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Are you afraid of rejection?

Are you afraid to ask for help even though you needed it?

Do you like someone but don’t dare to ask them out on a date?

You don’t take action because you are afraid of hearing the word “no”.

This month’s theme for my 2016 Self-Love Project is about relating to others. As I come close to the end of my Self-Love Project, I want to talk a bit about external factors.

We can do as much inner work we want. We can love ourselves. But the real test comes when we face the world and other people. Will other people’s actions and words affect how we see ourselves? This month we will explore that.

Rejection is definitely one of the things which make us doubt ourselves.

Fear of rejection can come in many forms.

Here are some examples and signs of fear of rejection.

Examples and Signs of Fear of Rejection

  • Dating anxiety: You are afraid if you say or do something wrong, your date may have a bad impression of you.
  • People-pleasing: You find it difficult to say no to others. You think if you don’t reject others, other people won’t reject you too.
  • Excessive reassurance seeking: You care too much about what other people think. So you constantly want to check if your opinions and actions are accepted by others or not.
  • Do it all by yourself: You don’t ask for help because each time you ask, there’s a chance others may reject you. So you come up with excuses for why you need to do it all by yourself.
  • Be someone you are not: You hide your authentic self because you are unsure if others like what they see.
  • Don’t try anything: If you don’t try anything, don’t pursue your dreams or relationships, you would never get rejected.

People do all or some of the above consciously or subconsciously because they are afraid of being rejected by others.

But why are we so afraid of rejections? Why do we try our best to avoid rejections? Here’s why rejection hurts so much.

Why Are We Afraid of Rejection?

If you ask someone out and they say no, how would that make you feel?

Those with good self-esteem would try again another time or ask someone else instead. Those with low self-esteem may think that the other person doesn’t like them or doesn’t like hanging out with them.

Rejection hurts because we take it too personally. We let other people’s perceptions of us and their actions determine our self-worth. Being accepted makes us feel valued while being rejected invalidates us.

But the truth is it’s not how others see us that is the problem. It’s how we see others see us that is the problem.

Self-rejection hurts more than rejection.

When someone rejects you, it may be because they are busy, it’s not an activity they are interested in or they simply don’t wish to go out. It might not have anything to do with you. But most of us think we are the cause of rejection.

We think we aren’t good enough for another person or a group. We despised ourselves for being too emotional, too weak, too materialistic. Even since young, when our parents didn’t give us the attention we needed or were too carried away with their own problems, we misinterpreted that as we are not lovable.

And it’s these voices in our heads that create the most suffering, not the rejection itself. With or without rejections, these voices still persist. Rejections just reaffirm those false, negative beliefs we have for ourselves.

That’s why we are so afraid of rejections. We are afraid that our negative perception of ourselves is true.

How to Get Over Fear of Rejection

1. Look for any signs of self-rejection.

Recently, I watched this local TV drama about ex-convicts taking another shot in life. Even when given a second chance in relationship and work, some of them turned down new opportunities because they thought they are undeserving. It was only after the female lead told them off and encouraged them that they had the courage to accept the opportunities.

People can’t reject you if you don’t reject yourself.

Most of the time, we reject ourselves before others have a chance to reject us. When I was writing my book, Fearless Passion, I felt a bit disheartened when I didn’t receive any reply from the people I wanted to interview. The voices in the head started to discourage me, saying: “Why would anyone want to be interviewed by a self-published author like me? I’m a nobody.”

Lucky for me, I was aware of the impact of these negative self-talk. So I shook the voices off.

Later, I started getting replies from the people I sent emails to. One of them even apologized for replying so late. She said my email ended up in her spam folder. She wasn’t rejecting me! Non-acceptance doesn’t always mean rejection.

Don’t always assume people will reject you and reject yourself first.

2. Challenge your fear.

The best way to overcome fear is to examine your limiting beliefs. What your mind tells you may not always be true. It’s always looking for patterns in the past to associate and predict the future. But what happened in the past doesn’t always correlate to the future. 

So be skeptical when listening to your thoughts. Don’t believe everything it says.

Read The Fifth Agreement on the power of doubt.

You can’t be sure whether you will get rejected or not until you try.

I have an exercise in my book, Fearless Passion, that gets people to question their fear. It’s called “Conduct a fair trial”. Here are the steps:

  1. Identify what your fear tells you.
  2. Create a rebuttal statement against what they tell you.
  3. Produce a final verdict on by identifying the areas you need growth in.

Basically, I want to hear both sides of a story before making a decision. If my fear tells me that I would be rejected because I’m not good enough, I want to hear why it thinks I’m not good enough and also why this might not be true. And if the fear of rejection is a result of me not feeling good about myself, then I would want to improve my self-esteem.

Read what Jia Jiang learns from his “100 Days of Rejection” journey in his book, Rejection Proof.

3. Prepare more, predict less.

Fear is caused when we believe something bad or dangerous is going to happen. But if you expect that you are likely to be rejected, why not prepare more? Rather than spending time predicting if you will get rejected or not, why not spend the time to increase your chances of being accepted?

Focus on getting accepted instead of focus on being rejected.

If there’s any part of you that you don’t love, do more work on yourself. If you don’t meet the criteria of a job, make sure you get the criteria met. And if you don’t know what criteria others are looking for, ask. Don’t let your fear stop you from moving forward.

Fear is just a prediction of what might happen, it’s neither the outcome nor the truth. But the more you are afraid of rejection and focus on it, the more likely it will come true because you aren’t doing anything else to get yourself accepted. This is what most people called the self-fulfilling prophecy.

So prepare more and predict less. As you prepare more and gain more confidence, your fear will subside.

4. Ask yourself what happens when you get rejected.

Have you ever asked what happens if you get rejected? Will you become devastated and miserable? Will you feel hopeless about the future and undermine your own self-worth?

Often, our fear exaggerates the impact and outcome of rejections. It’s usually not as bad as what we thought it would be.

Fear is actually much worse than rejection. 

It brings you back to the past where you were rejected. It keeps you in uncertainty. If you didn’t do something you wanted to do, at the back of your mind, you would always be wondering what could have happened if you have the courage to do it.

At least for rejection, you have a definite answer — no. It’s certain. And you can decide what action to take next.

I’m not asking you to try everything. But if it’s something worthy of you to try and you know will regret later if you don’t try it, then do it. If it’s not, don’t even worry about rejection. Just don’t do it. Cross it out of your to-do-list and don’t think about it anymore.

5. Know that there’s nothing wrong with fear.

Even though this blog post is about overcoming fear, there’s actually nothing wrong with having fear. Fear is an emotional response. When you think about the possibility of being rejected, your brain responded with emotions that make you feel humiliated, worthless, pathetic, etc. That’s understandable.

However, everyone has fears. It’s what you do despite your fear that is important.

Action silences fear.

Don’t wait till you have zero fear before you act. Fear doesn’t go away until you take action. When you take action, your fear will have no purpose to exist. Most people believe that fear stops them from taking action. The truth is non-action feeds our fear.

Both fear and rejection present an opportunity for growth. When there’s a roadblock in front of you, don’t see it as a dead-end. Figure out a way to get over it — climb over, crawl under, move sideways, or squeeze through it. Act despite your fear of rejection and only react after you take the action. Not before.

Featured Photo Credit: Love you so / amanda tipton