post written by: Marc Chernoff

7 Smart Ways to Stop Fearing Rejection


7 Smart Ways to Stop Fearing Rejection

When you’re feeling insecure, you typically don’t notice the hundreds of people around you who accept you just the way you are.  All you notice are the few who don’t.

In what way is the fear of rejection holding you back?  How would your life be different if you didn’t care whether everyone liked you and agreed with you, or not?

To answer these questions, we must understand that the vast majority of our fears and anxieties amount to one thing:  Loss.

We fear:

  • Losing our youth.
  • Losing our social status.
  • Losing our money.
  • Losing control.
  • Losing our comfort.
  • Losing our life.
  • Etc.

We also fear, perhaps more than anything else, being rejected by others.  This kind of fear is widespread and debilitating if left unaddressed.  Why is this fear so deeply entrenched in us?  In ancient tribal times, being rejected from the safety of the community could have meant death.  So it’s no wonder, really, that we want to be accepted by others.

Fear is an instinctual human emotion designed to keep us aware and safe – like the headlights on a car clearly illuminating the twists and turns on the road ahead.  But too much fear, like high beams blinding us on a dark, foggy road, can cause the loss of the very thing we feared losing in the first place.

This is especially true when it comes to fear of rejection.  Let me give you an example from my own life:

When I was a teenager, I was always the outcast trying desperately to fit in with my peers.  I bounced around to three different schools, and various social circles in each school within a four-year timespan, and I faced rejection after rejection.  I can distinctly remember shooting hoops on the basketball court by myself on numerous occasions, always the new kid, always longing for acceptance.

For the longest time, I thought these childhood “outcast” experiences were the root cause of my obsessive, people-pleasing ways in my adulthood.  In my twenties, I was always looking for signs that others didn’t like me.  I would seek reassurance, always wondering what people “really” thought of me.

Do you look for acceptance and reassurance from others too?

Constantly seeking acceptance and reassurance from other people is a dead end.  These things can only be found within you, not from others.  Why?  Because any look, word, or reaction from someone else can be warped and misinterpreted as an upcoming rejection when it simply isn’t.

My fear also extended beyond my personal relationships.  I was a budding writer and hesitated to start “Marc and Angel Hack Life” for several months, for fear of having my writing judged and rejected by others.

In this post I want to share some tips that helped me feel self-assured and eventually allowed me to overcome my fear of rejection.

1.  Realize that fear itself is the real enemy.

Franklin D. Roosevelt so profoundly said, “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  This is especially true as it relates to self-fulfilling prophecies.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a false belief about a situation that motivates the person with the belief to take actions that cause the belief to come true.  This kind of thinking often kills opportunities and tears relationships apart.  For instance, you might wrongly believe that a group of people will reject you, so you become defensive, anxious, and perhaps even hostile with them.  Eventually, your behavior brings about the feared rejection, which wasn’t there to begin with.  And then you, ‘the prophet,’ feels that you were right from the very beginning: “I knew they didn’t like me!”

Do you see how this works?  Look carefully at your own tendencies.  How do your fears and beliefs about possible rejection influence your behavior toward others?  Take a stand.  Instead of letting fear show you what might be wrong in your relationships, start looking for signs of what might be right.

2.  Let go of your “end of the world” thinking.

All variations of fear, including the fear of rejection, thrive on “end of the world” thinking.  In other words, our emotions convince us that an undesirable outcome results in annihilation.

  • What if they don’t like me?
  • What if he rejects me?
  • What if I don’t fit in and I’m left sitting alone at the party?
  • Etc.

None of these things result in the “end of the world,” but if we convince ourselves that they do, we will irrationally fear these outcomes and give our fears control over us.  The truth is, we – human beings – are inefficient at accurately predicting how future misfortune will make us feel.  In fact, most of the time we avoid consciously thinking about it all together, which only perpetuates our subconscious fears.

So ask yourself: “If disaster should strike, and my fear of being rejected comes true, what are three constructive ways I could cope and move forward with my life?”  Sit down and tell yourself a story (write it down too if it helps) about how you will feel after rejection, how you will allow yourself to be upset for a short while, and then how you will begin the process of growing from the experience and moving on.  Just doing this exercise will help you to feel less fear around the possibility of rejection.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” and “Relationships” chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  Question what “rejection” really means.

