Many of us fear and struggle with self-doubt when placing ourselves in situations where we are uncertain about whether or not we would be accepted or rejected. We tend to avoid such situations by all means because not trying means not facing rejection. And in a way this makes us feel safe and thereby, we rationalise by telling ourselves how a particular opportunity is not worth trying. Even though each of us experience rejection differently, fear of rejection does limit opportunities in different areas of our life.
Everyone experiences fear of rejection, even those who seem confident enough not to allow it. It is an emotional state that holds us back from taking action or reaching our full potential. Rejection is an irrational fear that makes you get convinced that people won’t accept or approve of you due to your opinions, beliefs or behaviour. Besides having a negative impact on our ability to succeed, it makes us feel like a failure or being judged and outcast, whether it’s about our physical appearances, our ideas, skills, or talents.
A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success. — Bo BennettElTweet
Why do we fear rejection
We fear rejection not because of the experience per se as much as it is to do with what we tell ourselves about the experience. Because it makes us question our self worth and whether or not if we are good enough, it erodes our confidence, increases insecurity and overwhelm. And if a person is highly sensitive to rejection, he or she tends to misinterpret, distort, and overreact to what other people say and do. They pay more attention and focus on one instance of rejection than those where they are accepted. Overly being sensitive to rejection might further lead to interpersonal problems and sometimes can leave you feeling lonely and isolated.
How fear of rejection limits our potential
Since fear of rejection significantly influences your daily choices and decisions, it stops you from capitalising an opportunity and prevents from getting what you want most from your life. Your aversion to unpleasant experiences prompts unhelpful attitudes that hold you back in making most of your experiences. In addition, you may engage in self-criticism or behaviours that are focused on either covering up or compensating for this fear. Here are some such behaviours that limit your potential.
- You lack assertiveness to stand your ground. In your personal or professional dealings, instead of expressing what you want or need, or to negotiate an outcome that will satisfy your goals, you give into what others expect of you. For instance, holding back your opinions about certain things fearing that others might disapprove or disagree. When it comes to difficult conversations, discussions or persuade others to agree to your point of view. Such inability to express your opinion makes you less assertive and a poor communicator.
- Increases passivity. The tendency to simply shut down your needs or wants on the pretext that they don’t matter might be a coping mechanism in some situations. But it can end up doing more harm than good. Being passive makes you often indecisive and makes you hesitant to commit to a position, job role or a new opportunity. Constant passivity makes you unwilling to embrace life’s challenges.
- You rely heavily on approval seeking. When you base your sense of self-esteem and self-worth on external validation rather than from within, you feel hurt when faced with slightest invalidation or rejection. Also, being dependent on other’s opinions, judgments, and perceptions makes you vulnerable to being manipulated.
- You try too hard to please others. To avoid rejection, you won’t do or say anything that contradicts another person. In other words, you say ‘yes’ to certain things not because you believe them, but because doing so will reduce the likelihood that you will be rejected. This may make others like you, but only temporarily. Since it is impossible to make everyone happy, it leads to burnout and exhaustion in the long run.
- Hiding others from your true self. Fearing that you will be rejected, you often feel uncomfortable being your authentic self. This might result in disregarding your own values or beliefs and end up adopting other’s values and beliefs. As a result, you base your choices, decisions or goals more on external locus of control. In other words, they get primarily based on what other people think and say about you.
- You avoid new opportunities. We are all hard wired to avoid things that cause us pain or discomfort. Uncertainty prevents us from exploring new opportunities, be it work, relationships or business. There is no hundred percent guarantee that people will welcome or support your new ideas. But fear of rejection holds you back from putting yourself out there or even to try.
- You become risk-averse. When you take risk, you open yourself up to different possible outcomes some of which may be rejection, failure, fear of making mistakes or criticism. The probability of something going wrong or the inherent bias for safety increases your self-doubt. As a result, the uncertainty creates resistance to take risk.
- Increases Status Quo bias. When we fear rejection, we delude ourselves as to how things will get better overtime. We reason ourselves into why there is no need to take risk or change things. Coming up with excuses for why sticking with status quo is a feasible option, often lands you up to mediocrity and settle with how things are rather than make changes to improve.
- Makes you conflict -avoidant. Some conflicts are unavoidable in workplace, business or personal relationships. It is important that you should be well equipped to manage and handle them efficiently. But being afraid of possible disagreements and rejection, you prefer to let things go that are conflict causing. You may shy away from healthy conflicts or asserting your opinion.
How to deal withfear of rejection
Even though fear of rejection is psychological in nature, it appears real. Eventually it shape-shifts into self-doubt, insecurity, shyness, inhibition, or reluctance to be yourself. And not able to manage or deal with it means unnecessary worry, tension, embarrassment or panic. Whatever form it takes, growing in your awareness, understanding and perspective will help you handle it constructively. Here are some practical steps you can take today to deal with it constructively.
Influence your inner critic.
As human beings, we are affected by the filter through which we view what happens to us. Our critical inner voice starts validating our fears and labels. Past rejections turns your inner voice into a critique where you tend to undermine your own abilities. Just as positive experiences help us from a healthy sense of self, negative past experiences of rejection or failure give us a feeling of being not good enough.
