How to Overcome the Fear of Rejection and Regain Your Self-Confidence

Bo Bennett

A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.

This is the first of a two part series about rejection:

What Exactly is the Fear of Rejection?

The fear of rejection is an irrational fear that has you convinced that people won’t accept you for one or more reasons. Maybe you fear that they won’t accept your opinions, values, beliefs or behavior. No matter what it is, one thing is clear: This is a very debilitating fear that significantly influences your daily decisions and action. In fact, while under the influence of this fear you will do things differently than you normally would if you didn’t fear rejection. For this very reason, your fear of rejection is likely to impact your career prospects, your relationship prospects, as well as your everyday social interactions.

What is the Fear of Rejection

The Consequences of Succumbing to the Fear of Rejection

Living with the fear of rejection can be quite detrimental as it will influence and impact many aspects of your life. Let’s take a look at some of the consequences of this debilitating fear and how it can negatively influence your livelihood:

An Inability to Share Your Opinion

Fearing rejection often makes you feel as though you’re incapable or simply unable to express your own personal opinions about certain things because you fear that other people might disapprove. In fact, this can become so debilitating that you literally won’t do or say anything that goes against the grain of other people’s opinions even if you’re clearly of a different mind.

Excessively Copying Other People

The fear or rejection has such a strong hold over your life that you are afraid to be different — afraid to be uniquely yourself. As a result you end up copying how other people act, talk, and dress. You might even adopt other people’s values and beliefs, and as a result you begin to live this illusory life that has absolutely no basis in reality.

There is nothing wrong with modeling other people. You do it all the time. In fact, everybody does it all the time without conscious thought. However, there is a significant difference between modeling someone’s behavior to adopt it as your own, and copying someone behavior out of fear of rejection. Modeling comes from your intention to improve yourself and your livelihood. In such instances you are modeling other people’s behavior but staying true to who you are. You are modeling others to improve yourself. On the other hand, copying is something that you do out of fear. You essentially lose who you are in order to please other people.

Basing Your Emotions on Other People’s Feelings

Because you fear rejection, you are basing your emotions upon other people’s feelings, comments, criticism and/or praise. This implies that you have an external locus of control, which means that your entire livelihood, happiness and fulfillment is dependent on external factors. In this case it is based on what other people think and say about you. As a consequence your life is an emotional roller coaster ride. One day you’re feeling great, and the next day your emotions are spiraling out of control because of how others may have responded to your decisions or actions. You have essentially lost all sense of identity as you struggle for acceptance.

Excessive Neediness

You might not realize this, but your fear of rejection is coming across as a sense of neediness.

Since you don’t express your own opinion about life and circumstances, and since your sense of identity rests in other people’s hands, you tend to become very needy. You rely on other people to make you feel happy, you crave positive attention, and you find it extremely difficult to say no.

Getting Manipulated and Taken for Granted

Other people can sense that you are needy, and that you seek constant approval. As a result they will either manipulate you for their own purposes, or they will just literally take you for granted. Either way you lose.

People like to associate with others who are confident and who value their own personal worth. These are the kind of people that are rarely manipulated or taken for granted. They are the kind of people you should model and build your life upon.

Feelings of Guilt and Dissatisfaction

To live with the fear of rejection, is to live a life of extreme dissatisfaction and guilt. You’re never truly happy because happiness comes from within, and your happiness is built upon what others do, say or think about you. All this stems back to a lack of self-esteem, which is the area you should begin focusing on immediately.

The Evolution of Your Fear of Rejection

You were not born with the fear of rejection. It’s not a natural part of the human psyche. There are in fact reasons why you fear rejection. Let’s look at some of them in a little detail:

Lacking Self-Esteem

The primary reason is often a lack of self-esteem. You fear rejection because you have a low value and opinion of yourself. This means that you look to others for cues to help you feel better about yourself, and as a result this leads to the fear of being rejected if for any reason they don’t approve of you.

Often low self-esteem stems back to childhood experience. Certain events might have taken place that made you doubt your own personal sense of worth. It could even have been one significant traumatic experience of rejection that changed everything. As a result you became insecure and lacked the necessary belief in yourself that would help you to create your own identity in this world.

Lacking Self-Confidence

A lack of self-confidence often stems from not having a sense of accomplishment. You don’t feel as though you have achieved anything of significance in this world. This might be a result of being stuck in a constricting comfort zone or might result from a plethora of other fears that are robbing you of your livelihood. As such you lack worldly experience, and this causes you to hesitate. And so as a result you look to others for cues of what you should or shouldn’t do in specific situations.

There is essentially nothing wrong with this, as long as your intention is to learn and grow from the experience to then later do things independently. However, if your intention is merely to win the approval and acceptance of these people, then the fear of rejection will have a significant impact on your life.

Lacking Social Skills

The fear of rejection can also be a result of a lack of social skills, which could stem from long periods of social isolation you experienced at a younger age.

If you don’t have the necessary social skills to make your way in the world, then you are likely to depend more on other people to give you the necessary cues that will help you figure things out. This is all well and good. In fact, this is an ideal way to learn more about the world and your social environment. However, it doesn’t work so well when your dependence on other people outweighs your desire for independence. As a result you don’t try and learn and grow from the experience, but rather rely on other people to dictate how you will feel from moment-to-moment.