If a person discovers a 200-carat white diamond in the earth but, due to ignorance, believes it to be worthless, and thus tosses it aside, does this tell us more about the diamond or the person?  Along the same lines, when one person rejects another, it reveals a lot more about the “rejecter” than the “rejected.”  All you are really seeing is the, often shortsighted, opinion of one person.  Consider the following…

If J.K. Rowling stopped after being rejected by multiple publishers for years, there would be no Harry Potter.  If Howard Schultz gave up after being turned down by banks 200+ times, there would be no Starbucks.  If Walt Disney quit too soon after his theme park concept was trashed by 300+ investors, there would be no Disney World.

One thing is for sure: If you give too much power to the opinions of others, you will become their prisoner.  So never let someone’s opinion alter your reality.  Never sacrifice who you are, or who you aspire to be, just because someone else has a problem with it.  Love who you are inside and out, and keep pushing forward.  No one else has the power to make you feel small unless you give them that power.  And when someone rejects you, don’t inevitably feel it’s because you’re unworthy or unlovable, because all they’ve done is give you clear feedback about their own shortsightedness.

4.  Let your presence overpower your fear.

Ever noticed how people who are struggling with emotional problems tend to tell you how they don’t want to feel?  Fair enough, but at some point we all need to focus on how we DO want to feel.

When you’re in a social situation that’s making you anxious, forget what you don’t want to feel for a moment.  Work out how you DO want to feel right now in the present moment.  Train yourself to live right here, right now without regretting how others once made you feel, or fearing the possibility of future judgment.

This is YOUR choice.  You CAN change the way you think.

If you were delivering life-saving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on your mother in public, you’d be 100% focused and present.  You wouldn’t be thinking about what bystanders thought of your hair, your body type, or the brand of jeans you were wearing.  All these inconsequential details would vanish from your consciousness.  The intensity of the situation would motivate you to choose not to care about what others might be thinking of you.  This proves, quite simply, that thinking about what others are thinking about you is YOUR CHOICE.  (Read The Power of Now.)

5.  Let go of your need to always be right.

The reason your fear of rejection sometimes gets the best of you is because a part of you believes you’re always right.  If you think someone doesn’t like you, then surely they don’t.  Right?  WRONG!

People who never learn to question their emotions, especially when they’re feeling nervous or anxious, make life much more difficult than it has to be.  If your perception is always so accurate, why do you make so many mistakes?  Exactly.  It’s time to let go a little.  Being more confident in life partly means being OK with not knowing what’s going to happen, so you can relax and allow things to play out naturally.  Relaxing with “not knowing” is the key to confidence in relationships and peace in life.

So here’s a new mantra for you – say it, and then say it again: “This is my life, my choices, my mistakes and my lessons.  I have nothing to prove.  And as long as I’m not hurting people, I need not worry what they think of me.”

6.  Embrace and enjoy your individuality.

Constantly seeking approval means we’re perpetually worried that others are forming negative judgments of us.  This steals the fun, ingenuity, and spontaneity from our lives.  Flip the switch on this habit.  If you’re lucky enough to have something that makes you different from everybody else, don’t be ashamed and don’t change.  Uniqueness is priceless.  In this crazy world that’s trying to make you like everyone else, find the courage to keep being your remarkable self.  And if they laugh at you for being different, laugh back at them for being the same.

It takes a lot of courage to stand alone, but it’s worth it.  Being unapologetically YOU is worth it!  Your real friends in life will reveal themselves slowly – they’re the ones who truly know you and love you just the same.  Bottom line: Don’t change so people will like you; be yourself and the right people will love the real you.  (Read The Mastery of Love.)

7.  Use rejection as a priceless growth opportunity.

As soon as someone critiques and criticizes you, as soon as you are rejected, you might find yourself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am not worthy.”  What you need to realize is, these other people are NOT worthy of YOU and your particular journey.  Rejection is necessary medicine; it teaches you how to reject relationships and opportunities that aren’t going to work, so you can quickly find new ones that will.  It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough; it just means someone else failed to notice what you have to offer.  Which means you now have more time to improve yourself and explore your options.

“Will you be bitter for a moment?  Absolutely.  Hurt?  Of course, you’re human.  There isn’t a soul on this planet that doesn’t feel a small fraction of their heart break at the awareness of rejection.  For a short time afterwards you will ask yourself every question you can think of…

  • What did I do wrong?
  • Why didn’t they like me?
  • How come?
  • Etc.

But then you have to let your emotions fuel you!  This is the important part.  Let your feelings of rejection drive you, feed you, and inspire one heck of a powerful opening to the next chapter of your story.