When we rationalise inner critic, we forget that others are only entitled to their opinions and they need not be true. And the same holds true when you hold an opinion about others. If you give power through self-talk, you will allow it to define who you are. This further perpetuates a cycle of self-limiting beliefs as well as other cognitive biases, like confirmation bias and other.
When your inner critic sets in, catch yourself validating the false fears and labels with your thoughts and words. Instead of feeding it with negative self-talk, be more self-compassionate and use more affirmative messages. Aim to practice self kindness by being more empathetic to your own self. This does not mean that you are trying to deny or feel sorry for yourself, but it is about not to give into labels, judgments or opinions.
Mindfulness helps to avoid over-identifying with critical inner voice. Taking time to reflect on your past experiences, you can have an honest understanding of your abilities and actual sense of self. Honest reflection on what type of rejection do I fear? Or How is this unhelpful? helps you adjust your approach when facing future situations.
Shift your perspective
This creates an unending vicious cycle whenever you come across situations where you need to prove your worth. To get over such patterns, learn to see it differently. One way is to develop your ability to see things as changeable. According to a research, our basic beliefs about personality often contribute to whether or not we can cope with rejection. Furthermore, individuals who have fixed mindset are most likely to believe their abilities or personality as something set in stone. As a result, they tend to second guess and not try new opportunities fearing rejection.
On the contrary, individuals who are of growth mindset, see their outcomes as something that can be altered or improved. They are able to look at rejection as an opportunity to improve or change and remain hopeful of future opportunities. So, when fear of rejection prevents you from taking action, consider it as a learning experience or an opportunity to grow and change. When you catch yourself fretting over what if questions, challenge yourself to imagine how you are a capable enough to handle both the outcomes, either positive or negative.
Overcome avoidance coping.
Sometimes we manage unpleasant feelings by simply avoiding the things that trigger negative emotions rather than dealing with them. Avoidance is a coping mechanism we resort to when we fear rejection. Since Insecurity triggers our fight-or-flight responses, avoidance might seem like a great way to become less stressed, but isn’t the case. More often than not, confronting your fears is the only way to move forward.
Instead of avoiding, try and understand why you are resorting to avoid a particular problem or conversation, can make you more proactive and thus can overcome your self sabotaging patterns. When you catch yourself using avoidance behaviours, pause to reflect on the actual reason as to why you are avoiding facing the situation.
Ask yourself, Why is this particular opportunity important to me? What will I miss out on if I don’t act now to overcome my fear of rejection? Take time to look at your options. Reframing your thoughts lead you to identify resources that you didn’t realise you had.
Take constructive action.
Inaction on doing nothing about a situation you are getting fearful further strengthens your fear and destroys your confidence. For instance, if you are stressed that you will be rejected in a job interview, convert your worry time into preparation or building on your skills/abilities. Assuming that everyone will appreciate your work or you as a person is root of anxiety. Instead make sure what you plan to do is right and then do it. Remind yourself that no one ever does anything worthwhile for which he or she is not criticised.
Considering it as a constructive feedback or criticism that you must learn from can further improve your action habit. Put only positive thoughts and avoid self-deprecating thoughts. Try and get a balanced view of a situation by putting people or situations in proper perspective.
Remember, people are more alike, than they are different and that there is good side in every situation. Ask yourself, Are my fears real or imagined? If they are how will I overcome these? When you consider your fears honestly, you can commit to change or work through to overcome them.
Avoid victim mindset.
While it’s very important to acknowledge your real emotion, it never serves us to ruminate or feel victimised by your circumstances. After a rejection, it can be tempting to indulge in negative emotions or seek sympathy or attention rather than assume self-responsibility. Self-victimisation attributes rejection to factors outside of your immediate control, like factors such as luck, chance, other people or circumstances.
As a result, you end up blaming others, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to improve yourself. This not only leads to unproductive behaviours, but also to a ‘poor me’ ‘everyone is unfair’, or ‘world is against me’ attitude. Instead of indulging in negative thinking, or blaming others for the rejection, accept responsibility and commit to learning from the experience. Thinking in terms of—Can I use this particular situation to improve? How can I build on my abilities and skills? How do I need to be? lead to enhancing| self-understanding and strengthening your sense of self.
Related : How to overcome Impostor Syndrome
What are some of your strategies to deal with your fear of rejection?
How often do you avoid new opportunities fearing rejection?
In what areas of your life do you feel you are most impacted by the fear of getting rejected?
What are your avoidance coping measures when you fear rejection- people pleasing, status quo or confirmation bias or total avoidance?
How many times have you attributed your past rejection to factors outside of your control?
How can you reframe your fear of rejection starting from today?
It is a natural tendency for us as human beings to be liked, accepted and wanted. However, it hurts to be rejected, but at the same time it is also important to remind yourself that being rejected does not mean you are a failure or incompetent. And that other people’s opinions or certain situations do not define you. The only person who can define you is you alone.
The greater the effort you put into influencing your inner critic and expanding on your perspectives, the greater will be your ability in dealing with your fears or in accepting rejection. Admit your fears, and structure your expectations to create more future opportunities.
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