Rejection hurts, there’s no way to escape it. Most people want to connect and belong somewhere, especially with people they care about. Whether it’s work, dating or friendship, being rejected and feeling unwanted is not a pleasant experience.
This pain can run deep. In fact, rejection activates the same areas of the brain that trigger physical pain. Therefore, it is easy to understand why many people fear rejection. If you’ve had it once or several times, you remember how painful it was and worry about it happening again.
But the fear of rejection can keep you from taking risks and achieving big goals. Fortunately, it is certainly possible to overcome this fear. Here are some tips to get you started…
REMEMBER THAT EVERYONE HAS HAPPENED
Remember, everyone experiences this situation. According to experts, rejection is a common experience, and the fear of rejection is very common. Most people experience rejection at least a few times, big or small, at some point in their lives, such as:
• A friend not responding to a date offer
• Rejection for a date
• Not being invited to a friend’s party
It doesn’t feel good when something doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, but not all of life’s experiences turn out as you hoped. Remembering that rejection is a normal part of life and that everyone will face it at some point can help you fear it less.
ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS
Rejection, whatever its source, still hurts. Other people may not care much about what happened and they may encourage you to get over it. But the pain can last a long time, especially if you are more sensitive to rejection.
It can also include uncomfortable emotions such as rejection, embarrassment, and strange feelings. Others cannot tell you how you feel, only you can. Before you start facing your feelings about rejection, it’s important to accept them. Telling yourself that you don’t care when you are truly hurt makes you deny your opportunity to face that fear productively.
SEEK OPPORTUNITY TO IMPROVE YOURSELF
It may not seem like it at first, but rejection can offer opportunities for self-discovery and growth. For example, you apply for a job you really want and get a great interview, but you don’t get the job. This can knock you down at first. But after reviewing your resume, you decide it wouldn’t hurt to improve some of your skills and learn a new type of software. After a few months, you realize that this new knowledge opens doors to higher paying positions for which you were not previously qualified.
Reframing your fear as an opportunity for growth can make it easier to try for the things you want and lessen the pain if you fail. Support yourself by saying, “This may not work, but if it doesn’t, I’ll have a meaningful experience and learn more.”
When it comes to romantic rejection, reviewing what you’re really looking for in a partner can help you deal with your fears of rejection. It can also guide you towards finding someone who is right for you right from the start.
RESIST NEGATIVE SELF-CRITICISM
It’s easy to be prone to self-criticism after rejection. You can say things like “I knew I was going to screw this up”, “I wasn’t prepared enough”, “I talked too much”, “I’m so boring”. However, this reinforces your belief that the rejection is entirely your fault, although perhaps it has nothing to do with you in any way. If you believe that someone will reject you because you are not good enough; this fear can move forward with you and turn into a self-fulfilling state.
Positive thinking doesn’t always turn situations the way you want, but it can help improve your perspective. The more you encourage and support yourself, the more you believe in your potential to achieve your own goals.
And if things don’t go your way; Practice self-compassion by saying to yourself what you would say to a loved one in the same situation.
REMEMBER YOUR VALUE TO YOURSELF
Rejection can be pretty scary. For example, if you’ve met someone a few times and they suddenly don’t reply to messages, you might worry that they don’t find you attractive enough. But rejection is often just about a mismatch of needs.
Ghosting is never a good approach. However, some people lack good communication skills or think that saying, “You’re nice and cute, but I didn’t quite feel anything” might hurt you. In fact, you really appreciate honesty.
Developing your self-confidence and self-worth can help you remember that you are worthy of love and make you less afraid to keep seeking it.
• Write a paragraph describing three times you were proud of yourself.
• List five ways you apply your personal values
• Remind yourself of what you can offer as a partner
TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU REALLY FEAR
Discovering the real reasons behind your fear of rejection can help you address your specific concerns. Maybe you’re afraid of romantic rejection because you don’t want to feel lonely. Recognizing this can also help you prioritize developing strong friendships and protect you against loneliness.
Or maybe you’re worried about being rejected by potential employers because you feel financially insecure and don’t have a plan B. If you can’t find the job you want right away, it can be helpful to identify a few possible strategies.
KEEP EVENTS IN PERSPECTIVE
If you’re more susceptible to rejection and spend a lot of time worrying about it, many
you can imagine a worst case scenario.
For example, if you haven’t been accepted into your preferred master’s program, you may start to worry that all the programs you apply to will reject you and think you’ll have to try again next year.
But then you start to worry that you will be rejected next year, making it impossible for you to get the job you want and advance in your career. This prevents you from being financially stable enough to fulfill your dreams of owning a home and family, and so on.
This type of negative thought cycle is called creating disaster scenarios and is often unrealistic. Consider making a few viable backup plans or developing some counter-arguments against your main fears.
BASED ON YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
Spending time with people who care about you is important to confirm that you are truly wanted. A good support network will encourage you as you work towards achieving your goals and will comfort you even if your efforts are not successful. Knowing that your loved one is there for you in every situation can make the possibility of rejection less frightening.
FACE YOUR FEAR
Of course, if you don’t put yourself out there, you won’t experience rejection. But you probably won’t be able to reach your goals either. Going after what you want gives you the chance to experience success. You may experience rejection, but then you may not experience it again.
Experts suggest creating a “hierarchy of fear,” or a list of steps related to your fear of rejection, and working on one step at a time. This is part of exposure therapy. You can try this yourself, but a therapist can also help you make a list and work on it.
CONSULT AN EXPERT
Fears of rejection can have long-lasting effects. These effects include preventing you from seeking great opportunities at school or work. While it is possible to overcome this fear on your own, professional support can sometimes be helpful. It may be time to consider seeing a therapist if your fear of rejection is causing:
• If it causes anxiety or panic attacks,
• If it is holding you back from the things you want,
• If it causes distress in your daily life.
Rejection can hurt and make you doubt yourself. But being afraid of it can limit you and prevent you from experiencing much of what life has to offer. Choosing to look at rejection as an opportunity for improvement rather than something you can’t change can help you be less afraid of the possibility.
Pain usually goes away with time, and this pain is no exception. A year or even a few months later, it may not be so important. If you’re having trouble getting over this fear, a therapist can guide you.