The fear of rejection is ancient and primal. Biologically, we are wired to seek acceptance from those around us. The alternative is being cut off and isolated, and from an evolutionary standpoint, that equals death.
So when we talk about the fear of rejection, we aren’t just raising discussion about some new neurosis. No. The fear of rejection is ancient and deeply embedded within our DNA. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that all of us will fear rejection at some point in life, and the vast majority of us will continue fearing the consequences of rejection far into our adulthood. If you suspect that your fear of rejection might be crippling your life, you’re not alone. So many people out there – myself included – have suffered as a result of this fear. But there are many tools out there available to help you. And I intend to share these with you with the hopes of helping you to feel more freedom in your life.
What is the Fear of Rejection?
The fear of rejection involves the dread and avoidance of being shamed, judged negatively, abandoned or ostracised from one’s peers. Those who fear rejection will often go to great lengths to ensure they blend in and are accepted by those around them.
Why Do We Fear Rejection?
There are many facets to the fear of rejection. Here are some of the main reasons why you might fear being disliked and shunned:
- You fear being alone and isolated from others
- You’re scared of having your worst fears confirmed, i.e. that you’re unlovable, stupid, ugly, worthless, a failure, etc.
- You fear having old trauma triggered, i.e. feelings of abandonment from childhood
- You’re scared of the end product, i.e. plunging into depression, anxiety, self-loathing, etc.
Take a few moments to reflect on the reasons why you may fear rejection. What is it that you’re truly scared of? Try fast-forwarding to the feelings and thoughts you may have after being rejected.
13 Signs the Fear of Rejection is Controlling Your Life
Here are some signs to look out for:
- You struggle to share your opinion for the fear of being judged and rejected
- You fear standing out and being different, so you try to blend in
- You lack assertiveness and can’t seem to say “no”
- You’re a people-pleaser: you gain your self-worth from being socially likable
- You’re extremely self-conscious and aware of what people think of you
- You don’t feel equal with others
- You have a weak sense of self/personal identity
- You want to be like someone else rather than being yourself
- You say and do things to be accepted, even if you disagree with them
- You struggle to open up to others for fear of being judged
- You keep a lot to yourself and feel socially isolated
- You have low self-esteem
- You frequently struggle with self-loathing and critical thoughts
How many of these signs can you relate to?
As a person who has struggled with social anxiety before, I know what it’s like to suffer from the fear of rejection. Fearing other people’s opinions of you is like living in a prison 24/7 – a prison inside of your MIND. No matter what you do or where you go, you’re always hypervigilant and trying your best to be a wallflower who is quiet and acceptable to others. Not only do you fear what other people think of you, but you fear what you think of yourself. All connection with self-love and acceptance is lost as you look to others to give you a sense of being acceptable. It’s a truly horrible and excruciatingly tiring experience.
If you’re experiencing the fear of rejection, I deeply empathize with you and want you to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are so many other people out there fighting similar battles. But fortunately, there is hope. You don’t have to suffer from this fear forever. But overcoming this fear does take work.
How to Overcome the Fear of Rejection
Through the years, as I’ve kept doing my personal inner work, I’ve mostly overcome my fear of rejection – although not completely. I am human, so there are a few things I’m still afraid of. But hey, I’m not giving up. I’m getting there at my own pace.
On my path, I’ve discovered a few tools, practices, and bits of advice that have come in handy. I’ll pull all of these bits and bobs out of my personal medicine bag and share them with you:
1. Other people don’t really care about you
I realize that this may sound cruel, but it’s the truth. People care less about you and more about themselves: that’s just the reality of life.
When we see the world through a fearful mindset, we tend to believe that others pay more attention to us than they actually do. This unexamined belief creates a lot of anxiety within us: we start believing that people are carefully watching us in order to judge us. Actually, they aren’t. Yes, people will give you passing judgments, but really, they couldn’t care less about you. Understanding this harsh reality is actually quite liberating! The best way to see this for yourself is to people-watch. Sit down in public and just watch people and what they do. You’ll notice that most of them are lost in their thoughts/phones/own little worlds. No one is paying attention to you, and even if you do stand out, you’ll only capture their finite capacity for attention for a few minutes at the most.
2. Everyone is scared of rejection
Not just you! Even people who appear to have it “all together” and are famous fear rejection (think Adele, Olivia Munn, Emma Stone, Barbra Streisand).
One of the biggest misperceptions that fuel the anxiety surrounding this phobia is the belief that you’re alone. You’re most definitely not alone. In fact, according to some sources, public speaking is more feared than death in America. What does that say about the fear of rejection?
