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For some, though, the fear of rejection is so severe that it’s paralyzing, and they find any way to avoid it to keep from being hurt. They avoid social situations for fear they’ll meet new people who won’t like them. Or they try to please everyone by saying “yes” to everything. Perhaps they don’t speak up or offer an opinion, or they take on a fake, always-smiling persona so others won’t detect their vulnerability. Their phobia of short-term rejection results in long-term loneliness and leaves them easy prey for an unscrupulous manipulator.
Deep down, human beings want to be loved, or at least accepted. That’s why rejection can hurt your feelings. Being turned down, rebuffed, or simply ignored can be a hit to your self-esteem. Most people take that hit and move on.
Does this sound familiar? If so, it’s time to overcome your fear of rejection and enjoy all the new opportunities that may present themselves to you. You can embrace your authentic self and improve your overall quality of life. Here’s how.
Your first step to change is to find out what led to your fear in the first place. Think about your past, starting with your childhood. Were your parents people-pleasers? Did you have a particularly traumatic rejection experience? Also, try to identify the specific situations that cause the most discomfort or trepidation. Is it romantic rejection you fear most, or speaking up in a social situation?
A therapist or psychologist can help you explore the origins of your fear. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly helpful, as it seeks to identify the thoughts that cause your behaviors and find alternative ways of thinking.
Vulnerability means exposing yourself to emotional risk and uncertainty, including the potential for social rejection. Practicing vulnerability can help you prepare for and better manage future rejection. For example, you could start by asking other people’s opinions on a certain topic and in turn, express your own thoughts in a clear, respectful way. Or maybe you could approach a person you feel has rejected you in a previous social interaction and start up a conversation. You might find that the rejection you perceived that first time wasn’t rejection at all, but rather a product of your own insecurities.
The longer you live with a fear of rejection, the more you simply assume you’ll always be rejected or rebuffed with any social interaction or romantic advance. In addition, your poor self-esteem and lack of self-confidence keeps you from attempting to step out of your comfort zone. Why not think about how things would turn out if others didn’t reject you, rather than assuming that they will?
Walk yourself through a prospective situation where you’d be opening yourself up to social rejection, or perhaps even romantic rejection. What might happen if you weren’t rejected? Imagine the possibilities that could open up for you. But also imagine what would happen if the person did reject you. Would it really be the end of the world, or could you easily move on? Do the consequences truly outweigh the potential of rejection?
Because people who fear social rejection usually suffer from low self-esteem, they often try to become someone they’re not, putting on a mask or slipping into an exaggerated or inauthentic persona with every social interaction. This approach may help you through a specific situation, but it’s not sustainable, and it doesn’t give anyone the chance to get to know the real you. Amazing things can happen when you let people get to know your authentic self and you practice self kindness.
Social rejection can hurt; for some, that hurt is comparable to physical pain. If you’re struggling with a paralyzing fear of social rejection, a good therapist can help you reimagine and craft a life where you think differently, take chances, and aren’t afraid to approach new opportunities.
Consider reaching out to a therapist using With Therapy’s unique matching service. With Therapy will match you with a counselor or therapist with whom you’re comfortable, no matter what your personal preferences or requirements.