Does the Fear of Rejection Control Your Life?By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006
Are your interactions with people determined by how you can avoid the pain of rejection? Are you constantly trying to control how people feel about you?
Jay sought my help because he wanted to get married and have children, yet the relationship of his dreams seemed to elude him. When I first met Jay, he was an attractive, creative, brilliant and successful businessman in his middle 30's. And he had a great sense of humor. It wasn't that women weren't attracted to him. He had no trouble having first dates with interesting, intelligent, and attractive women. But it never went anywhere. Jay was baffled.
When I first started to counsel Jay, he was very quiet. It felt like pulling teeth to get him to share anything with me, especially his feelings. He stayed in his head, brilliant in his ability to articulate, but flat and unemotional. He words were carefully planned out and delivered. He seemed to always be tense. It was very hard to connect with him.
"Jay, something seems to be in the way of your spontaneity. Are you aware of how carefully you pick your words?"
"There must be a good reason you do this. Do you know what that is?"
"I don't want to say the wrong thing. I don't want to make a fool of myself."
"And what are you afraid will happen if you say the wrong thing or make a fool of yourself?
"I will be rejected."
"So most of the time in conversation your intention is to avoid rejection?"
"Yes. I'm terrified of rejection. I will do anything to avoid it."
"Jay, what are you telling yourself it means if someone rejects you?"
"It means that they don't like me because I'm inadequate and unworthy."
"So in your mind, everyone, especially attractive women, have the power to define your adequacy and worth?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"So when you are with women, your intention is to have control over how they feel about you so they won't reject you. Yet you seem to get rejected over and over. How do you account for that?"
"I guess I'm just inadequate."
"Jay, how old do you feel when you are being so careful about what you say? How old were you when you started to do this?"
"I guess when I was about 14, when I started being interested in girls. I wanted to make sure that I made a good impression."
"What made you believe that they wouldn't like you if you were just you?"
"Well, for one thing my older brother was always putting me down, telling me I was a dork."
"So you learned to believe that you were not okay for who you really are - that you had to pretend to be other than you are?"
" Yes, I think that's correct. I always feel that I have to impress people."
"Jay, when you then get rejected, aren't they rejecting your created ego self rather than your real, authentic self? Isn't it your wounded 14 year old ego self that is inadequate, rather than your brilliant, creative, funny, successful self? Aren't you trying to hide your true self because you decided, from many early experiences such as those with your brother, that you are inherently inadequate?"
"Yes, I don't think that who I really am is good enough. So I always have to be careful about what I say."
"The few times in our sessions when you have forgotten to watch what you are saying, you are incredible - funny, insightful, interesting, and totally endearing. Your true self is completely lovable and worthy. Yet you spend so much energy trying to hide him, squashing him down in your efforts to avoid rejection. If you were to really get to know and appreciate who you really are, you would stop worrying about rejection! You would know that you are just fine, and that if someone rejects you, it's more about them than it is about you."
As Jay did his Inner Bonding work to learn to love his beautiful essence, his true self, his fears of rejection gradually diminished. And, of course, when he was able to be authentic instead of controlling, everything in his life changed, including his relationships with women. After two years of satisfying dating, Jay found the woman of his dreams.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."
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Learn to care about yourself enough to be around others who are caring, and accept that you cannot make others care.
By Dr. Margaret Paul