Have you ever been afraid to talk to someone new because you were afraid of being rejected? Or struggled to do things that it seems like other people do so easily, like give a speech or just share your opinions? Maybe you haven’t applied to a better job because you’re afraid they won’t choose you.
If so, you’re not alone. Fear of rejection is a normal human emotion that unfortunately keeps us from doing so many things that would better our lives, but it doesn’t have to hold you back anymore.
In this article, we will discuss some tips on how to overcome fear of rejection and live a more peaceful and fulfilling life.
By following these tips, you can learn to manage your fear of rejection and take risks in life.
Why Do We Fear Rejection?
The first step is understanding why we fear rejection so much. Being accepted by our loved ones and community is actually tied to our survival instincts.
As babies we need to be accepted by our mother or family to survive. Just a few hundred years ago if we were rejected by our society we would either be killed by them, or banished to the wilderness where we would starve to death or be eaten by a wild animal.
So to a primal part of our brains, rejection is literally a death sentence.
Which explains why the night before my first speech in a college communications class I cried hysterically and seriously considered dropping the class, even though that would mean I wouldn’t graduate.
My silly brain thought that if I did badly, I would be rejected by the group and cast into the wilderness to die. Dramatic, isn’t it?
That’s not how our society works anymore, but it’s still reasonable to want to be accepted and fit in. We just have to learn how to soothe that primitive fear response that is overactive for some of us.
Start by reframing your understanding of rejection. Realize that rejection is a natural part of life, and your fear of it is just a survival instinct. It doesn’t define your worth or capabilities, and it won’t put you in danger of being eaten by a bear.
It’s often about compatibility, timing, or circumstances, rather than a reflection of your value as a person.
Let’s talk about the strategies you can use to overcome this fear.
5 Steps to Overcome Fear of Rejection
1. Practice Self-Compassion
An important step to overcoming fear of rejection is to practice self-compassion. This means being kind and understanding towards yourself, even when you make mistakes, fail, and are frustrated with yourself.
It also means accepting yourself for who you are, flaws and all.
When you practice self-compassion, you are less likely to take rejection personally and more likely to either see it as a learning opportunity, or not care about it at all.
Try adopting the mindset of “I’m always doing my best and that is enough.” When you know that you’re always doing the best you can with the knowledge and tools that you have in the moment, then you’re not going to beat yourself up for not being perfect and having someone not like you.
If someone doesn’t like you, that’s ok. Decide that you like yourself and that matters more than anything. Remember that you have countless amazing qualities, and they aren’t diminished or canceled out by your imperfections—or any negative opinions someone else may have about you.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
Another important step is to set realistic expectations. This means not expecting everyone to like you or agree with you. It also means accepting that you will sometimes be rejected, even when you do your best. Occasionally you will make mistakes in front of people, but that’s just a part of life.
When you’re meeting new people, maybe a date, potential friend, or employer, remember that not everyone vibes and that’s ok! We all have different needs and preferences, and you can’t be everything to everyone.
When you set realistic expectations, you are less likely to be disappointed or discouraged when rejection happens.
3. Challenge Negative Thoughts
When you are faced with rejection, it is important to challenge your negative thoughts and yourself if your thoughts are really true.
For example, if you think “I’m a failure because I was rejected,” you could challenge that thought by asking yourself if there are other reasons why you might have been rejected that don’t even have anything to do with you.
Remember your fear of rejection is coming from your primitive survival instincts, but the world won’t end if someone says no or doesn’t like you, even if your fear tells you it will.
Our biggest enemy and saboteur is usually ourselves and our negative thoughts. We often dramatize rejection and make it mean more about ourselves than it really does.
It is important to remember that rejection is not a reflection of your worth. It is often more about the other person’s preferences or needs. It’s ok if you’re not what someone is looking for, there are 8 billion other humans on the planet so there are lots of people for you to connect with.
Learn more tips on silencing your inner critic.
4. Give Yourself Validation
The need for acceptance often makes us look to others for validation and approval. When we base our value as a person on whether other people like us, naturally the fear of rejection will be amplified.
Instead, look to yourself for validation. Acknowledge when you did your best. Praise yourself for your success, big and small. Tell yourself that you are good enough and that people would be lucky to have you in their life.
If you didn’t get much praise or encouragement from your parents growing up, give that to yourself now. My 11 year old niece tells herself (and the rest of us) that she’s amazing all the time, and that’s the energy we all need to have. Be your own cheerleader and hype man.
When you focus on only your own validation, you are less likely to be disappointed or discouraged by rejection. You won’t need approval from someone else, because you put the greatest importance on your own opinion.
5. Face Your Fears Gradually
Take small steps to expose yourself to rejection gradually. Start with low-stakes situations, like asking for a discount at a store or making a small request from a friend. Even sending back food you don’t like at a restaurant helps you overcome fear of rejection, because you’re not accepting something you don’t like just to be liked by others.
As you become more comfortable with small rejections, work your way up to larger ones.
For example, if you are afraid of public speaking, you could start by giving a short presentation to a small group of friends or family members. As you become more comfortable, you could then give a presentation to a larger group of people.
The more you take action and face situations where rejection is possible, the more desensitized you will become to it. Remember that practice is required to make progress.
Remember that overcoming the fear of rejection is a process that takes time and persistence. Be patient with yourself, and don’t be discouraged by setbacks or slow progress. As you work on these strategies, you’ll become better equipped to handle rejection and build greater self-confidence.
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