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Fear of Rejection

The fear of being rejected

In Jordan Peterson’s view, men are motivated by being worthy and accepted by women.  This says Peterson is one of the origins of chivalry; men use the image of female perfection to better themselves.

It is the devotion to women that makes men behave better and improve themselves.  In one lecture Peterson takes the figure of Venus manifesting herself in the sky.  Peterson thinks that modern women have not understood this about men, that men are trying to make themselves worthy of the women they esteem and desire.

But, asks Peterson, do women understand how powerful this is to men?  How terrifying men are that they will be rejected by women?

Peterson says that men have to get over their fear of rejection.  This is a different take on the fear of rejection.

Dealing with a fear of rejection

If you know that you are vulnerable to a fear of rejection, relationships are likely to be difficult.  The fear, the sense that you might be rejected is likely to creep in and spoil your sense of pleasure and of being with a partner you can trust. 

If we are plagued by feelings of rejection we may be quick to see signs of danger, betrayal and problems ahead.   Out of the smallest things we may start to feel doubts about the way our partner is behaving with us.  If these feelings are not got hold of they can run amok and send us into a spiral of doubt.

Living with a fear of rejection, be it to do with relationships or careers can hold us back.   How can we behave in a spontaneous way or deliver our potential when we are anxious that we will be rejected?

Being able to fit in and become part of the group is what has enabled us to evolve.  Historically outsiders have always been vulnerable to being picked off by predators.  Being rejected is a threat to our capacity to survive and succeed.

How a fear of rejection develops

From the perspective of psychotherapy, a lot of these feelings of rejection stem back to our early years.  If in our childhoods we were rejected in favour of another sibling, if a parent seemed to find no interest in us.  If we were not nurtured and protected and looked after and cared for in our early years, then we may be prone to project all kinds of fantasies about being unlovable.

For some of us a fear of rejection can develop into a kind of catastrophizing of our experience. If this is what happens, then the levels of anxiety and self-doubt can become overwhelming. The fear of rejection triggers a complicated set of responses that undermine our capacity to feel any kind of confidence and faith in ourselves.

If we use this view of our early environmental experiences, then we can see that our early experiences of:

  • the homes we grew up in
  • the relationships we had with our mothers, fathers and siblings all create a sense of security in ourselves.

How to deal with the fear of rejection?

If we don’t take to Peterson’s views, we can use ideas from object relations theory, which view the early infant and child relationships as responsible for setting up a kind of internal set of relationships that we carry with us through life.  It is from this experience that attachment theorists say we develop a secure base from which to live.

If internal relationships are secure, then we grow and develop with a kind of emotional and psychological insulation.  We internalise a sense of being loved and needed and cared for that we carry with us. it gives us a sense of enduring confidence.

If, for us, there was little consistency in the way we were loved and cared for then we are more likely to experience the world as a place in which rejection is likely. 

Is there a better way to live with our fear of rejection?

There is, I think, if we can find a way to develop a better understanding about our own life stories and about how our psychologies developed. 

If we can develop a clearer understanding about how our states of mind and our consequent fears of rejection developed, then we may be able to think differently about the way we relate and interact with others, and so start to look after ourselves better. 

If we can start to look at our lives and experience like this, then we can try to develop the secure base that we didn’t have access to in our early years.

Less fear of rejection and more balance

When we learn about our psychological vulnerabilities and fear of rejection, we stand a chance of being able to counterbalance our experience and the projections we have of being rejected.  We become like a tightrope walker using a balancing pole to help us cross the void.

Take action

Ignoring these kind of feelings and experiences is bad for us, it is like burying your head in the sand.  You may feel you can’t see the danger but it is still there.

  • Don’t live in a precarious way
  • Find a way of taking action
  • Take your experience and fear of rejection seriously and work with it.

The more we learn about it, the more we will find ways not to get caught up in the old fear of rejection, to be able to distinguish the failures of the past from the potential of the present and future.

This is the route to a new and improved perspective.  There is no magic wand for transforming fears and ‘abracadabra’ they are gone from our lives, but it is possible to learn to live constructively with our fears of rejection and to go onto live better and more satisfying lives.

Fear of Rejection

Toby Ingham

Toby Ingham is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and supervisor based in High Wycombe in England. Toby works on both a short and long-term basis with people who are trying to work through a variety of situations. Sometimes these relate to a specific event such as CPTSD, bereavement, divorce or redundancy, sometimes relating to a more general problem or behavior. He blogs on a wide range of psychological themes.

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APA Reference
, . (2018). Fear of Rejection. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 19 May 2018
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