The fear of rejection is a well-known factor in personal relationships, but it can also have a big impact on your career. You might avoid going after a promotion because you don’t want to feel the shame and pain if it goes to someone else. Or, you might text a contact about an exciting potential partnership — and when they don’t respond immediately, discard the idea out of fear. This type of behavior can derail your professional trajectory, so it’s important not to let the fear of rejection rule your life. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Anxiety about rejection is often rooted deep in the subconscious, which is why so many people struggle to take bold actions. When you identify the source of the issue, it’s easier to make changes and push through the fear.
Breaking Down the Fear of Rejection
The fear of rejection is a natural human response. After all, it hurts to be refused or scorned. You’re not imagining it; research shows that rejection and physical pain increase activity in the same areas of the brain. Once you’ve felt that discomfort, your brain will go out of its way to avoid a repeat experience. To keep you safe from pain, your brain creates a fear response. Intellectually, you know that you’ll survive the potential rejection — and maybe be better for it — but emotionally, the possibility feels untenable. Sometimes, fear stems from anxiety and conscious thoughts. You might be afraid that if someone rejects you, it’s proof that you’re worthless or untalented. For some people, a fear of rejection is a symptom of a larger social anxiety disorder. What is fear of rejection called when it’s severe? Although it’s not an official clinical diagnosis, the condition is occasionally called rejection sensitive dysphoria.
What If Your Fear of Rejection Feels Paralyzing?
There’s an element of self-preservation in a fear of rejection. Left unchecked, however, that fear can grow into an unwieldy, unmanageable presence in your life. It can prompt you to avoid situations and activities with big potential benefits, such as applying for your dream job or sending your book proposal to agents. If you’re feeling paralyzed by the fear of being rejected or refused, it’s time to take action. In most cases, this fear doesn’t serve you — it makes you miss out on opportunities that could benefit you personally, professionally and financially.
How Does a Fear of Rejection Hold You Back?
The fear of rejection can hold you back from valuable experiences, including:
- Professional growth: Fear can hinder you from leaving an unsuitable job, going for promotions, asking for raises or applying for new positions. This results in slow or limited professional growth.
- New opportunities: When you’re worried that other people will reject you, it’s harder to take big chances. That means you’re less likely to take action on exciting ideas: starting a side hustle, opening your own business or switching careers completely.
- Healthy relationships: To avoid the possibility that your boss or colleagues might reject you, you might behave in ways that sabotage your work relationships. For example, you may need constant reassurance from a supervisor or avoid standing up for yourself in discussions. In some cases, fear can lead to unwarranted suspicion and negative comparisons.
- Work-life balance: A fear of rejection can lead to extreme people-pleasing, often to your own detriment. You might find yourself accepting unwanted tasks, responsibilities and invitations. If you’re worried that your boss will find you wanting, it’s easy to overwork yourself trying to be the perfect employee. This can lead to resentment, stress and burnout.
- Networking: Have you ever avoided a conference or happy hour because you were worried that the other attendees wouldn’t accept you? When this happens, you miss out on new relationships that could enhance your life or career.
Tips To Overcome Fear of Rejection
The fear of rejection can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. With conscious action, you can overcome the fear and learn to take chances with confidence. Be patient with yourself; it takes time to rewire your neural pathways.
1. Expose Yourself to Rejection
A deep fear of rejection can make you worry that you won’t survive the experience. To reassure your subconscious that everything will be okay, try a variation of exposure therapy — intentionally put yourself in situations where rejection is likely. The key is to start small and be persistent. Choose rejection therapy ideas that are uncomfortable but inconsequential. Offer your business card to passersby at a trade show, request a discount on your morning coffee or ask a colleague for assistance. The constant exposure to the possibility of rejection can lessen the intensity of your emotional response and make it easier to take big chances in the future.
2. Actively Stop Fearful Thoughts
When you find yourself consumed with fear and worry, take action. Pay attention to your thoughts. Any time a fearful idea pops into your head, say to yourself, “No. I am not thinking that.” This strategy can prevent the anxiety from escalating and let you move forward. Some people find it helpful to add a physical reinforcement, such as snapping a rubber band or making a tight fist.
3. Focus on the Benefits
Once you’ve stopped a negative thought, change your focus. Think about what you stand to gain from the intimidating action. The more you concentrate on the positive, the harder it is to think about your fears. In the words of Esther Jno-Charles, “What you focus on expands.”
4. Grieve Rejections
When you’re trying to fight a fear of rejection, it’s tempting to ignore your feelings and bury the pain. Instead, practice a key part of emotional intelligence — feel your feelings. Sit with the pain, grief and shame, and let your natural reactions flow through your body and mind. As the pain starts to feel less intense, you can let it go and move on. When your negative emotions aren’t bottled up, they’re less likely to affect you in the future.
Don’t Let the Fear of Rejection Rule Your Life
If you’re struggling to overcome a fear of rejection, professional counselors can help. Contact us today at (8777) 258-1697 to discover how we can help you move through your fear and live a happier, healthier life.