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 (subconsciously) care what everyone thought about you?
To answer these questions, we must understand that the vast majority of our fears and anxieties amount to one thing: Loss.
- Losing our youth.
- Losing our social status.
- Losing our money.
- Losing control.
- Losing our comfort.
- Losing our life.
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 time-span, 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?
If so, you now know you’re not alone. And what I’ve learned over the years is this: Constantly seeking acceptance and reassurance from other people is a dead end journey. These things can only be found within you, not from others. Because any look, word, or reaction from someone else can be warped and misinterpreted.
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 and my relentless tenancy to worry about what everyone thought of me…
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?
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 feel less fear around the possibility of rejection. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of our brand NEW edition 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, in many ways, all they’ve really done is give you feedback about their own shortsightedness.
4. Let your presence overpower your fear.
Ever noticed how people who are struggling with emotional challenges 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. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Relationships” chapter of our New York Times bestselling book, Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality, and Turn Your Trials into Triumphs.)
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 worrisome 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 heartbreak 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?
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.
(Note: Angel and I customize and implement all of the aforementioned points with our students in the Getting Back to Happy Course & Coaching.)
The floor is yours…
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. So just remind yourself today that you can’t control everything, especially the opinions of others. Let go a little and just let life happen the way it’s supposed to. Because oftentimes the outcomes and interactions you can’t change, end up changing you and your trajectory for the better.
Leave a comment below and let Angel and I know:
Which point above resonates with you the most right now, and why?
(Finally, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.)
Your first point really rings true for me. In fact, here are a couple lines from your most recent Think Better Live Better conference that really spoke to me on this same topic. I have them saved in my phone notes:
“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 often. This practice has been helping me keep these fears at bay. Thank you for the continued guidance and support, M&A.
Vicky Williams says
This is encouraging I must pass to my grand daughter so she can learn to love herself first and foremost, she can’t make it without her over controlling man. On the phone to anybody if he is coming she got to sign off, no one can visit but she is blind to the situation. Thank you for this. It may wake her up.
Once again, amazing timing with your email that linked me to this article. I recently received a devastating rejection from someone I deeply care about and my heart has been hurting. And I’ve been catching myself worrying about how others see me in light of this rejection. This post, and your GBTH book which I’m reading now, will help me move forward. Thanks and blessings!
Surely you must move on.
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! And thank you for your course too. You two are making a significant difference in my life.
Definitely agree that fear is the enemy!
My personal fears include the fear of being judged and the fear of not being accepted by others.
Come to think of it, my fears tend to be society-related.
And I think it has to do with the fact that I like to socialise with people.
Thank you for this article!
Shreya Shreeja says
An extremely beautiful post. More power to you for such an inspiring post.
Though sometimes I still need validation by friends or family, I am getting to the point of accepting ME the way I am, making MY mistakes and learning from them. It’s a great feeling.
On uniqueness, I believe we all are special. Unique. We weren’t all put together, emotionally and physically, the same. We are all uniquely special.
Lastly, M&A …thank you for YOU. My last three years of reading your blog, has helped me get through some very tough emotional times! (and am reading the book, too — helps when I can’t get over here!)
So glad I found YOU!
John Trapen says
Good article, especially the first part. In my case, my “:fear” has always been associated with some type of “loss”. Loss of youth, loss of job security, loss of my parents when they were growing old, loss of my own health because I was getting older. Now my greatest fear is the loss of my daughter, my only child. She will be going way to college in the fall and leaving our home. This “loss'” is like a slow death to me. We have become so very close over the past 5 years because I had the fortunate opportunity of retiring early which allowed me to spend a lot of time with her. Instead of relishing those memories of being together and all the wonderful experiences we shared, I’m extremely despondent, because in a few short months I will “lose” her…..please help.
Shirlee K Sodini says
Hi, I will be coming to your area in May and then again next September. I hope you may have an event I can attend.
Thank you, Shirlee
Two thoughts come to mind here:
1. If someone is ‘pointing’, (not literally, but more in a blaming way like Ÿou’re not very warm, and you are just too formal for me, etc”, then I always remember the analogy of the finger pointer with 1 finger pointing at you, but 3 fingers pointing back at the pointer…..it tells me more about them then their criticism of me!
