FEAR OF REJECTION – The Symptoms, Impact and Treatment

Fear of rejection is an unpleasant experience. Of course, everyone wants to be loved and accepted as who they are, but the reality of life is that everyone has been rejected at some point in their lifetime. However, some people are more sensitive to rejection and react quicker than others because they fear rejection. Sometimes the symptoms are subtle, and people are not necessarily aware of their fear of rejection. Fear of rejection can impact your life and your relationships, but the good news is that it is treatable.

The symptoms

People who are very sensitive to rejection live in fear most of their life and often pre-empt rejection or look for a sign of rejection. Some of the symptoms include (but are not limited to):

1. Being negative easily

These people interpret things through their fear of rejection “glasses” and will look for evidence that someone doesn’t want to be with them, be suspicious towards others’ motivation, or take offence quickly. They tend to misinterpret and overreact to what others say or do and sometimes even accuse others. For instance, when someone talks to another person but not to them, they will interpret it as “they ignore my presence”, “they don’t like me”, “they’re talking about me”, “they exclude me”, while this may not be the case at all.

2. Display anger

When they feel rejected, they often express their pain through anger. People who fear rejection use their anger to protect themselves from getting hurt. At the same time, others see their anger as an overreaction, out of proportion and out of context.

3. Lack of objective self-observation

Since they focus on what others say or do and have negative interpretations of it, they result in a lack of self-observation on their behaviour. Consequently, they spiral down with their negativity, making them unable to reflect on themselves objectively. Therefore, they may contradict themselves between their expectation of others and themselves.

4. Easily teary

They become highly sensitive, which makes them easily teary, and sometimes they cannot stop crying. These people feel sorry for themselves and often victimize themselves, seeing the world as an unhappy place. They are prone to anxiety and depression.

The impact

People who live in fear of rejection are not necessarily aware of the impact of their behaviour on their life and their relationships. Their fear of rejection can impact both their personal and professional life.

1. Push others away

As they are negative, they behave in a way that makes others pull away from them. They then use this reality as evidence or proof of what they want to believe that others reject them. Their negative perception of others will push others away, even more, creating a vicious cycle in their life.

2. Loneliness and isolation

As they push others away, this can leave them feeling alone and lonely and isolated. Even though they may be in a relationship and have children, they feel lonely. Because of their negativity and sensitivity, they make themselves unattractive, causing others not to want to be around them.

3. Relationship difficulties

People who fear rejection commonly project it on their marriage/relationship too. They will keep seeking reassurance from their spouse/partner, which will exhaust their spouse/partner. Their sensitivity and reactions will create many tensions in their relationship, often unresolved and complicating their relationship’s problems. The unresolved and accumulated issues can result in unhappiness in their relationship and sometimes result in separation and divorce.

4. Lack of boundaries

Commonly they don’t have boundaries and overdo everything to be accepted by others. Some may be unable to speak up for themselves or voice their concerns because of fear of rejection. The lack of boundaries can lead them to disappointment, resentment and burn-out. When they start putting some boundaries, others may not be happy, and they will feel even more rejected.

 5. Lack of confidence

Slowly the vicious cycle will erode their self-confidence. As they rely on others’ opinions and constantly doing things to be accepted. As a result, some may be confused and not trust their judgement, thus losing their self-confidence.

The treatment

It is possible to treat people who fear rejection. However, you may need professional help to deal with your fear of rejection. It would be best if you shop around to find a therapist who is a good fit for you and who can help you. Some areas of your life that need to be addressed or worked on are:

1. Looking at the core issue of fear of rejection

The fear of rejection often stems from childhood experiences with the caregiver. If you have developed an insecure attachment with your caregiver (generally with the mother), you may develop a fear of rejection. Therefore, working with a competent therapist is essential.

2. Change the belief system

Working on your core issue of fear of rejection will help you change your belief system, and actions will follow through. Often we try to change our actions without changing our belief of why we do it. Changing your belief is vital to changing your actions. Changing your belief will help you to be more positive towards others and your surroundings. As a result, you will attract people to draw near to you.

3. Trauma

People who have some trauma live with the fear of rejection. Trauma is not limited to Childhood Sexual Abuse, but it can be from other types of abuse – physical, emotional, mental/psychological, bullying, etc. The impact of trauma is enormous, and you need to work on it to be free from the fear of rejection and have a more productive life. You may need to work on this with a therapist.

4. Build your relationship

As you become more positive, it will help you deepen your emotional connection with your spouse/partner and your children and loved ones. It will require you to be vulnerable, even though that may create room for rejection and hurt. However, as you develop a stronger and healthier relationship, it will reduce your loneliness and isolation.

5. Look at the positive side

Doing some exercises like jotting down one or two positive things each day will help you to learn to be happier with your life. Train yourself by asking the positive side of others or situations each time you feel rejected, e.g. “maybe that person has something personal and important to talk to others”, instead of “they don’t like me.”

Some people may have a fear of rejection because they have a Personality Disorder such as Avoidant Personality Disorder, etc., which needs special treatment and need to be appropriately diagnosed.

The good news is that the fear of rejection, whether or not due to a Personality Disorder, is treatable, and the sooner you get professional help, the better your life will be.

You are welcome to contact us if you have some concerns or questions, and we are happy to assist you.