Do you ever feel like you’re all tied up in knots because you’re anxious about being rejected or disliked for who you are? If you struggle with social anxiety, it’s probably no surprise that fear of rejection is one of the biggest things people worry about. In this video I’ll be touching on why that is and what you can do to feel more at ease when anxiety comes a-knockin’. Keep watching to learn all about it!
Hi folks, I’m Will Bratt from Heart & Oak Therapy, supporting better, brighter lives. We’re therapists who do regular videos on mental wellness, and give practical ideas and tips to address your problems and make your life happier – so hit the subscribe button to keep in the loop!
As you may know from your own lived experience, social anxiety is often a strong emotional response to anticipating rejection, exclusion, judgment, or just not fitting in with others. Now, not everyone who shares these fears experiences them for all the same reasons, but it really is uncanny that so many of us can relate to these feelings in some way!
No matter the reason behind why you feel anxious about being disliked or rejected, you probably don’t appreciate the way these fears can shrink your life. Social anxiety can make it really hard to venture out into new social contexts, get to know new people, and let new people get to know you. So let’s take a closer look at social anxiety, fear of rejection, and what you can do about it!
Isn’t it interesting how human beings can find it so unnerving to imagine being disliked or rejected? I mean, it’s not like our lives are necessarily at stake. But still we really struggle to feel comfortable with that possibility. I touch on this in our video “How Most Anxiety is Social Anxiety”, and I explain how this is because belonging goes hand in hand with dignity. I definitely recommend giving that a watch after you’re finished with this one.
But yeah, even though we don’t have to depend on each other in the modern world the way our ancestors did, belonging is still vital for our sense of wellbeing. So it makes sense why so many of us have a hard time with this particular kind of social anxiety.
Now, even though it makes a lot of sense to feel anxious about rejection, exclusion, and not fitting in, it can end up being very restrictive for us to take those fears as gospel without challenging them. In other words, just because something is scary, doesn’t mean we should rule it out and avoid it forever. Although the prospect of things going badly can be terribly unnerving, it can also be rewarding and enlivening to challenge our social fears with courage.
So here are some ways of taking the wind out of social anxiety’s sails:
1. Ask yourself “So what?”
The first way to disrupt social anxiety around the fear of rejection is to ask yourself in a very kind and honest way, “So what?” What if you did experience rejection, judgment, or some other negative social response. What would that mean for you? What would the consequence be for your life? What’s the best way you imagine yourself or someone else dealing with that kind of experience?
I offer questions like these to help you explore for yourself what it is about the possibility of rejection or not fitting in that feels as scary as it does. While there’s a reason for everything, not everything needs to stay the way it is. In this case, I have a hunch that even though it might feel really scary to be rejected or excluded, your fears probably don’t give you enough credit for your ability to deal with challenges like these.
2. Consider the Cost/Benfit
That leads us to the second way of keeping social anxiety and fear of rejection from constraining your life: considering the cost and benefit of putting yourself out there in spite of your fears, versus adhering to social anxiety’s cautions.
What do you imagine would help or hurt your life more? Having your fears come true and experiencing rejection, or staying quiet or withdrawn to keep the rejection from happening? I think it’s important to acknowledge here that every situation is different, and so there’s no universally right answer to this question. I also can’t tell you what’s right or wrong for you, but I can say that for myself, strictly adhering to my fears of judgment, rejection, and exclusion usually costs me more than it benefits me. I’ve developed some wonderful relationships with people who I initially felt scared or intimidated to talk to, in part because I took the risk of approaching them.
3. Building confidence
This connects naturally to the third way of reducing your fear of rejection: building confidence in the possibility of things going well.
In our video “Is Social Anxiety Really About Low Self-Esteem?”, I acknowledge the reality that a lot of people develop fears and expectations around receiving negative responses from others because they’ve actually had a number of those experiences in the past. In cases like this, social anxiety can actually be seen as resistance to receiving rejection or mistreatment in the future. But I also see the dilemma around not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to have an expansive social life.
When we experience really hurtful rejections, it can make it hard to go out on a limb and put ourselves in those situations that we feel anxious about. But trying anyway and experiencing success over time helps us build confidence in the possibility that things could actually go well.
I encourage you to be patient with yourself here. Negative experiences tend to carry a lot more weight than positive ones, and so it could take at least a handful of positive experiences in a row to help build that confidence and diminish some of your fears of rejection or exclusion.
4. See it as an opportunity
Building confidence flows nicely into the fourth way of getting over your fear of rejection: seeing your fear and anxiety as an opportunity to build strength in yourself.
It’s easy to see anxiety as a barrier, because fear makes it hard to take action toward the things you’re afraid of. And while that may be true, it also presents an opportunity to get better at something you struggle with.
If you notice yourself feeling anxious about a social situation you’re anticipating, you could ask yourself a question like, “How might this be an opportunity to build strength or skills?”. You could also ask yourself, “What skills or abilities might facing this fear help me increase?”
Seeing your fear of rejection as an opportunity could help anxious moments feel less like threats and more like potential chances to grow.
These are 4 strategies that can help you reduce your social anxiety and fear of rejection. Now I’d like to turn it over to you! If you have other ways of dealing with social anxiety around the fear of rejection, let us know in the comment section. You can also let us know if you have other helpful ways of dealing with those fears. The Heart & Oak community is all about sharing what helps, and you never know who your ideas and experiences might benefit!
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Take care until next time, and keep doing the things that help you live a better, brighter life!