Managing Our Fear of Rejection is Important
In our last post, we described how the fear of rejection can damage our relationships. It can mean we turn to ineffective coping strategies such as substance abuse, isolation, or arrogance to protect ourselves from pain. If you haven’t yet read the last post ‘How the Fear of Rejection Can Destroy Relationships’, it might be a good idea to start with this before you continue reading here.
Two Effective Strategies for Dealing with the Fear of Rejection
My reliance on ineffective strategies for avoiding rejection meant I pushed people away and hurt those who remained. But, as the poet William Blake once said, ‘the fool who persists in his folly will become wise’. The cost of continuing with these strategies became too high, and I was forced to find a new way of approaching life.
Here are two strategies that can be highly effective for dealing with the fear of rejection:
Strategy 1 – Choosing to Feel Connected with Others
One common mistake we can make is to believe that it is our job to get everyone to like us. This approach is doomed to failure because:
• Not everyone is going to like us no matter how hard we try (even ‘saints’ have critics)
• We can’t really know for sure what other people think of us
• If we try too hard to develop a ‘likeable persona’, we can end up feeling like a fraud
• If we have low self-esteem, we probably won’t trust that those who seem to like us are being genuine
Things changed for me when I changed my focus to liking people rather than trying to get them to like me. It was the feeling of connection that I was always after, and it was wonderful to find that this something I could just choose to create – it wasn’t as if people could forbid me from liking them.
The more I choose to feel connected to others, the more my relationships improved. I was then able to like people without them having to display obvious signs of liking me, and it is even possible to feel a sense of connection with those who appeared hostile.
Loving-kindness (metta) meditation is a great tool for helping us develop this sense of connection.
Strategy 2 –Self-Soothing
There is likely a spectrum of situations and events that can trigger our fear of rejection. If we have previously put a lot of effort into avoiding any possibility of being hurt, it may mean this fear can be triggered by relatively minor incidents (e.g. another person fails to smile when we greet them and we feel hurt for hours afterwards).
Once the fear of rejection has been triggered, it needs to be acknowledged. If we try to ignore this discomfort, or tell ourselves ‘we are just being silly’, we are more likely to act out with habitual behaviors (e.g. turning to drugs). Our fear of rejection doesn’t mean we are weak or bad people, it is just a reaction the body has developed to keep us safe.
We self-sooth by learning to sit with any inner discomfort until it passes (this is closely related to self-compassion). The more we do this, the easier it becomes to handle feelings of rejection. This means we no longer need to try so hard to protect ourselves. We then become willing to fully open ourselves to others and be authentic because we know we can manage rejection when it arises.