How to Deal with the Fear of Rejection

Feeling Rejected

by Jayaram V

Fear of rejection is one of the greatest fears that we ​frequently experience. It prevents many people from being effective or reaching their goals. Many people do not even try because of the fear of rejection or disapproval. and the hurt it causes. To know that you are being disapproved or disliked for any reason is discomforting and discouraging, especially when you have expectations from others or want to win their approval and acceptance.

Many people take rejection as a personal failure and feel depressed, discouraged, sad, or unhappy. Some feel so discouraged and despondent that they resort to self-destructive behavior. Since rejection causes pain and fear, in abusive relationships people often use it to manipulate others or control their behavior.

Rejection is experienced and expressed variously in different situations. The following are few common examples.

  1. When your ideas and proposals are rejected, criticized or ridiculed.
  2. When you ask for something and it is denied.
  3. When you attend a job interview and you are not selected.
  4. When you apply for admission into an institution and it is rejected.
  5. When your feelings of love, trust, and affection are not reciprocated.
  6. When people avoid you, ignore you, or mentally shut you down.
  7. When you are not consulted or taken into confidence against the norms.
  8. When you are excluded from meetings, group discussions, or social events.

It is also true that you may unconsciously use rejection on yourself as a self-defensive mechanism to deny yourself, punish yourself, isolate yourself, or protect yourself from others, from difficult situations, or from perceived threats. You may do it by avoiding risks and difficult situations, keeping a distance from loved ones, or not taking action when it is necessary.

Social and cultural aspects of rejection

Rejection causes a lot of pain to people who value their work or their self-worth. It is more profoundly felt when a person suffers from low self-esteem, doubt, and negative self-talk. Because of the hurt it causes, rejection is often intentionally used to control or manipulate human behavior. In this regard those who are weak and submissive are the most vulnerable. Teachers, parents and elders often use it against children to express their disapproval or enforce discipline. Rejection is also used in personal relationships to establish dominance or define the relationship itself. It is a common theme of many troubled marriage relationships and love relationships when people try to hurt each other. It is also used in organizations to control people or inculcate fear and submission.

Because of the hurt and fear it causes, rejection serves as a powerful weapon in human relationships. It is viewed by many as a statement against themselves. Since it  lowers their self-image and creates a crisis of confidence about their abilities, dignity, and self-worth those who experience it will not only feel rejected but also unloved, unwanted, and insulted. Since it negates the need for love and belongingness, which are major motivating factors in human life, it unsettles the minds of many and creates fear and insecurity.

Since the earliest times human beings have been conditioned to view rejection as a threat to their wellbeing and survival. Because of its powerful influence, it has traditionally been used as a punitive measure to establish group norms and punish errant members. Many cultures and communities have effectively used it in the past to exile, excommunicate, ostracize, and isolate trouble makers, and keep the members submissive and disciplined. The same behavior is noticed among many animals, which use rejection to enforce group unity and loyalty, or earn sexual favors. 

The positive and negative uses of rejection

Rejections are inevitable in a world of diversity, plurality, and conflicting interests and opinions. Nothing good is ever achieved in this world without struggle. It is also not possible to find acceptance and approval from everyone or satisfy all your needs. From an early age everyone learns to deal with rejection and realizes that it is difficult to live in this world without compromise, flexibility and adaptability.

Rejection is inevitable, when you depend upon others for your survival and wellbeing, since they may not always listen to you or oblige you. You may also need it at times to use it as self-preservation measure to protect yourself from harmful and toxic people who want to harm you or hurt you, and keep them at a distance. Whether you like it or not, rejection is an important part of effective decision making process in which you have to effectively eliminate wrong choices and redundancies to improve efficiency and effectiveness and your chances of success.

When you live in a competitive world, where there is a scope for conflict or conflict of interest, you are bound to use rejection to protect your interests and consolidate your gains. At the same time, you are bound to face rejection from others who may perceive you as a problem or a threat, or simply dislike you because of prejudice, ignorance, or preconceived notions.

Certain group dynamics and behavioral or emotional issues may also influence people's attitude towards you. For example, how many people genuinely wish you well and want you to succeed in life? How many of them will give you their wholehearted cooperation and approval? Many people experience envy when they see that their friends and relations are more successful or happier than them. Most people do not go beyond that thought and may even feel guilty for thinking so, but a few would not hesitate to cause  trouble.

How to handle rejection

Rejection is part of many success stories. Almost all great writers, gifted artist and talented people experience rejection in the early stages of their careers. If there is one lesson you can take from their example, it is this. Do not feel discouraged by rejection. Expect it to happen and prepare for it. Instead of taking it personally think of it as a system defect or process failure and go about it with determination. You will be better off in any task or venture if you mentally prepare for rejection and avoid getting hurt or discouraged by it. If you want to be successful in life, you should know how to handle rejections and overcome them. In this regard the following suggestions are helpful.

  1. Consider rejection a temporary setback rather than a failure. It is a failure only when you give up.
  2. Do not take rejection personally. Treat it as another person’s subjective opinion, and see what you can do about it.
  3. When you are faced with rejection, ask for reasons and learn from it instead of making assumptions.
  4. The best way to handle rejection is to keep trying with different methods, alternatives, and approaches.
  5. When circumstances are not in your favor, temporarily retreat to reevaluate and reorganize but do lose focus on your goals.
  6. Keep faith in yourself and your in strengths and abilities to persist in your effort.
  7. Do not succumb to negative emotions or treat others with anger and aggression. Respect their right to make decisions and speak for themselves.
  8. Be nice to people and help them whenever possible. People tend to reciprocate your kindness as well as your meanness.

Rejection is just another person’s subjective opinion, not a statement about you. It may also be a choice which is made due to circumstances. There is no reason for you to take it personally or stop trying. If you are a decision maker and occupied positions of authority, you yourself might have used rejection and elimination as effective decision making tools to improve your efficiency and effectiveness. Hence, when you are faced with rejection, accept it with professional maturity and dignity, without venting your emotions or burning the bridges.

Rejection has its own positive side. Sometimes it is to good to face rejection and come to terms with it. It opens your eyes to the reality of the situation, your limitations and whatever misconceptions you may have about yourself, your actions, or your abilities. Thereby, it keeps you levelheaded, humble, practical, wiser and smarter. Rejection becomes a problem only when you use it against yourself or when you take it personally to become a problem to yourself.

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