(For other articles by Dr. Swatantra Jain, please check this webpage)

We all are afraid of certain things, persons, situations or places on some occasion or the other. But this fear proves to be an alarming bell when it crosses its normal limits and we start losing our poise to such an extent that it begins disrupting our routine activities too. This ‘fear’ can be of numerous kinds, viz. the fear of darkness, insecurity, unnatural death; or of cruel parents, ghosts, boss, teacher; of being hurt from fatal accident, disease or illness; losing your dear & near ones; of failure and the ultimate fear of being rejected or isolated.

But today, we shall confine our discussion on the fear of being isolated or rejected among our peer-groups, colleagues or  some vital social groups, because this fear is associated with pain. When this social fear and pain of disapproval/rejection crosses the ideal limit, it adversely affects our spirits, body, mind, behaviour and actions, nay, the entire personality itself. Thus, pain is the most common factor and signal behind every fear (physical, emotional or psychological) that warns us to avoid that situation.

What is this fear of rejection?

We all want to be listened, valued and appreciated. But do we really get this acceptance and appreciation from our own kith & kin, peer-groups and others who matter for us? Not so well perhaps! Are we truly unworthy of this? Not really so! Many of us have to undergo extreme pain of rejection just because of our nagging parents, jealous peers and significant others. They unnecessarily keep on degrading us every now and then. We start fearing facing them or avoid presenting our views before them or stop asserting ourselves. This makes us lose our self-esteem and confidence. We begin to believe that we aren’t worth anything and start condemning ourselves. Even their gesture of rejection leads us to our social withdrawal and depression. This fear of non-acceptance and disapproval from our significant near and dear ones is termed as ‘Fear of Rejection.

Radhika was awfully upset that no one liked to sit with her despite her being bright, diligent, and selfless. Which-so-ever desk she might sit on, the girls already occupying that desk would change their seat. She couldn’t bear this avoidance, humiliation or belittling any more. But, instead of reacting to her classmates, she started projecting her school’s frustration onto her parents and siblings by manhandling and beating them. When her aggression crossed all the limits, her parents approached me for helping her. And she became quite normal after a few sessions and started behaving perfectly well.

Here, it’s not relevant how I counselled her, as there is no set formula for any emotional problems. What’s important is to understand that the felt pain due to  our non-acceptability or rejection can have negative impact on our body mind & soul, nay, the entire personality itself.

If unable to get rid of our fear of rejection, we begin to harm our near and dear ones or others like Radhika in the above instance; or ourselves by considering us to be weak, unworthy and unlovable. The later kinds soon become the victim of depression or extreme anxiety due to this irrepressible fear  and pain of rejection. 

How to handle this fear of rejection? The fear of rejection being all embracing should not be ignored, because it’s not any routine problem that can be dealt with any medicine. You need to perceive your fear yourself, accept, evaluate and find out the ways & means to get rid of it. Try some measures given below but do consult a psychotherapist if needed. 

  • Face your fear: Consciously or unconsciously, we all try to avoid facing those situations, people and actions which had been the cause of our insult and humiliation. But it’s not a solution to our problem. So, if you don’t face, it would badly affect your endeavours to achieve your goal and even spoil your entire life itself.
  • Remember ‘rejection’ is very usual hurt/feeling: It won’t stay for long. Let it pass just like any other painful feeling. It’s not always possible to manage our requests or proposals to be accepted or rejected since it is not in our hands. Yes, we can manage our own emotions and their manifestation. You’ll appreciate that the quality of managing our emotions is the basis of our emotional intelligence.
  • Try to list the fearful situations: Try to be aware of those situations that you consciously try to avoid. Think of the ideas you don’t share merely because of your fear of rejection? Make a list of your vital requirements and needs you put aside just due to this fear. Also note down, ‘what steps aren’t you taking towards your goal just due to your worry of being exposed’; and what “No’s” are you afraid to hear?
  • Value your failures as they’re the stepping stones to your success: Remember, “Girte hain shah-sawar hi maidane jang mei; vo tifl kya girega jo ghutnon ke bal chale.” So, without caring for others criticism or praise, take lessons from your failure and try again and again; victory will be yours.
  • Learn to value and believe yourself: Remember that if you value your own words, views, opinions, and believe yourself, none can humiliate and insult you for long. But if you don’t value yourself, none can help you out. So, learn to take pride in your small, even smallest of your achievements and feats. It’ll boost your confidence and improve your skills to greater heights. If your parents, teachers or significant elders don’t appreciate your achievements and skills, and if they refuse to help you, don’t get dismayed; take Google’s help and search for the online training program and make even your smallest of success a stepping stone to more such achievements.
  • Learn to take pride in your small, very small victories even: If you don’t feel proud of your achievements, no one can help you out. This would enhance your self-esteem and boost your self- confidence, which in turn will improve your skills and chances to achieve higher goals. Yes, you should have the will and commitment to achieve your goal.
  • Don’t avoid, take steps to achieve your goal: Take steps towards achieving the goals important for you despite the increased risk of their rejection. No doubt, avoidance is much safer and less hurting, but remember that you have to initiate and push your request to be heard and accepted. Because, the possibility of acceptance increases many folds when you simply express your wish or demand. The reverse is also true, if you don’t express it.
  • Transform rejection into an opportunity to improve your approaches and tactics. There can be many reasons behind your failure to get an “approval”. Either you couldn’t be systematic in your preparation, or effectively present the best sample of your work. It’s also possible that the person, who rejected you, might have his own limitations, preferences, biases, vested interests/petty needs. The list of such situational factors may go endless. So, try to improve your approach.
  • Never personalize rejection: Don’t think of it as a reflection of who we are and what we’re able to do. Rather concentrate on what we did and how can we improve it next time, because changing what we do is easier than changing who we’re. And people evaluate us by what we do, and not by what we’re.
  • Explore and develop your other talents & skills: Remember that God has bestowed us all with many skills and talents in which we can excel. The need is to explore, develop and blossom them. Many educational institutions organize ‘Talent-search’ programs to explore their students’ talents. Even parents and teachers can help these youngsters in recognizing and developing their talents by providing timely support, appreciation and encouragement. If you or your elders are unable to trace and develop your talents or don’t value those talents, do consult a quality counsellor.

To surmise, no one enjoys rejection.  But letting the fear of rejection dictate what we accomplish in our lives can make us feel even worse in the future.  So, dear friends, work hard to meet your challenge of rejection, as there is no gain without any pains.