our lives.
While it is normal for everyone to experience a fear of rejection at some point in life, the problem can be debilitating for some. It can affect their career, love life, creativity, etc.
This article is for you if you are struggling with this fear or are unsure if you have it. Continue reading to discover its common signs and how to overcome the fear.
First, what exactly is a fear of rejection?
What Is a Fear of Rejection?
Humans are hardwired to feel good when they “belong,” so it makes sense to feel bad when we are not accepted or seen critically.
This unpleasant feeling can become a recurring irrational fear that makes us believe that people disapprove of us because of our personality, behavior, looks, or opinions. This is known as a fear of rejection.
Regardless of where this fear stems, it can get in the way of living your best life. The fear can limit you in nearly all aspects, including:
- Building romantic relationships: Fear of rejection can make going on dates an extremely uncomfortable experience for you. You might have trouble expressing yourself or worry too much about your appearance that you lose sight of the primary purpose of dating, which is to know the other person.
- Making business deals: Fear of rejection affects your ability to attract new clients, pitch sales and sell products, answer phone calls, or negotiate deals.
- Taking risks: Your fear of failure is more than your desire to succeed, so you sit on the sidelines, watching opportunities pass you by.
- Making new friends: The vulnerability can prevent you from chatting with strangers and building meaningful connections.
How to Know if You Have a Fear of Rejection
Not sure you have a fear of rejection? Here are some common signs of this phobia.
- Yes-man or woman: You find it difficult to say no to people, even when you’ll rather not agree with them. But you are afraid of ending up alone, so you agree with others not to be left out.
- People-pleaser: You always put other people’s needs and wants before yours, or you accept more responsibilities than you should because you want to make others happy.
- Perfectionism: You work too hard mainly to hide your perceived shortcomings.
- Unable to set healthy boundaries: You stay in an unhealthy relationship, make excuses for your partner’s bad behavior, or endure poor treatment because you don’t want to end up alone.
- Not expressing your true feelings: You have trouble expressing your feelings and feel extremely uncomfortable communicating your opinions.
- Codependency: You enable another person’s bad behavior, value the approval of others more than yours, or find it difficult to make decisions in a relationship.
- Not taking risks: You prefer your comfort zone because you are afraid of failure.
Should You Avoid Situations that Trigger Your Fear of Rejection?
Not everything in life goes the way we want, but rejection can be especially painful. In fact, research shows that rejection can cause as much pain as we feel when we are physically hurt.
But beyond pain, rejection can cause us to crawl into our shells to avoid situations that can potentially expose us to similar emotionally hurtful experiences again. This is what a fear of rejection is all about.
Avoiding situations that can lead to rejection is one way to cope with your fear of rejection. But this is a rather ineffective approach for dealing with your fears.
Avoidance coping or escape coping is merely putting a band-aid on a long-term problem; it doesn’t work.
In other words, self-isolation, using alcohol or drugs, wishing thinking, and other avoidance behaviors aren’t effective for overcoming your fear of rejection.
If you fear rejection, it won’t go away simply by avoiding situations that trigger the emotion. The strategy can hold you back from daring yourself, taking calculated risks, and reaching for big opportunities that make life more meaningful and fulfilling.
In a nutshell, avoiding your fears can lead to a mediocre life.
Okay, how do you overcome rejection fears if avoidance isn’t the solution? Let’s see 8 ways to overcome the debilitating fear.
How to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection
1. Acknowledge Your Fears
The first mistake to avoid if you are afraid of rejection is to deny or try to suppress the feeling. Secondly, avoid beating yourself up when you feel awkward or embarrassed about a situation that causes you to fear rejection.
Validate your feelings rather than deny them, and tell yourself it is okay to feel uncomfortable once in a while.
Notice the fear, but don’t judge it or yourself. Yes, you may feel nervous about going on a date, attending a party, or going for a job interview, and that’s okay.
Acknowledge what you feel, whether it is a feeling of embarrassment, anxiety, or feeling of being inadequate. But don’t push against the feeling and don’t deny it.
By acknowledging your fear and validating your feelings, you loosen the grip of that fear over you, even if it is just slightly. Now, you are in a better state of mind to effectively manage or confront the fear.
2. Treat Yourself Like a You Would a Dear Friend
Speaking of not berating yourself when you fear rejection, one way to stop yourself from getting trapped in self-blame is to treat yourself like your own best friend.
How would you talk to your dear friend who lives with uncertainty and anxiety every day of their lives? Would you remind them of all their flaws? Would you blame them for not being “normal” like the rest of your friends? Is it okay to tell them to “snap out of it?”
Of course, you wouldn’t do any of these things because they are counterproductive.
