Fear of rejection is a thing for just about every human on the planet. Of all our fears, this one has the deepest impact on our thinking, emotions, behaviors, plans, and relationships. Most people get a case of “nerves” when they’re stepping into a situation that has the potential for rejection, but for some the fear takes over. The fear of rejection begins to drive the bus.
Walking to the front of a room to give a presentation to colleagues, answering a question in a seminar or class, approaching someone who we think is friend or even more-than-friend material, walking across the stage at graduation, and even checking out at the grocery store are events that might trip the wire for fear of rejection.
If you stay in your seat and never offer to impart your expertise to colleagues, you run the risk of staying small in your professional life. Keeping your hand down even when you know the answer from fear of judgment leading to rejection, keeps others from hearing your voice. True, remaining silent or avoiding situations that the nagging little voice inside reminds you are areas that rejection and judgement may arise from, can prevent the feeling of rejection – but the loss of those moments, the loss of connection with others, the feeling of staying quietly in your seat, never giving yourself a chance to rise, has its own set of feelings and consequences that aren’t any more pleasant to deal with.
Loneliness, isolation, becoming a sort of welcome mat, having no clear sense of purpose….
Those aren’t exactly fun either.
How It Affects You
In dating, we often get nervous because we’re meeting someone new. A fear of rejection in the early stages of dating can have you more focused on how you look, how you sound, and what the other person is thinking of you. You may totally miss out on getting to know the other person and deciding whether or not more dates should be in your future.
Meeting someone new can trigger a similar cycle. Your brain may get caught up in wondering if they like you. You may have trouble speaking or really getting to know the other person.
Job interviews could be really fun. Here’s an opportunity to grow your resume, improve your professional standing, meet someone new, grow your network, learn from the interview process, and ask important questions to find out if this is the job for you! A fear of rejection is likely to kick off your body’s fight, flee, or faint response. You’ll likely spend most of the interview feeling uncomfortably hot, sweating, breathing heavily, and coming across as nervous.
Symptoms of Fear of Rejection
Masking your real self – becoming some more intensified or watered down version of yourself – is common as a result of fear of rejection. It comes from fearing if others see the real you, that people will reject you. To protect yourself, you slip on the mask of what you think others want to see. This may lead to issues when others began to pick up on that mask. It may lead to rejection or distancing from others that really do just want to see, know, and hear the real you.
People-Pleasers have trouble saying “no”, even when “yes” causes huge issues. They may take on too much, enable bad behaviors in others, and be in the position of constantly “taking one for the team”. Over time this leads to resentment and anger in relationships. You may be walking around waiting for all the good people-pleasing karma to come back to you in some way. It won’t. People will just get used to you being the pleaser.
Being assertive is hard when you’ve got a serious fear of rejection. It requires you to say what you mean, want, or need. When you’re afraid of rejection in a major way, it seems easier to avoid it by avoiding upsetting anyone with your needs by pretending they aren’t important or don’t exist. When this becomes an issue it usually eventually leaks through. Pent up anger about your needs will bleed through and create a passive-aggressive aura around you that turns others away and off.
Fear of rejection creates behaviors in sufferers (everyone at some point, like seriously, everyone) that bring about the very things they’re afraid of. It works like a self-fulfilling prophecy in every respect. Fear of rejection and its pain may keep you from getting out to make friends and meet people, thereby furthering the loneliness and isolation you want to avoid by avoiding rejection! Funny, huh? The same thing happens in relationships. A fear that someone you love will reject you may have you avoiding them, distancing yourself from them, or people pleasing when it comes to them – to such an extent you feel resentful, fights erupt, and the relationship suffers a split. Now, the relationship is over and you were right all along about fearing they’d leave or reject you.
Working on Fear
It is really helpful to team up with a therapist who can help you determine how fear of rejection is impacting you, experiences that may have underscored the belief for you, and ways of challenging it. Therapists are also trained at helping you create a way of learning how to tolerate distress and cope with painful emotions – the avoidance of pain is the thing that keeps fear of rejection going (and going).
Risking opening our hearts and letting others in means that at some point someone may reject us, but it isn’t the end of the universe. We feel sorrow, fear, anger, loss, and other intense emotions about it as part of our ability to heal. Our minds and bodies know how to heal from these experiences – and part of that is grief and experiencing those emotions.
If you’re in Texas or the UK and looking to team up with a therapist to address fear of rejection, check me out here!