As you look back on your life, you will often realize that many of the times you thought you were being rejected from something good, you were in fact being redirected to something better.  You can’t control everything – especially the opinions of others.  Sometimes you just need to relax and have faith that things will work out.  Let go a little and just let life happen the way it’s supposed to.  Because sometimes the outcomes you can’t change, end up changing you and helping you grow into your strongest, smartest self.

The floor is yours…

In what ways do you struggle with the fear of rejection?  How do you cope?  Please leave a comment below and share your insights with us.

Photo by: Cia de Foto

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38 Comments

  • A couple lines from your book that really spoke to me about this topic is:

    “One of the greatest freedoms is truly not caring what everyone else thinks of you. As long as you are worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them. Only when you require no approval from outside yourself, can you own yourself.”

    I still fear rejection and what others think of me quite often, but I have memorized your words and I think about them almost daily. This practice has been helping me keep these fears at bay. Thanks for that.

  • Once again, amazing timing with your advice. I recently received a devastating rejection from someone I deeply care about and my heart has been hurting. This post will help me move forward. Thanks and blessings!

  • This really resonates with me and I am so glad I was drawn to read your post today:

    “What you need to realize is, these other people are NOT worthy of YOU and your particular journey. Rejection is necessary medicine; it teaches you how to reject relationships and opportunities that aren’t going to work, so you can quickly find new ones that will.”

    I just broke up with someone who I thought was the love of my life…hurts like heck but to know he cheated on me twice? Yes, he is so NOT worthy of me, of my love and care. Thank you for this liberating advice!

  • Your beautiful words are so timely. I am just plucking up courage to ask someone if they would publish some of my work in their magazine. This article is another push from the Universe to make me realise I can do it, it’s not about “plucking up courage” but more about just being my natural self and going for my goals without fear of what other people think. Rejection and mistakes are part of life and show that we’re trying. Thank you, as ever, for your wisdom.

  • I think it’s a good idea to acknowledge the emotional side of rejection first. When it happens, it hurts - there’s no getting around that. So allow that part of the process to happen.

    But as soon as possible, start looking at it objectively, without emotion. Why did it happen? What can you learn from it? What does it tell you about yourself? What does it tell you about the other person?

    Rejection is truly a priceless learning opportunity and one should take solace in the fact that we’re always a little bit stronger for having experienced it.

  • Thanks for this helpful and practical article. From my own experience as a church leader, I have found that the fear of man can often take root when I lack a personal sense of direction, vision and identity. When we strive for affirmation from those around us we can so easily sacrifice our own goals in order to comply with the wishes or even agendas of others. The result is that even though we feel a sense of belonging in the long run it can further disempower us. Collaboration and team work is good, but when we continually adjust our own values in order to gain acceptance it becomes counter productive. The fear of man brings a sabre that wraps itself around our hearts and minds and ultimately strangles the life out of us. We must always press through the inevitable pain barrier of fear in order to achieve what we feel and desire. Facing up to life’s rejection ms is an excitable and important step on the journey of discovering who we really are and what we are called to do…..

  • Good one!

    I especially resonated with, “Being more confident in life partly means being OK with not knowing what’s going to happen, so you can relax and allow things to play out naturally. Relaxing with “not knowing” is the key to confidence in relationships and peace in life.” I’m working on letting go, again. This one is a tough life lesson for me to learn. But I’m working on it.

  • Wow, timing! Mentioned in an earlier response that in giving Memoir Writing Workshops, your site is referenced repeatedly. Through your collaborative process, Marc and Angel, something almost uncanny emerges–tough yet accessible viewpoints that uplift us at deep levels.

    I use “Your Truth Matters” to encourage writers in their search for wholeness, during presentations. Yet too readily I forget to apply the advice, after a lifetime of relying on fleeting impressions of others’ outward appearance and opinion. Thanks for this reminder to check my own compass for direction!

  • This post was particularity spot on for me. Our family moved every 18 - 24 months and I was always the new kid who didn’t fit in (kids had already formed their bonds and made best friends). I am in my late fifties and still feel I am on the periphery of life. Fear has consumed me. I like what you have to say here — I will concentrate more on #4, 6 & 7. Thank you.

  • Thank you for sharing this, especially your own personal journey. Thank goodness you did give ‘Marc and Angel Hack Life’ a go - I think your site is fantastic and I’m thankful for your skill in writing, sharing and making a difference to me and no doubt many others. Thank you and all the best.