3. People’s judgments mirror their insecurities
More often than not, the way in which a person judges you speaks volumes about who they are as a person. Not only that, but people also have the tendency of projecting their insecurities onto you, which is another reason why you shouldn’t take criticism personally. Other people only know what they see, which is very limited and two dimensional. No one else truly knows your entire story or your life. Remember this when you feel anxiety around others.
4. Accept yourself no matter what
The fear of rejection traces back to poor self-esteem. Poor self-esteem is caused by a lack of self-acceptance and self-love. If you want a real, long-lasting, proven approach to overcoming the fear of rejection, develop self-acceptance. Redirect your focus from what others think about you, to what you think about you. Explore your self-talk. What mental traps are warping your thinking? How can you be more kind and compassionate towards yourself? Explore different ways of loving yourself and reprogramming your thoughts so that they are supportive rather than self-destructive. I can’t emphasize enough how important this point is. Learning how to accept yourself is vital if you want to overcome this phobia. At first, it will be hard to redirect your focus from the external world to the internal world, but with practice, you will find it easier.
5. Practice meditation and mindful breathing
Meditation helps you to become aware of the thoughts that fire through your brain. Mindful breathing helps you to stay grounded in the present moment. Put these two practices together and you have a recipe for improved mental health and emotional healing. I recommend the Vipassana style of meditation (you can find many useful videos on youtube to help get you started). If you struggle to practice meditation, try dynamic meditation which is a form of active meditation that involves purging your mind and body of repressed energy. Both dynamic and vipassana meditation can be practiced every day in the morning or evening for ten to thirty minutes. Mindful breathing, on the other hand, can be carried with you throughout the day to create a sense of inner peace and groundedness.
6. Explore the root of your fear
Pinpoint exactly what makes you fear rejection. Are you scared of feeling unworthy or degraded by others? What is beneath that fear? Do you secretly fear that you are indeed worthless? Remember that all fears stem from your own beliefs about yourself. These core beliefs affect you deeply and often go unnoticed. I recommend reading one of our articles on core beliefs so you can get a better idea of how to unearth your deepest fears. By clearly defining what is causing you suffering, you’ll accelerate your process of healing.
7. Practice being vulnerable
Take small steps and open up slowly. Remember to show self-compassion and kindness, encouraging yourself along the way. For example, you might like to share an opinion in a conversation, wear something quirky in public, or politely decline a request from someone else. Celebrate all of your small victories, and if you experience a failure, realize that it’s a learning opportunity and be gentle with yourself. You might even like to journal about your experiences and progress.
8. Stop pathologizing your fear
Be careful of fearing your fear. Simply accept that you have it. One of the biggest ways of exacerbating your fear of rejection is to excessively focus on it and blow it out of proportion. Realize that it’s normal to fear what other’s think of you. It’s normal to fear rejection. Pathologizing your fear is like picking at a scab in hopes that it will heal. Sometimes it’s best to just allow this fear to play out when it plays out. Live your life and don’t get caught up obsessing.
9. Allow uncomfortable emotions to play out
Don’t run away from how you feel; you’ll only make it worse. Instead, face your feelings of shame and discomfort. Allow these feelings to play out within your mind and body. Use mindful breathing to get yourself through these sensations. By courageously facing these emotions, you will deal with them more quickly so that they don’t build up. When you repress your feelings and pretend like everything is “fine,” you are not only lying to yourself, but you are actually making your fear worse. So next time you feel this fear creeping in, allow it. Breathe deeply and trust in your inner strength. You might even like to talk yourself through it: “OK fear, I feel you. It’s alright. You can come. I’m not here to reject you, I’m your friend. It’s OK, and I’m OK.” Strangely, by allowing your uncomfortable feelings to play out, they dissipate much more quickly than if you were to avoid them. Try it out for yourself.
10. No matter what you do, others will always judge you
This is another hard truth, but one that can be liberating. Even when you put on the people-pleasing mask, there will still be people who’ll judge you. Perhaps they will judge you as too nice, too fake, too boring, too whatever. No matter how likable or dislikable you are, there will always be someone out there who has an opinion of you. This is a reality we all need to accept, especially those of us who fear rejection. What matters is how you deal with those judgments. Do you let them pass over you and continue loving who you are, or do you let these judgments define who you are as a person? Don’t be defined by what another person thinks of you. Define who you are and honor every wounded, messy, and beautiful part of you.
I hope these tips will help to inspire and help you grow. Overcoming the fear of rejection is a process that takes time. Keep pushing your comfort zone slowly and showing yourself lovingkindness. With patience, practice, and persistence, you will get through this!
If you feel inspired to share your story below, please do. Sharing our struggles helps other people not feel so alone.