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How to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection For Good

February 10, 2024

By Bonnie

Rejection hurts. There’s no sugar-coating it. In fact, rejection appears to activate the same regions in the brain that physical pain does. If you’ve experienced it, you probably don’t want it to happen again.

Desperate black man sitting on bed in deep thoughts
Photo by Alex Green

Why Do We Feel Rejected?

Rejection is something everyone feels to varying degrees at different points in their lives and trying to avoid it can really hold us back. Maybe you decided not to ask that special someone out. Or you didn’t apply for a job because you were afraid of not getting it. This fear of rejection is usually the culprit that stands in the way of happiness, success, and living your best life.

One cause for such fear is a history of rejection early in life. It can come from a parent’s or caregiver’s neglect, excessive criticism in early childhood, or being bullied or teased by peers. 

Avoiding the Pain 

People who have a fear of rejection might experience significant emotional pain, sadness, disappointment, or frustration after experiencing rejection or even a perceived rejection. If the pain is intense enough, it could lead to mood swings, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. 

Two behaviors that are used to avoid the pain are:

  1. Become people pleasers. Going out of the way to make others happy and present a false self to be agreeable. In the process, they sabotage their own needs to be accepted by others.
  2. Give up. Trying becomes too painful and risky. Bright, capable people want to avoid rejection so much they give up on things like dating, applying for jobs, or speaking up.

Overcoming the Fear

As humans, we’re actually capable of doing anything. But fear can be so powerful that it holds us back from life and we miss out on so much. Well, here are four ways for you to deal with and overcome fear of rejection and gain self-confidence:

  1. Recognize Your Own Self-Criticisms
    Notice your self-criticisms and any tendency for sinking into the feeling of shame of being a failure. Thinking something is wrong with yourself intensifies the suffering. When you recognize how you do this to yourself, you can put the brakes on when you catch yourself doing it.
  2. Be an Observer
    Put your thoughts and feelings in the proper perspective. We can do this by looking at it from outside ourselves as a third person would. So often we exaggerate the significance of our experiences far beyond their reality.
  3. Face Your Fear
    Make the decision to face your fear and open up to others. Opening up and sharing yourself more will help you find community with others who have similar stories. Realizing that you are not alone is a powerful remedy for so many pains and problems.
  4. Practice Self-Care
    Activities like exercise and meditation are the best ways to care for yourself. Meditation provides an opportunity to reflect and re-frame whatever situation that causes fear of rejection. The first thoughts you get about the situation are charged with emotion and are often not correct.

Fears Begin in The Mind

Our thoughts are based on our past experiences. For example, if you’ve been rejected in the past, these feelings may be even stronger if you experience it again. We begin to let our emotions control our reasoning, such as “I feel rejected, therefore I must be not good enough in some way.” We begin to take everything personally, “They said they didn’t want to see this movie with me, they must not like ME.” 

We may become focused on this feeling of unworthiness and interpret different reactions from people as criticism or rejection when they aren't. Believing those thoughts can make us want to avoid situations that cause us to feel that way. But it isn’t the situations that are causing that feeling, it is our own mind. 

Meditation Eliminates Fear of Rejection

My entire life, I struggled with an intense fear of rejection and low self-esteem. Both of my parents were overly critical of their children and even each other. Growing up, I never felt like I did anything right. I was seldom praised. Even the thought of rejection caused intense emotional reactions. I had extremely high expectations of myself that I couldn’t attain. In the end, this turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I avoided taking on new projects, meeting new people, or going to new places.

It was meditation that pulled me out of my intense fear of rejection by allowing me to see the inner critic and know it was false. I spent time reviewing my life and letting go of the pain and baggage that I’d been carrying. When I practiced observing my own thoughts and feelings through a self-reflection meditation method, I saw all the situations that contributed to my thoughts, including the idea that somehow I was flawed.

It enabled me to see myself objectively. I let go of the self-criticism and shame, and reframed situations that were overblown in my mind. The best part of this self-reflecting meditation was that when I faced my fear of rejection in my mind, I realized it was false. 

Part of reframing my internal thoughts was to view rejection as an opportunity to see past myself. For example, when a friend says she can’t go to the movies with me, instead of feeling rejected, I could conclude that she was simply busy, didn’t want to see that movie or needed downtime. Many times, what we see as rejection has nothing to do with us at all, but due to what the other person has in their life or in their mind.

Rejection is not the end of the world and not everything that feels like rejection is. Meditate to quiet the inner critique, be the observer of your thoughts and feelings, and face the fear head-on. You’ll love yourself for it.