Rejection is an unavoidable part of a life lived fully.
Charlotte signed up for online dating because, at 34, she was starting to feel that time was limited for her to find the right man. Every other day she found herself sitting across the table from a new potential partner having coffee or a drink. “Nope, not this guy,” she said to herself each time. Charlotte’s friends and family were mystified about why she remained single when she seemed to be trying so hard to meet someone.
Timothy knew that he would be perfect for the new position that just opened up at his company. But he also knew that his boss might need some convincing. Each day Timothy promised himself that he would talk with his boss about his interest in the promotion. But each day he failed to make it happen. Something held him back from taking that step. So Timothy lived in a state of constant stress for 36 days, torn by his wish for the job and his inability to ask for it, until finally it was filled by another.
Charlotte and Timothy don’t know it, but their lives are both ruled by the same force. A force which can hold back the strongest, most capable and most lovable of men and women from reaching their own goals and fulfilling their own needs. Yes, it’s the fear of rejection.
No one likes rejection, of course. In fact almost everyone would avoid it if they could. But some people definitely have more of this fear than others. In my work as a psychologist I have met hundreds of wonderful people who live their lives under the heavy weight of this fear.
How You Got Your Fear of Rejection
- You Grew Up Rejected: If one or both of your parents is rejecting of you in any way in your childhood, you will likely grow into an adult who’s highly sensitive to rejection and fearful of it. Being rejected as a child makes you feel insecure. If you can’t trust your parent to be consistent, then it’s hard to believe you can rely on anyone. As an adult you expect rejection around every corner. On top of all that; as a child each rejection by a parent leaves a wound; a wound that you don’t want to allow anyone to poke once you’ve grown up.
- You Don’t Believe in Yourself or Love Yourself Enough: In order to expect acceptance from others, you have to accept yourself. When you feel unlovable deep down, it’s hard to imagine that you will be truly wanted by anyone for anything.
- The Fatal Flaw: The Fatal Flaw is a deeply-rooted feeling that something is wrong with you. Everyone’s Fatal Flaw is different:
“I’m not as…
insert adjective here:
smart, funny, interesting, accomplished, competent, fun, likable, lovable, good, beautiful, fit, handsome, disciplined, stylish, talented, knowledgeable, educated, likable…
as other people.
One of the biggest causes of The Fatal Flaw is growing up in a family that ignores, discourages or discounts your emotions. Watch for a future blog on The Fatal Flaw.
6 Ways to Fight Your Fear of Rejection
- Be aware of your fear: Once you know that your fear of rejection is big, impactful and a significant problem, you are in a new position to stop letting it control you.
- Try to understand the source of your fear: When you understand what’s causing your fear of rejection, it loses some of its power over you.
- Start thinking about rejection in a more complex way: Most people think of rejection as a one-way street: the other person pushes a big red button like the one above, and you are rejected. But rejection is not that simple. The reality is that rejection says more about the rejectee than the rejected. When you are passed over for promotion, broken up with, divorced or otherwise left, it’s for reasons that exist in the “rejecter’s” mind, and those reasons are probably quite complicated, mixed and perhaps even unsound.
- Realize that rejection is a sign that you’re taking chances: Just as failure is a sign that you’re pushing yourself, rejection is a sign that you’re taking chances. Force yourself to ask. To commit. Put yourself out there and try, even when you may be rejected. This is a sign of strength and courage.
- Work on learning to love and value yourself: Self-love and self-worth are vital, and not just to improve your fear of rejection. Knowing who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, your qualities, feelings and needs is the place to start. To learn more about the process of valuing yourself, see A Surprising & Common Impediment to Happiness.
Charlotte had no idea that through the course of her many dates, she once sat across from the man of her dreams. Likewise Timothy will never know that had he applied for that position, he would have received it. It would have been stressful and challenging, but it would have been a bridge to an even better job.
At some point in their lives, Charlotte and Timothy must decide. Do I want to live my life in fear, missing opportunities that I will look back upon with sadness and regret? Or do I want to face my fear, learn my true value, and start making commitments and taking chances.
Hopefully they, and you, will choose the latter.