How to Stop Fearing Rejection

Three Parts:Learning to Deal With RejectionSeeing Rejection as OpportunityRetaining Your Self-Confidence and Self-Worth

You've applied to your top choice for college… You've asked your crush on a date... You've applied to your dream job… and were rejected. Rejection happens to all of us, even the most successful of people. Being rejected is something we encounter when we try. In the end, however, how you deal with that rejection is what really matters. Do you keep persevering or are you stuck constantly fearing rejection? The fear of rejection can prevent you from moving forward and trying new things. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to cope with rejection and build your self-confidence so that you no longer fear rejection but instead view it as an opportunity.

Part 1
Learning to Deal With Rejection

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    Stay calm and rational. Having a game plan to deal with rejection will help you learn not to fear it as you will build confidence in your ability to face rejection effectively. When we are in the moment, we are usually feeling and react with our emotions, not our brains. Your emotional state and physical health have strong effects on your cognitive state, and it's likely that your gut reaction is to let your feelings and emotions take over. However, it is important to stay calm, to listen to what the person rejecting you has to stay so that you can respond rationally and appropriately.
    • For example, consider how you would react to someone who cut you off in traffic while you were very tired and had a cold, as opposed to if someone cut you off right after you learned you were getting a promotion. In the first situation, you might be enraged, while in the latter you may brush it off. The event is the same, but because of situational factors like your mood and physical state, your reaction is different.
    • To give another example, though you may want to yell at the recruiter for not hiring you, it's important that you remain calm and respond in a manner that is appropriate for the professional situation. You don't have to like the decision, but you can respond respectfully.
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    Start journaling. Journaling can be very beneficial for cognitive reflection and development because it provides a place for you to document your fears, doubts, feelings, thoughts, and ideas. By writing your feelings onto the page, you are better able to release them and avoid dwelling or ruminating on things you cannot change (such as a breakup, rejection letter from university, failed scholarship application, etc.). Writing can thus be a helpful tool in letting your feelings of fear go.[1]
    • The very act of putting feelings and free floating ideas into words can help you better understand them. In regards to fear of rejection, writing down these sorts of fears can help you overcome them by evaluating them from a more neutral and less emotional perspective.
    • Some examples of what you can write down regarding rejection include: what you are fearful of being rejected from (e.g., "I am afraid of being rejected by this person if I ask them on a date."); how you would feel if they rejected you (e.g., “Worthless. Unattractive."); the potential reasons a person may reject you (e.g., “Because he recently split with someone."); the potential positives of the rejection (e.g., “I have more time to myself. I can seek out new love interests and ask other people out.”); what you could miss out on if you don’t make an attempt (e.g., “If I don’t ask this person out, I may always wonder what it would have been like had I asked and what she would have said.”).
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    Identify a tendency toward "all-or-nothing" thinking. Have you ever thought something like “If I don’t get into this school, it means I am worthless and will never amount to anything” or perhaps, “This person rejected me, that means no one will ever love and accept me”? These are examples of “black-and-white” or “all-or-nothing” thinking. Such statements are inaccurate over generalizations of one event to explain or account for your whole self and identity. It's important to shift from such polarized thinking to a more complex understanding of the meaning of rejection. Polarized, all-or-nothing thinking is typically the result of a strong emotional state, like rage or extreme sadness. Identifying and keeping these sorts of thoughts and feelings in check, will empower you, build resilience, and thereby reduce fear. Try to follow this process:[2][3]
    • Identify all-or-nothing statements and write them down. For example, “If I don't get this job, it means I am worthless and will never amount to anything."
    • Identify the all-or-nothing component in the statement. For example, “Having this job makes me worthwhile, not having this job makes me worthless.”
    • Refute the polarization. For example, “I have not had this job before and my life has not be worthless up until this point.”
    • Focus on the positive. For example, "I have applied for and been hired for other jobs in the past. I now have a really top-notch cover letter because I applied for this job. I have really great interview skills."
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    Keep in mind that rejection is always a possibility. Rejection is a part of life, and part of facing your fear means realizing that it can happen, that it happens to lots of people, and that it is not an end, but in fact a beginning.You apply for a job? Well, so do 100 other people. You ask someone on a date? There's a 50-50 chance of her saying "no" (and a 50-50 chance of her saying "yes"!). [4]