  • My mother used to use rejection as a form of punishment, or discipline. Can you imagine how that felt as a small child? As a teenager she would continue with statements such as this….”The only reason you get asked out by boys is because boys like the color of your hair. It’s not because you have anything to offer, because you don’t. You have no personality, you are just an empty shell. No, it’s just the color of your hair because that is all you have.” I had to eventually learn, that I could not so my mother from dating these things to me. I could not stop her way of thinking…our her actions. I could only stop the fact that I felt hurt from this kind of nonsense. It took a long time to get rid of the behaviors I had acquired from listening to her. I craved compliments from her so much….now neither compliments nor nasty comments make any difference whatsoever. Her words…all of them….mean nothing. That is because they ALL come from a warped place.

  • All I can say is Thank You! I too always look for reassurance, always thinking I don’t measure up. Thanks for putting it in perspective–and a perspective that I will need to keep reassuring myself of. Bless you.

  • I love the things you write. Really, there’s truth and very good advice in there, but it’s lots of theory. Could you please give some suggestions as how we could take these beliefs and advice and actually put them in action? I’ve always found it difficult to bring some of these things into action and often I get stuck. I’ve always learned better through use and practice of something.

  • Thank you for your blog posts. The topics are resourceful, timely and impeccable. They have and continue to help, guide and direct me in these challenging times. Thank you for caring and sharing. I am grateful and kindly appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness, expressed through the words. Thank You!

    Happy Holidays!

  • I encourage readers to share this article with any teens in their lives. Teens are so vulnerable to perceived rejection, and it can quickly spin out of control. In my opinion this article should be required reading for teens.

  • Haha! I don’t know how you do it, but you always manage to say exactly the right thing in exactly the moment I need it most.

    1) I ruined some important relationships out of fear, and when that “self-fulfilling prophesy” came into my life from a completely different source, like a few days ago, it wasn’t the painful, life-shattering problem I expected it to be, but the loss of those relationships due to the misunderstandings I created because of that fear will be something I’ll regret for a while.

    On the plus side, the experience has inspired and motivated me to rise above it and create something even better. It was a powerful lesson learned.

    2) Asking myself these questions will really help to ease the anxiety. Great advice!

    3) This is so true. Short-sighted opinion and people not “seeing” what they have that’s right in front of them is something I’ve been dealing with for almost three years. It’s frustrating and it’s made me question my own judgement and instincts, but I’m finally able to accept that it’s beyond my control. I can’t make people see what I see. I can’t make people understand and feel passionately about the potential of my vision. It isn’t about me or them. It’s just that we’re on different journeys.

    4) I used to be really good at ignoring petty, inconsequential things. It made me oblivious and/or unsympathetic to the little things other people care about, and my indifference was often misunderstood, but made for a more peaceful life. I’d forgotten it for a while, but I’m finally starting to let those little petty things go again.

    5) “Not knowing” is something that completely derails me, but I’m finally learning to compartmentalize it and stick it on the backburner to examine later, while I focus on the good, positive things in my life.

    It was a hard lesson to learn, but now that I’m getting faith in my instincts back and trusting them again, my new rule of thumb is to follow my gut to what makes me feel calm and peaceful and happy. If it makes me feel anxious, burdened, unhappy, neurotic and insecure, then it’s wrong. Flat-out the wrong path, approach, relationship or project.

    The moment I started implementing this rule of thumb a few weeks ago, after almost a year of not doing it, it opened up a happy, amazing path that makes me feel alive and creative again.

    6) This is the hardest one for me. I hate being alone and long to be part of an exciting collaborative project, and to have the support, security and protection of a tight-knit circle of friends. The users, takers, wannabees and hangers-on take their toll.

    I’m told that all great leaders go through this as they make their way to the top, that individuality and “standing out” pretty much ensures you won’t be part of the crowd or “belong” and in the long run, that’s a really good thing. By the time you make it, you know the difference and can choose wisely who you let into your life. I’m taking this to heart and hoping like hell it’s a sign I’ll one day be a great leader who chooses my friends wisely, and not that I’m just an unlikeable person nobody wants to be friends with.

    The project I’m working on now “feels” like it has the potential of being an exciting collaborative project, but I guess the friend thing will take time.

    7) Again with the “not knowing”. I’d rather be rejected and know exactly where I stand so I can learn from it and move on than the alternative, but sometimes this isn’t possible because people avoid hurting someone’s feelings. When this is the case, I’ve learned to ignore the rejection and focus on other projects that make me happy and empower me. This helps eliminate the sting of the rejection.

    Thank you for this list. It really puts things in perspective.