Constantly Being Compared to Others

Fear of rejection can often stem from the fact that you were constantly compared to other people while growing up. This constant comparison has convinced you that you must now imitate other people’s behavior, values, beliefs, opinions and more in order to be accepted into their world.

You don’t feel as though you’re good enough, and you therefore have a need to be someone you’re not in order find acceptance and approval. As a result, you have a strong desire to meet people’s expectations of you, and this often leads to your reliance on other people’s opinions to help support your sense of self.

The Evolution of the Fear of Rejection

The Fear of Rejection Symptoms to Look Out for

It is very possible that you suffer from the fear or rejection without even knowing about it. Sometimes the fear of rejection is something that can creep up on you suddenly and it often hides behind the veil of the numerous excuses you tend to make on a daily basis about your life and circumstances. It’s time to uncover the veil and open yourself up to the fact that this fear is real and that it has a significant stranglehold over your life.

Have a read of the following symptoms of the fear of rejection and determine how many of them are currently manifesting in your life:

  • You lack assertiveness when it comes to your social interactions.
  • You lack courage to speak up and raise a different point of view.
  • You lack a sense of personal identity.
  • You are dissatisfied with life, but instead of vocalizing it openly, you tend to internalize this sadness and anger within.
  • You’re consistently wearing different masks to please other people.
  • You feel as though other people have some kind of superiority over you.
  • You’re obsessed with acting and looking like other people.
  • You’re extremely conscious of what other people think of you.
  • You’re afraid to say no and express your opinion.

How many of these symptoms are prevalent in your life?

The more of these symptoms you just checked off your list, the more influence the fear of rejection has over your life, decisions and actions. And this is perfectly okay. Acknowledgement and acceptance is always the first step to change.

Now that you are consciously aware that this is an area of your life that needs improving, you can therefore take the necessary steps to rectify things for the better.

Symptoms of the Fear of Rejection

How to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection

The fear of rejection is just like any other fear. And just like any other fear it can take some time for you to work through this fear and successfully overcome it. It will certainly take patience, hard work and dedication on your part. The journey will not be easy, because habits are not often easy to break. However, the rewards at the end of this journey will help you to gain your freedom and make your own independent way in this world without needing to rely on other people’s approval.

Step 1: Identify What You Want

In order to overcome the fear of rejection, you must first identify what it is you want and why you want it. You must have reasons for wanting to overcome the fear of rejection. Without any legitimate reasons, you will have very little motivation to make the necessary changes in your life. Ask yourself:

What do I want?

Why is this important to me?

How will I benefit?

What will I miss out on if I don’t act right now to overcome my fear of rejection?

The final question on this lists creates pain by pinpointing the consequences of inaction. This is often not a question that’s easy to think about. However, it’s very important that you answer it honestly. The answer to this question will hopefully help provide you with the motivation you need to overcome your fear of rejection.

Step 2: Gain Proper Perspective and Clarity

To overcome any fear, you must first gain proper perspective and clarity about the fear. To do this, begin by identifying what it is exactly you fear. Ask yourself:

What type of rejection do I fear?

Whose rejection do I fear? Why?

Now you know what specifically you are working with. However, you still need more information about what specifically you do when you are experiencing the fear of rejection. For this very reason, it’s important that you identify the unhelpful behaviors you tend to indulge in. Ask yourself:

How do I behave when I fear rejection?

How is this unhelpful?

How is this hurting me?

This now gives you enough information about your fear that you can work with. Your next step is to identify more resourceful behaviors that you might be able to use instead to help you work through the fear of rejection. Ask yourself:

How else could I approach this situation?

How else could I think about this situation?

How could this be helpful?

Finally, have a think about the potential obstacles that you might need to work through in order to overcome your fear of rejection. Ask yourself:

What potential obstacles stand in my way?

Are these obstacles real or imagined?

How will I overcome these obstacles?

The obstacles you face can be real or imagined. In fact, when it comes to the fear of rejection, many of the obstacles you face are only in your head. And because they are in your head, you can most certainly overcome them as long as you’re honest with yourself and committed to making a change for the better.

Overcoming the Fear of Rejection

Step 3: Commit to Improvement

Overcoming the fear of rejection isn’t a one-and-done sort of thing. It’s an ongoing process that you must consciously work through until you develop the necessary confidence you need to no longer concern yourself about whether or not someone will accept you. This requires that you commit to ongoing self-improvement that will help you build your self-esteem over time. For this to happen, you must take time to master two fundamental skill.

You live in a social world. And as a result you interact daily with other social beings. During these social interactions you risk being criticized, judged and rejected. This is an unavoidable part of life. It’s the way life is, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Even though you can’t control what other people will think or do, you can however minimize the likelihood and the impact that rejection has on you by developing your social skills and your ability to assert yourself when required.

The better you are in social situations, and the more assertive you are when it comes to stating your opinion and asking for what you want, the more confidence you will have within yourself that no matter what happens, you will be more than capable of dealing with any social rejection that you experience. And the more confidence you have within yourself, the more confidence others will have in you, and before you know it the tables have turned. Others will suddenly look to you for guidance and support. They will look to you for acceptance and approval. And they might even end up modeling themselves upon your new found confidence.

Time to Assimilate these Concepts

The Fear of Rejection

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam's story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.