    • Be aware that you cannot control for anyone else but only yourself. For example, if you apply for a scholarship, you can't know what the other applicants have on their CVs or what they've put in their application letter. However, you can make sure that you do the best job that you can possibly do. You can only control what YOU do, not what anyone else does.
    • Understanding how rejection is normal will help you cope more effectively with it. You'll see that it happens to everyone and that the world isn't against you. Moreover, the more it happens, the more normal it becomes and the less fearful you have to be of it.
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    Be graceful with the rejection. It may be easier said than done when you are feeling upset about being rejected, but accepting this rejection gracefully will not only benefit your mental state, but could also be beneficial in the future. Instead of lashing out, show understanding and empathy. For one thing, you've probably had to reject someone before and you know what it feels like to have to crush someone's hopes. As the person being rejected, this is a situation when you want to be the "bigger person" and not respond in a hurtful or rude way. The better you cope with rejection, the easier it will be each time letting go of your fear of it.
    • For example, let’s say you’ve applied to a job from which you have been rejected. Most of us would probably leave it at that, but it can be beneficial to go further and to send an email thanking the recruiter for their time at reviewing your application and responding to you. A note like this can help you find closure from the rejection and let go of ill feelings. It's also important not to burn bridges since you may want to apply for a different job with that company some day. You could also follow up your thank you note with a question like, “What would you recommend I improve on?” to learn where the recruiter feels you can be a stronger candidate for the future.[5]
    • To give another example, if your crush rejects your offer for a date, accept the rejection graciously with something like, “I understand and respect your decision. I hope we can still be friends.” You will come across as mature and respectful, which is admirable by anyone. Though the person may not want to date you romantically, he may be happy that you've left open the possibility of friendship.
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    Maintain perspective. Rejection happens, but you won't be rejected from everything. You wouldn't be able to accomplish your goals and dreams or even meet other people if you didn't put yourself forward to create opportunities for yourself. Because you do put yourself out there and try, it's realistic to expect a little rejection once in a while. That's okay, because those probably weren't meant to work for you, and it just means that there are better opportunities just waiting for you out there. Remember that your life is made up of more than rejection and that you still have time ahead of you in which you will experience both success and rejection. It's important to maintain a bigger perspective that goes beyond the exact moment of rejection. Look both to your past and forward.[6]
    • If you find yourself overwhelmed with a particular situation in which you’ve been rejected, ask yourself, “Will this moment matter the way it does to me right now, in a week? In a month? In a year?” Being rejected by your crush may seem like the end of the world today, but given some time, the situation will most likely be a small blip in your life. It might hurt now, as time goes on, you will get over it and be able to move on to other things. When you're 40, you may barely even remember your crush, even if stings right now.
    • Look backwards as well. Sure, you didn't get this one job you really wanted. But you've applied for other jobs in the past and been successful. You know you're employable because you have the resume to prove it! One rejection isn't representative of your whole life.
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    Acknowledge events are neutral until you ascribe a feeling to them. Don't fear something that hasn't happened yet. We often assume a direct connection between what we feel and the event at hand. Note that a rejection only means that you didn't get something you wanted. Subsequent feelings of doubt, fear, inadequacy or sadness are added by you. Try to catch these moments when you ascribe intense feelings to neutral situation.[7]
    • For instance, let’s assume someone has rejected you for a particular position. Sometimes our defenses are cued, and we may react negatively and think, “He rejected me on purpose to make me feel bad.” More likely than not, however, the person who has rejected you is not thinking that in depth about the rejection. In the job example, the recruiter is probably more focused on finding the right candidate rather than focused on passing a personal judgement on your abilities. He didn't hire you because he wanted you to feel bad but because you weren't the best fit for the position.
    • It's important for you to try to identify both what the rejection objectively means and the feelings you are ascribing to this reality. For example, “I was rejected from this job, which means I will not be working for this company. This rejection brings up feelings of doubt in my abilities. I am sad because I felt very qualified for this position.”
    • Identifying the feelings you are ascribing to the situation will help you become aware of your personal concerns and doubts that you can address in the following steps.

