Fear of rejection is a big issue for many people — and it used to be for me, too. I used to be so worried about how others felt about me that I was often anxious in my interactions with them — always trying to say and do the “right” thing so they would like me or at least think well of me.
What I didn’t realize in those years was that there were many ways I was rejecting myself, which led me to feel like I wasn’t good enough unless others liked me and approved of me. My fear of others’ rejection was really a projection of the many ways I was rejecting myself.
That was many years ago. Fortunately, when I stopped rejecting myself, my fear of others’ rejection went away.
In working with many thousands of clients over the last 44 years, and in healing my own fear of rejection, I’ve discovered four major ways many people reject themselves. Do you reject yourself in some or all of these ways?
1. Judging Yourself
Do you feel rejected when others judge you? The same thing happens on the inner level. Self-judgment is a common and powerful form of self-rejection.
Are you aware of how you feel when you judge yourself? Or have you numbed out your feelings, which is another common form of self-rejection? Are you aware that when you judge yourself you likely feel anxious, depressed, guilty, shamed and/or angry? Have you ever connected these feelings with your self-judgments?
If you were to judge a child by saying, “You’re pathetic,” “You’re stupid,” “You’re ugly,” “There is something wrong with you,” “You’re not good enough,” and so on, the child would feel rejected, unloved and unlovable. The same thing happens when you judge yourself. If you imagine that you are leveling these judgments toward a small child within you, then you can begin to understand why judging yourself is a form of self-rejection.
2. Ignoring Your Feelings By Staying In Your Mind
Many of us grew up learning to ignore our painful feelings because we were too little to manage them. If, as a child, you felt lonely, rejected, heartbroken and helpless over how others were treating you or over the loss of a loved one, then you had to find ways to not feel the depth of the pain. Little children cannot manage the pain of big feelings without a loving parent helping them learn to do so.
One way many of us learned to not feel our pain is by disconnecting from our body — which is where the feelings are — and focusing in our mind instead. But just as actual children will feel rejected if you ignore their feelings, the child within feels rejected when you ignore your feelings. The inner child is your feeling self, so when you stay in your mind and disconnect from your feelings, you are rejecting a vitally important aspect of yourself.
3. Turning To Addictions To Avoid Feeling Your Feelings
Did you learn to use food, drugs or alcohol, cigarettes, TV, video games, sex or the Internet to avoid feeling your feelings? Did you learn to cut yourself, pick at your skin, pick at your nails, pull your hair out — inflicting some level of physical pain to avoid the emotional pain? Did you become anorexic or bulimic as forms of controlling your feelings?
Just as an actual child will feel rejected if, when he or she comes to you in pain, you consistently give him a cookie and sit him in front of the TV rather than compassionately addressing the pain he is expressing, or you buy her a new dress rather than lovingly attending to her feelings, so your inner child will feel rejected by you when you turn to addictions rather than compassionately embracing and learning from your feelings. You might think you are rewarding yourself when you turn to addictions, but whenever you ignore your feelings in any way, you will feel the anxiety, depression, guilt, shame or anger that results from self-rejection. Then, to avoid these feelings, you reject yourself some more with your self-judgments, or by ignoring your feelings, staying in your mind instead and/or turning to your addictions.
4. Making Others Responsible For Your Feelings
Did you grow up believing that others are responsible for making you feel safe and worthy? While our parents were responsible for this when we were little, as adults it is up to us to give ourselves the loving attention and approval we need to feel lovable and worthy. Even if someone else is loving you, if you are rejecting yourself in the above ways, you will not feel loved and worthy.
Did you learn to give yourself up, or get angry at others, to try to get love and avoid responsibility for your feelings? If you had an actual child and you were constantly looking for someone to take care of the child — someone to give your child away to — that child would constantly feel rejected by you. Again, this is the same on the inner level. You inner child feels deeply rejected by you when you don’t want responsibility for lovingly managing your own feelings, and instead look for someone to give you what your parents might not have given you.
You Can Stop Rejecting Yourself!
You can learn to take responsibility for your own feelings. You can learn to lovingly manage your pain. That’s what I had to learn to do, and if I can learn to do it, so can you! This is what I help my counseling clients do, and this is what thousands have learned to do through practicing the Inner Bonding process. When you learn to love yourself rather than reject yourself, then you can truly share love with others, rather than constantly trying to get love and avoid the pain of rejection.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, “The Intimate Relationship Toolbox” — the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.