Humans are very social creatures, so it’s within our nature to crave the acceptance of others. It’s a fact of life that rejection happens: it occurs within our love lives, social lives and work lives, in a variety of colourful ways. While many of us are quick to bounce back after being rejected, for others it’s an altogether more crippling experience, one which they’ll do anything to avoid.
Consequently, many with a fear of rejection close themselves off, keeping themselves from new experiences, fresh social interactions, work opportunities, and even love, and indeed anything else in life where they feel they might be rejected.
This fear of rejection puts a blockade between the sufferer and a happy, fulfilling life. So, what can be done to overcome it?
- Accept that rejection is part of life: Let’s make one thing shiny and clear: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with rejection - everyone experiences it at various points within their lives. Sure, it can sting for a little while, and at worst it can knock your self-esteem. But your journey wouldn’t be as interesting or as meaningful if everything was always rosy. Accept every rejection as a spot of character building, and remember: it doesn’t define who you are, or your worth.
- Work on your confidence: Some people brush off rejection without dwelling on it and taking it personally, and it’s likely you’d like to be that way too. What makes these people deal with it so well? Confidence. Pure and simple. A confident person won’t be dissuaded if they’re rejected for a job. Instead they’ll acknowledge their self-worth and ability, and go and find another one. The fear is rooted in poor self-esteem and low confidence, which is why rejection always seems like a probable scenario. Of course, improving your confidence is easier said than done. But when you feel worthy of success and good things, whether it’s in your work life or dating life, you won’t fear rejection so much.
- Quit the negative self-talk: Those with a fear of rejection often contribute to their lack of confidence with lashings of negative self-talk, e.g.: ‘I’m not good enough and I’ll be rejected, so I won’t even bother’. Over time these negative thoughts become a warped perception of yourself, and you start to accept that the symptoms of your fear are your personality. It’s important to combat negative thoughts and self-talk by being mindfully positive – encouraging yourself to imagine future interactions and scenarios going well, rather than going terribly (which by the way, usually isn’t the case at all). It may take time, but it’s absolutely possible to ‘rewire’ your brain to think more positively.
- Quit being a people pleaser: With fear of rejection and social anxiety comes people pleasing. When you’re so focused on not being rejected by others, you modify your behaviour to please them, often at all costs. Sometimes the cost is your own happiness, which drives your self-worth down even further. Don’t say yes to things you really don’t want to do – people worth having in your life aren’t going to reject you for something as trivial as saying ‘no’ once in a while.
- Heal your past: Even though you might feel you’ve ‘earned’ your fear of rejection as an adult, more than likely it became ingrained somewhere during your childhood. Think back…were you picked last for sports? Were you excluded from a game? Did your parents constantly compare you to others? While these things may seem trivial to you now, the mark they leave can span a lifetime if you let them. Address the event or events that contributed to your fear of rejection, either in your mind, or by writing a letter to your younger self. Getting closure even on events that happened many years ago can be a very healing and positive experience.
- Letting go: A fear of rejection compromises so much life, because you’re always trying to ‘play it safe’ in order to avoid any perceived failures. In doing so you’ll never permit yourself to pursue the things you really want, whether that’s a date with someone you find attractive, or a job you could see yourself being really happy in. Rejection will happen in your life, but it’s something you should embrace as a life experience – one that’s not as bad as your fear makes it out to be, or a measure of your worth.
As soon as you begin to embrace that reality rather than fear an imagined one, then you become a much freer person with a much more fulfilling life.