Part 2
Seeing Rejection as Opportunity

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    See rejection as opening new doors. Reframe your perception of rejection to see it as an opportunity. Remember that old adage "when one door closes, another door opens"? It's true. Being rejected from one opportunity keeps you free for other opportunities. Though it may not seem like it the exact moment of the rejection, in some time from now, you may very well look back at this rejection and think, “Thank goodness, I didn’t get that job. I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing now.” Sometimes we think there is only one path to achieve a particular goal. Remembering that there is more than one road to a destination can help you successfully face your fear of rejection.[8]
    • For example, imagine you are applying to a full-time research assistantship position. While the experience and pay are real advantages to the job, the position will also consume all of your time. What if you don't get the position? Think of what you could do instead: you could volunteer a few hours in the lab to get more experience and tutor to keep up an income. In some cases, then, rejection can free you up to look for other opportunities you would have had to be closed off to had you not been rejected.
    • The same goes for your personal life. What if after a few weeks after you were rejected by a girl you liked, you meet a new girl and embark on a new relationship with her. It's likely that you wouldn't have been able to have this relationship if the other girl had said 'yes'!
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    Consider rejection as a learning experience. Rejection isn't an end, but a beginning. This is true because you often can take something away or learn something from the experience of rejection. Instead of fearing it, try to think of rejection as yet another chance, if it happens, to learn. For example, if you applied for a job in which you didn't meet the base requirements but decided to apply anyway, maybe you've learned that it's best only to apply if you can meet those requirements.[9]
    • If you asked someone out via text message, maybe you've learned that it would actually be better to do in person. There are all kinds of lessons we can take from rejection that can help us do things differently and sometimes better in the future.
    • You will also learn about rejection itself as you experience it. The more you experience rejection, the less you will fear it as you will see that you come back and thrive every single time. You may take a bit of weathering but you're not beaten.
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    Try, try, and try again. Speaking strictly in regards to probability, the more times you put yourself out there and try, the more opportunities you create. Before negative thinking creeps in (e.g., “The more I put myself out there, the more likely I am to be rejected), remind yourself that when you don’t try, you are in the same place and situation you would have been in had you been rejected. You'll see that your fear is keeping your from potential opportunities.[10]
    • Furthermore, the more you try, for example by sending out 10 applications rather than just one, the more you increase the chances of being accepted and reduce the negative effects of a rejection. Just keep going until you get that one yes!
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    Identify alternatives. When we are rejected, we may fall into "all-or-nothing" thinking (see Part 1) and assume we are being rejected because we are in some way inferior or lacking something. It is important to remember that there are always factors and information you are not aware of and there may be alternative reasons why someone has chosen to reject you. Identify a few potential alternatives to a situation to help reduce this kind of negative thinking and to remind yourself that you do not know all the information and factors in any given situation and that, again, you can only control for yourself and not anyone else.[11]
    • For example, if you are rejected by a graduate program, you may have very well been at the competitive forefront, but a particular professor may have already known another applicant personally. Or maybe the person you asked out on a date really can’t go out with you because he already has a significant other, or just recently endured a breakup, or is leaving the country soon. The lists of alternatives are endless and rarely ever reflect that "all-or-nothing" trap we often find ourselves in.
    • Acknowledging these alternatives will help keep you from taking a rejection personally and help remind you that your subjective experience is not necessarily a reflection of reality.

