Fear of rejection

Fear of rejection
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 29-03-2023

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At some point in our lives, most of us have been rejected, whether it was that interview or a high school crush. Rejection throws us into a pit filled with feelings of failure, judgment towards ourselves, and unacceptance. This builds up the fear of rejection, and so we begin to dodge any situations where we might be rejected.

Once we get comfortable in avoiding rejection, we have to pay the price. The consequence of it is that we miss opportunities and limit our reach in various fields of our lives. For example, you could have gotten into a specific university but did not because you chose not to apply to avoid rejection. Or you probably could have had a chance with the person you were eyeing, but your fear stood in your way. Avoiding rejection is only adding fuel to the fire and doing you no good. Research has also shown that anxious sensitivity to rejection is related to loneliness in the future (Natia & Maia, 2017).

The following signs demonstrate how fear of rejection looks/sounds like:

  • People-pleasing behavior
  • Difficulty in saying no
  • Continue being in an unhealthy relationship
  • Suppressing your true self
  • Difficulty taking on criticism
  • Cannot ask for your needs and wants

Fear of rejection can harm many aspects of your life, including your personality. It can disable you from moving forward in your career, romantic relationships, friendships, and even familial relationships.

Whenever provided with a critique, you may begin to feel failure and question your worth. This lowers your self-confidence and self-esteem. Due to this, people with a fear of rejection hold onto certain things and do not move towards their aims because they think it is better to stay where they are as it is safer.

In your work life, your fear of rejection can make you lose plenty of chances to expand and take the next step in your career, whether it be a salary raise or a business deal. Fear can make you avoid any such situation where there is room to grow.

Similarly, fear of rejection can block your emotional and physical needs. For instance, you wish certain things from your relationship but do not speak up to your partner as your dread they might not accept you or leave you eventually. In friendships, you build yourself in such a way as to be accepted by a group of people and therefore hide your true identity and interests.

You may wonder what caused the development of your fear of rejection. The first factor that holds high chances is that you may have faced a big rejection that was probably not expected in the past, and you were not able to process it in a healthy manner. Our brains remember our physical and emotional pain and warn us whenever there is even the slightest possibility of rejection (Eisenberg, Lierberman, & Williams, 2003). Do keep in mind our subconscious is not our enemy, it is just doing its job to warn us.

Things to remember after facing rejection:

  1. The main thing you have to do is bring a change in perspective. Every time you face rejection, acknowledge that another door of opportunity has opened for you. Something better is waiting. However, you will have to push yourself to try as many opportunities as possible.
  2. Be kind to yourself whenever you do not pass a chance in any area of your life. Do not beat yourself and be harsh or judgemental. Practice more positive self-talk. You are stronger than you think.
  3. If someone rejects you, it does not mean no one else will accept you. For instance, if you do not get selected in an interview for a job- do not interpret it as you are not competent or a failure.

A few people’s opinions about you do not define your worth. You are the only one who can define yourself. You can boost your self-confidence and esteem by rewarding and praising yourself on a daily basis and not just when you achieve something. By building healthy self-esteem, you build better resilience for facing rejection. To overcome your fear of rejection you can consult our psychologist for online counseling and therapy.

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Eisenberger, N. I., Lieberman, M. D., & Williams, K. D. (2003). Does rejection hurt? An fMRI study of social exclusion. Science, 302(5643), 290-292.

Sordia, N., & Mestvirishvili, M. (2017). Fear of rejection and coping strategies: do people high in rejection sensitivity stay alone?. Education Sciences and Psychology, (1), 18-26.

Morin, A. (2015). 5 Ways the Fear of Rejection Holds You Back. https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2015/08/11/5-ways-the-fear-of-rejection-holds-you-back/?sh=76c5c3056d1a

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