Friday, 30 January 2009

Fear of Rejection

Below is an email I received recently about someone’s fear of rejection in a relationship, together with my response (I have changed the name at the writer’s request for anonymity):

Dear David,

I am hoping that you would be able to offer me advice. Basically I am struggling with starting relationships. I feel that I do want a boyfriend. I recently started dating a really nice guy but I rejected him because I have a massive fear of rejection (I felt quite smug about it, at least I did it first). I have always been rejected in my past relationships. I tend to feel the person I am dating would be happier with someone else, even though I have a lot to offer and I am a nice person. I want to break this unhealthy cycle as it is making me unhappy.

Please help!

Thank you


Hi Jane

Thank you for your question.

Fear of rejection is something that most, if not all, of us feel at some times and it can lead us to do funny things like, in your instance, trying to get in first and reject the other person even if you actually like them. Things which you might try to help with this could be:

1. If you get to a point to where you are about to reject someone foolishly because of your own fear of rejection, try any of the following –
• Create a little breathing space immediately before you intend to deliver the rejection and use that breathing space to try to assess more logically what you really want to do by writing down the good things about the relationship and reflecting on whether there is any genuine reason to end it or if it is just your irrational fear
• Speak to a reliable friend to explain what you are feeling and unburden yourself of some of the feeling of angst
• Do an activity that helps you to calm down – for example, walking or meditation or something enjoyable to have a break, like watching a light, humourous film.

2. At some point if you continue with a relationship you are going to need to explain to your partner the fear that you feel. This can be difficult because in doing so you are showing your own vulnerability. But in my view it is essential, because otherwise your partner may misunderstand your actions. You need to decide when is best to do this, but generally speaking if you can, you might try to explain it at a point when things are going well between you both, perhaps opening up about a past experience to give a context. This is a risk but it is a risk that is worth taking, because if the relationship is to succeed then this can help to increase communication and your partner may be able to support you. If it doesn’t succeed then it is quite likely the relationship wouldn’t have succeeded anyway.

3. Remember that we all have problems in relationships – your particular problem is that of fear of rejection. Your partner may have that problem too or else other problems. If you can be supportive and show understanding of your partner’s problems that may also be an opportunity for you to begin to explain the difficulties that you have and for you to understand each other better. If the relationship is going to work then it is likely that he will be supportive too then - if not, then he may not be worth it.

Blog Post Written by Life Coach David
For Information about David's Telephone Coaching Sessions & Fees Call 0117 230 3119

1 comment:

  1. All sound advice there, but there is a more powerful way of dealing with this fear by reframing it somewhat. We need to discover the intention behind her fear.

    She should ask herself what rejection really represents to her, and what she feels is in danger of being rejected. On its own, the work 'rejection' means very little, it needs context. Maybe the other party is just not in the mood, not connecting with her because of her anxiety, or maybe he's just not ready to embark on the same journey and needs a more gentle, casual relationship. It's extremely rare for people to reject others outright, most people are essentially kind and loving if given an opportunity to display it.

    So what is the real reason for this fear. Your correspondent should ask herself what lies behind the fear. If the word 'rejection' were not available, how would she define the anxiety? Could it be a need for validation? Or maybe a fear of loss? To me it sounds like she has a deeper need for control and fears a sense of being out of control (evidenced by the comment 'at least I got there first'). Genuine love is about surrender anyway, is this something that she's afraid of?

    Could it be that as a result, she's not letting herself go with her relationships and not really allowing herself to feel her feelings in case she gets hurt. The irony here being that putting up such barriers will eventually almost *guarantee* rejection from all but the most sensitive of partners.

    I think once you have a handle on the actual fear or anxiety behind it it becomes far easier to address and deal with the specific issue, whether by visualisation or other exercises to install choice, else you're laying a catch-all carpet on top that doesn't quite fit the corners, and that's just going to end up scruffy and awkward. This takes a lot of honesty with onesself, but the question is what's more important, overcoming a limiting belief, or protecting onesself from one's weaknesses?

    If it helps at all, to my mind the whole notion of success and failure, and to a similar degree acceptance or rejection is an personal interpretation and doesn't represent any absolute. If you can teach yourself to see every experience as a positive learning opportunity, that can help to relieve a significant amount of anxiety approaching situations. Each "failure" or "rejection" becomes something to learn and grow from meaning you become stronger and wiser and in the future you're better armed to deal with the situation should it arise again.

    Do this and your positivity will shine through, which as a nice side effect will make rejection a far less likely outcome.