Part 3
Retaining Your Self-Confidence and Self-Worth

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    Embrace yourself. Fear of rejection may reflect low self-confidence. When your worth is based on the thoughts and perceptions of others, your self-confidence and self-worth are at the mercy of what others think of you. In this scenario, your self-confidence is not stable as it could be and may be easily altered by either a pleasant compliment or by unpleasant rejection. Developing and maintaining self-confidence based on your own personal evaluations will enable you to be more stable and less affected by external events. When you are confident in your abilities and your strengths, rejection will be less likely to affect you.[12]
    • Do not seek re-affirmation of your virtues in others, for that is the root of your fear of rejection. You are only responsible to yourself.
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    Recall your strengths. We become more susceptible to fear of rejection if we are feeling doubtful and if our feelings of self-worth rely on others. It's important that you feel a sense of pride and confidence in yourself and that you value your skills. Remembering and documenting your strengths is the first step to find confidence that comes from within yourself, not external to it.
    • Write a list of your strengths and abilities in your journal to highlight your self-value and challenge any feelings of self-doubt that emerge when we fear rejection.[13]
    • Make a list of things or moments that you’re proud of. Did you once run a race or get a huge scholarship? Did you help a lost child find her parents? Did you return money to someone who lost it on the subway? Reward yourself for these good things. Think about the sorts of skills that you demonstrate during these moments. How can you do more of those things? This will help build your self-confidence.
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    Focus on your goals. Building on the strengths you have just identified, create a list of goals, of things you want to work towards. This can heighten your feelings of self-worth and purpose. Ask yourself: How will I go about attaining these goes? What needs to be done? What actions can I take now? Planning, working towards, and meeting goals will help you feel more confident about your prospects in the future and less fearful of rejection.
    • For example, maybe you were rejected in the past from a job because you didn't have the right degree. But once you've gone back to school and now have the requisite diploma for your field, you will feel not only proud of yourself for this accomplishment but also that you now have a stronger application for future employment.
    • Breaking down goals into smaller steps will help you build confidence. Moreover, success in these small steps can help insulate the effects of rejection. Maybe your dream is to be a pilot and initially you don't get into flying school because you don't have the right credits. Instead of dwelling, make a list of what you need to do to improve your odds of entry in the next round, such as going back and getting a few more science credits, getting a tutor, and getting in touch with a pilot you know so you can get advice and network. As you successfully accomplish all of these smaller goals in pursuit of your big goal, you'll feel more confident that you can have the success you envision and the rejections of the past will be mitigated.
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    Remind yourself of your contributions to the world around you. Contributing and helping others is very rewarding and gives you a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose contributes greatly to feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem. Research has confirmed that volunteer work, for example, enhances key aspects of personal well-being: happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, and physical health.[14]
    • Consider volunteering your time at a hospital or school event. Or if you prefer animals, there is always volunteering at a humane society to help animals.
    • Be kind and generous to and with others. Being kind to other people and even strangers makes others feel good, which in turn makes you feel good, thus perpetuating the cycle!
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    Be creative and do things. Set aside time to do something that makes you happy every day, whether that means reading, cooking, gardening, or playing computer games. Embrace and enjoy this time you've set aside; you deserve it. Repeat that statement as needed. Enriching your life with things you like to do helps you feel more positive about your life and, in turn, more able to face life's challenges and your personal fears, including rejection.
    • Try something new. Learn a new language, take a Thai cooking class, or try improv. In experimenting with new activities, you might learn about talents or skills you didn't know you possessed. This can help build your self-esteem and self-worth and perhaps also show you new paths in life that you hadn't considered before. If you can try something new and face those fears, you'll also help build your resilience to rejection.[15]
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    Take care of yourself. Putting time and effort into ensuring your own mental and physical well-being can help build your feelings of self-worth. The healthier you are in mind and body, the better the possibility that you will be satisfied with your self and more able to successfully face the possibility of rejection.Taking care of yourself means doing your best to be healthy, whatever that means for you. Here are some helpful tips:[16]
    • Take care of your physical self. Make sure you eat healthy, unprocessed food, relaxation and get enough sleep (at least 7-8 hours).[17]
    • Exercise is also important. Research has shown that exercise can give a real boost to self-esteem. This is because exercise causes the body to release the "happy chemicals" called endorphins. This feeling of euphoria can be accompanied by increased positivity and energy. Incorporate 10-15 minutes of moderate exercise (like brisk walking) into your daily routine and do about 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week (such as cycling, running or swimming).[18]
    • Give yourself time to relax. Stress is a major problem that many of us suffer from and can help foster and heighten negative feelings and fears. Designate time for relaxation that can help you reduce your stress in your everyday life. Go for a walk, try meditation, garden, or do whatever other activity gives you some piece of mind and makes you feel mentally strong.[19]


  • Having strong self-esteem is an important factor in the ability to be strong, face our fears and learn to let things go because it enables you to create your own sense of self-worth that is not contingent on others.


  • The fear of rejection can be powerful enough to prevent you from even trying something in the first place. In a situation where you do not make an attempt, such as applying for a job, you can be 100% sure that you will miss out on this potential opportunity if you don't try.[20]

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Categories: Facing Fears and Worries | Handling Rejection