Addiction and Relationships

How to overcome the fear of rejection

When you’re on the receiving end of rejection, it feels anything, but good. Rejection can be painful and if you’ve been rejected before, you can become fearful of it happening again. How do you overcome your fear, to enjoy the dating process?

I know from my own experience and from my coaching practice that fear of rejection is one of the reasons many people stay away from dating for many months or even years. They may make a conscious decision to do so, or their behavior may be driven subconsciously. Maybe you pay for a dating site, but don’t send any messages. Perhaps, you stay busy with work and don’t make time for romance. Staying out of the dating game is a form of self-protection.

Fear of rejection is also the reason why some people choose relationships with partners who aren’t good for them, whom they don’t find attractive.  If y0u’re not invested in the relationship, it won’t hurt so much if the person leaves you. This is another form of self-protection.

Our goal is to date happily, to date confidently and to date people we actually want to have a relationship. So, it’s important to understand why rejection hurts so much and to build an emotional resilience, where we’re not scared to fall in love.

These four steps might help:

1) Stay emotionally healthy

When someone rejects you, often your first thought is that there’s something wrong with you. There’s an assumption that you’re not attractive enough, slim enough, smart enough or young enough. Your self-esteem takes a knock. It’s natural to want to be wanted, to want to be chosen or picked. Rejection hurts. But it will hurt far less if you are dating with a healthy self-esteem, a strong sense of worth and a good degree of emotional resilience.

When we go dating with a deep yearning for love, affirmation and validation, we are ultra-sensitive to rejection. So, the best thing we can do is to spend time, before the dating process, loving and affirming ourselves, building up our self-esteem and strengthening our emotional core or our inner oak tree, as I like to call it. Are we feeling steady and stable? Are we well nourished and nurtured? Are we well supported? If we can answer ‘Yes’ to these questions, we won’t be so scared of rejection and we’ll bounce back quickly from it.

2) Put things in perspective

If we are emotionally stable with healthy self-esteem, it will be much easier to put rejection into perspective. We’ll be able to step back, see the big picture and realize that the fact that we’ve been rejected says more about the other person than it does about us. They are looking for someone different. They believe there is another man or woman who’s more suited to them.

That is their prerogative, just as it yours – because we all get to choose. We get to accept someone or reject them based on whether we think we’re a good match. There are indeed many more fish in the sea (many clichés are true!). The sooner we’re able to allow this particular person to move on by, the sooner we’ll be able to meet someone else that’s right for us.

3) Heal from past hurts

There’s an expression I often use in my coaching and writing: if it’s hysterical, it’s historical. In other words, if our reaction is exaggerated and disproportionate to the circumstance, it’s likely that our past has invaded our present and that the incident is triggering painful memories. This is particularly important in the context of rejection.

Many of us experienced some form of rejection when we were young. Perhaps we were born prematurely and spent time in an incubator, which felt like abandonment to our tiny minds. Maybe our father or mother worked away. which left a feeling of rejection. Perhaps your parents divorced, which left you feeling a sense of abandonment and rejection by the one that moved out.  And when we were young, we weren’t emotionally mature, nor did we have the support around us to process and heal our painful feelings. So, the pain got stored inside. In my case, I found ways to avoid my pain, including binge eating, drinking too much and working too hard.

Many years later, getting rejected by someone you’re dating, the pain feels overwhelming again. You may only have been together for a few weeks or months, but you’re devastated. This is because the pain in the present has triggered the pain from your past – prompting an avalanche of multi-layered emotions. You can avoid this avalanche effect, if you take time to understand the hurt that is buried deep in your subconscious,  and to process, so the pain goes away.

4) Reach out for support

Some people will be able to overcome their fear of rejection simply by practicing lots of self-love and self-care, and by maintaining a healthy self-esteem. Others may require additional support, especially to process the deeper hurts that might be blocking them from a healthy relationship. Over the years, I’ve had lots of support from friends, fellow professionals and this has enabled me to work through my fears of abandonment, rejection and loss, which has lead to a committed relationship. If you feel that you need support, I encourage you to reach out to others and to give yourself this gift.

Dating can be scary, and committed relationships require a huge leap of faith. It’s OK to be frightened. I hope these steps help equip you to find courage and confidence in dating and to enjoy the process.

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