    Melissa

  • This is REALLY helpful to me. I hope I remember to revisit this when I am feeling rejected. I say “feeling rejected” because that is what it is most of the time. Very rarely, and usually when applying for a job, am I outright rejected. It is usually my reaction to someone’s words, actions, facial expressions etc. I have even been told on numerous occasions that I reject others and that is certainly not my intention. It just goes to show that assumptions are damaging.
    Thanks again!

  • Thanks guys! l was a prisoner to myself because I was recently dumped, but now I am beginning to see he wasn’t worth my affection anyway.

  • This came right on time. I needed to read this!

  • What an interesting and inspiring post… I struggle with the fear of rejection almost every day.

    Keep it up and thank you so much. I am learning from you.

  • One comment struck me and made me realize where the need for acceptance, in my case, had come from. If you’ve been told as a child incessantly that you are inadequate, useless, deserving of abuse, and a burden, then I think you have an over-abundant need for acceptance just to live. I grew up with all of that and it has taken years to get my head on straight. Keys to the small successes as time went by came from sources such as you, who delivered insightful, supporting messages at strategic times that helped me grow from the inside out. I now have strength, those who created an insecure human being are deceased, and the peace, comfort and strength I now possess helps me truly enjoy life and empathize with others in the same situation.

  • Another FANTASTIC post!!! Thank you for sharing your wisdom, insight, and experience! :) What I have practiced more in the last year has been allowing space in silence and breathing for it to run it’s course w/o me taking action on my “knee jerk reaction”. This has helped a lot for defusing myself, and not doing something I would regret or perpetuate an issue that isn’t even an issue.

  • This is HANDS DOWN the best blog of yours I have read to date. I love your blog and read it regularly. However, this one spoke to me not only for myself but for so many people I know. This blog inspired me to take the step to buy your book, not one copy but 5 so I can share your wise words and practical tips with people I love so very much. Thank you so much for what you do. It changes lives for the better :D

  • I struggle with #1, fear is fear itself, and #6, being an individual. Have always been a people pleaser, and never thought of me as being first. Some of these comments are so true to the heart, it’s like everyone is talking to me alone.

    I agree with so many of you people, it’s amazing and scary at the same time.

    Very interesting reads. Thank you again all.

  • I will put into action your ideas and advice, what I have realized is that we have to step out of our comfort zone to grow stronger.

  • Thanks a lot..I needed this at this very moment. You are just great..

  • Awesome… Thanks a lot for the wonderful post. Extremely helpful.

  • Like so many of the other readers, I too am still working on letting go of the fear of rejection. Inner child work, bringing my consciousness into the present moment and allowing the pain to have its time and place have all helped me to loosen my grip on this old identity of being “unworthy”… but most of all, taking life one day at a time and surrendering to the grace of God are what gets me through the tough days.

  • Thank you.

    I’m taking this post to my psychologist appointment today to help me take actionable steps.

    You are all an inspiration.

  • Thank you both for overcoming your own fear of rejection by never giving too much power to what others “may” think about you. I applaud you for your courage and persistence in writing these blog posts.

    Wishing you both continued success & happiness!

  • Very helpful post, thanks for posting it!

  • Thank you for this post; it is what I needed because I have met a nice girl recently, and I’m in constant fear of rejection, but after reading this article fear just left me. I already know what mistakes I could have made, but thanks to this knowledge I’m already more experienced than I was few days ago.

    Happy new year everyone! And thanks again!

  • @All: Thank you so much for the insight and kind remarks. I’m happy that so many of you found this post helpful. Above all, just remember, someday you’ll realize that every time you thought you were being rejected from something good, you were just being pointed toward something better.

    And to those who purchased our book, thanks for supporting our work. :) We greatly appreciate you.

  • Your words are always encouraging and offer realisations that can change your outlook and reactions to situations. In my life I have always been concerned with the opinion of others possibly due to a lack of self love which I am working on. This blog was very helpful in not allowing other peoples judgements to contaminate my world.

  • Good article. Spoke my mind :)

  • Excellent article! The ones who do the rejecting are the ones who have the problem cuz of their fear of the unknown & lack of understanding.

  • I cannot tell you how thankful I am today to have come across this article. A girl for whom I gave 7 years of my life left me at a crucial point in my life. So much was the stress, that I lost half of my hair and gave into some chronic depression. But I have picked myself up and improving.

    God bless you for writing such an incredible article and may god give strength to all of those who are struggling due to various reasons!

  • Sometimes we live with fear for so long it becomes an unconscious habit… it was only when I became truly mindful of fearing almost everything; I decided to pay attention to my fear thoughts and actions so I could wrap them up and move on regardless of my fear!

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