2. Fear can be debilitating for sure! Remember the acronym and choose your path:
FEAR = Face Everything and Rise or F*** everything and run!
Matt Stiefvater says
Thank you again for a “Monday Morning Mental Reboot”
for starting the week on a positive note!
I’m blessed to have found you two wise and delightful Angels
Kanika M says
You guys are my GOD. Whenever I am in any situation I get your article. It covers alllll my thoughts in a positive manner. I always wants to thank you both so much but never got a chance. I really wish to meet you both and give a very big hug. I dont know what connection is there but I eagerly wait for your article when I am not so happy.
GOD bless you both. You are my GODs messenger.
Reading from Ghana, West Africa. I’ve been following your blog for more than a year now and I wish I had discovered your site earlier, Marc and Angel.
Your posts are always full of inspiration and hit home the message.
Keep up the good work. ?
I’m really happy that I found this site, now I’m going to purchase your book GBTH and also thinking of getting another as gift to my sister who never got on track after her break-up with his bf a couple of decades ago.
As for me, I’ve been suffering from fear – and still struggling, that feeling of fear and consciousness of what others are thinking about me, my looks, my appearance. Some 30 years ago, back in high school, a pretty neighbor quipped that I would become an adult with great looks, BUT I was too skinny so I’ll need to gain more weight.
That remark did damage, because I started to lose sleep from trying to get sleep. I became conscious every morning that I didn’t get enough sleep, so the vicious cycle has started. I slowly lose weight, started thinking about being an insomniac, and began buying all sorts of vitamins, taking them multiple times a day when they should only be taken once a day. On days I was desperate to sleep, I resorted to taking Valium and anything related. I became too conscious of my eyes where a deep-set ring started to appear. I started feeling some tingling in my face and facial ticks, sometimes in my temple, due to over-consciousness even when there’s no one around me. I only sleep after a few days of not having any, so at an early age I looked years older than my age. Eye bags have developed as well even at a young age.
Even after all these years, I’m still struggling to fight the fear of not sleeping because I still think a good night’s sleep will make me look better, one single remark from that young age has ruined me, has instilled in my mind a false belief that I cannot eradicate.
Even after all these years, I’m still struggling, but now because I’m old, it’s less struggle but anxiety is still there. When I managed to get some hours of sleep and wake up around 3am, I can no longer get back to sleep because anxiety and excitement will envelope my mind due to the fact that I slept, my mind thinks I got it working. So it’s a struggle, it’s a pain, to be living like this.
Until I found this website last week. Now, I’m in the process of applying what I’ve read about letting go, about fear, about self-acceptance and self-consciousness. I have a long way to go after decades of wrong self-image and thoughts, but I know I will get there and heal my mental state. I know I can get rid of fear of rejection by the opposite sex because of how I look now, but I know if I follow the advise of Marc and Angel to “never worry about what others think about me”, I can improve psychologically.
Thank you M&A, I hope I can beat this demon inside my head…
Irene Mistiola says
For many months now, I felt that He was rejecting me of my prayer to have a baby. I feared that I may not experience the joy of being a mother. But, then I realized that maybe it was for the best because while my husband and I are waiting for baby blessing, we are working towards living a healthy lifestyle, and working to be better partners in life. We may not know soon the purpose of our waiting, but it’s definitely going to be for the best.
Many thanks for sharing your insight on my biggest challenge “Fear of Rejection”. Saved your post on desk so with help of this can remind me everyday that “Rejection is not end of the world”.
Feeling blessed that I found you.
I have always been pretty good at not worrying about what others think of me. Until I really like them, then I become subject to the this problem. And in worrying about making others happy, you can forget that your own happiness matters too. Rejection is often more about them and what they are dealing with than about you.
I kept a sticky note on my computer screen over the past 15 years..”What you think of me is none of my business”, allowed me to love myself thru life’s ups and downs!
Liked FEAR = Face Everything and Rise OR F everything and run…. first one is best. Running does not help. Also what others think of you is none of my business…. its their minds thinking. Good thought