A better approach is to treat them with compassion, and that’s exactly how to treat yourself – with self-compassion.
Don’t know how to practice self-compassion? Here are a few tips:
- Encourage yourself when you face stressful situations.
- Take a walk, eat healthily, and massage your hands, feet, and neck.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation.
- Write a loving letter to yourself to soothe any hurtful feeling you experience.
- Place your hand over your heart and say nice things to yourself.
3. Develop Positive Self-Talk and Self-Regulation Skills
Similar to self-compassion, positive self-talk is an excellent tool for rewiring your mindset to be more positive. If you ever catch yourself blaming or bashing yourself for fearing rejection, stop and look for positive things to say to yourself.
Here’s an exercise you might want to try. Look in the mirror when you feel fear coming on and tell yourself things like:
- I can do this!
- I’m more than enough.
- I have worked hard for this moment, and I am ready.
Positive self-talk will help you develop self-confidence and improve your self-esteem. It is also a good way to develop self-regulation skills, which is the ability to name your emotions and take charge of how you respond.
Self-regulation will help you identify fear before it takes over your behavior, and positive self-talk will help you reframe your thoughts to regain confidence.
If you’re struggling to build your self-confidence using positive self-talk, I suggest you read this collection of powerful affirmations to help rewire your brain for more positivity.
4. See Rejection as a Learning Opportunity
Rejection is never a pleasant experience and can leave you disappointed in yourself.
But time, they say, heals all wounds, and the disappointment and sadness you feel because you were rejected will also fade with time.
However, you can take something away from every disappointment if you look hard enough. It might not be easy to see in the moment of rejection, but if you review the situation afterward, you will learn a few lessons that can make you a better person.
For example, being rejected by a potential romantic partner can deal a huge blow to your self-confidence, especially if you really like them.
However, taking a step back to consider the qualities you really liked in a partner can help you easily recognize those qualities in another person.
Not getting a job can be devastating at first, but it might be an opportunity to improve your skills and get a better job or pursue a different career path. Remember, when one door closes, another one opens.
5. Stop Assuming the Worse Will Happen
If you are more sensitive to rejection, there’s a high chance your thoughts will often spiral into worse-case scenarios.
For example, you get turned down for a date and start worrying that other people will also turn you down. But you are in your thirties, and your clock is ticking, which means you will never start a family in time to have your own child.
This negative and unrealistic train of thought is known as catastrophizing and doesn’t help you keep things in perspective. Catastrophizing only focuses on the negatives, ignoring other possibilities. Worse still, it makes you worry unnecessarily and behave irrationally over things that may never happen.
One way to stop this thought pattern is to ask yourself if they are facts to back up your fears or if they are just a figment of your imagination.
6. Challenge Your Fear
As I’ve mentioned, avoidance coping doesn’t make your fear of rejection disappear. Instead, it makes you miss out on many great opportunities in life.
Indeed, you might get turned down and ridiculed and fall flat on your face if you put yourself out there. On the other hand, you might experience success by facing your fears.
You’ll never know if you don’t try, right?
Perhaps your past experiences have trained you to believe you’re not cut out for a particular thing. While that may be true, it is not true that you cannot improve.
Surely, you can develop new skills, be better at making friends, and learn to be more confident when dating or pitching a business presentation.
7. Develop Resilience
Failure is a given; everyone experiences it. The difference is that successful people are resilient while others are not.
Your last attempt at starting a relationship didn’t work? You tried to make new friends but got snubbed? You didn’t get into the undergraduate program you were hoping for?
These are frustrating setbacks but don’t wallow in pity and self-blame. Pick yourself and try again. That’s what grit means, a strong determination to keep trying despite setbacks, rejection, and other obstacles. And that’s what resilience means, bouncing back from failure.
Check out this post to learn more about resilience and grit.
8. Seek Professional Help
You can effectively cope with rejection fears all by yourself if you follow the tips discussed above. However, if you are more sensitive to rejection, you should consider getting professional help.
A psychotherapist can help you understand the various factors contributing to your fear, and together, you can work out effective ways to manage the problem.
I strongly suggest you seek out psychotherapy if your fear of rejection:
- Negatively affects your daily functioning.
- Causes panic attacks.
- Keeps you stuck in an unhealthy relationship.
Always remember that rejection happens to everyone and is a normal part of life. Fearing it will only hold you back from becoming the version of yourself.
Many people who experience a fear of rejection tend to shy away from situations that trigger the emotion, but that’s not an effective solution. A better approach to overcoming the problem is implementing the tips in this article.
You deserve to be truly happy and enjoy the life you came here to live. Don’t allow a fear of rejection to prevent you from creating strong connections, building meaningful relationships, and seizing wonderful opportunities.