Rejection, and the fear of being rejected, ranks among the most potent and distressing of every day events that people experience.

Understanding Rejection

Emotional rejection is the feeling a person experiences when disappointed about not achieving something desired. It is commonly experienced in a quest of emotional relations, such as among romantic couples, in social and group settings, or in the professional world in relation to advancement.

Interpersonal rejection ranks among the most potent and distressing events that people experience. Rejection by a loved one, a romantic relationship, ostracism, stigmatization, job termination, and other kinds of rejections have the power to compromise the quality of a person's life. As a result, people are highly motivated to avoid social rejection, and, indeed, much of human behavior appears to be designed to avoid such experiences.

The act of rejection can make the person experiencing it undergo a sudden drop in positive emotion. This is displayed as something ranging from a vague disappointment, sadness, and depression, to anxiety, phobic behavior, or even stalking or forcibly abducting the rejecting person.

When an act of physical violence is thrust upon a person, the first reaction is to protect your self. The hands go up and cover the face or vital areas; the upper body leans away in order to retreat from the pain that is being inflected. It is almost as if there is a force pulling the body away from the impending danger.

When we are hurt emotionally the same reaction occurs internally; our mental and emotional states are looking to move away from the hurtful person or situation, just as a person under attack. These are responses of defense and the subconscious mind does not differentiate between physical and emotional pain, as both can hurt us. If someone insults you or behaves in a way that violates your personal emotional boundaries, the feeling of hurt may be appropriate. When we experience enough situations of hurt, we feel we have to protect our self from further hurt. This is neither wrong or right, it is a matter of whether the response suites your needs.

The desire for acceptance, the opposite of rejection, is a driving force that keeps many people from being an authentic human being. They are so driven by the need for acceptance of others that they lose their own identity in the process. They mimic the ways in which others act, dress, talk, think, believe, and function. Acceptance is the underlying process in the power of peer pressure and is what causes young people and older people alike to fixate on pop-culture, counter culture, punk, new wave, preppie, yuppie, and other styles. They crave recognition and acceptance from the reference group with whom they want to be identified. 

People who operate out of a fear of rejection often display little or no assertiveness, they do not speak up and let others know how they feel about something, especially if their opinions differ.  They lack the courage to function differently from others, even when they don't enjoy the behavior in which they are involved. They will often keep their personal feelings hidden from others and too often from themselves. 

For too many people the fear of rejection and the desire for acceptance are the main motivating forces for all actions in their lives. It plays a part in their choices concerning their education, career direction, work behavior, achievement level, interpersonal and marital relationships, family and community life, and the ways in which they spend leisure time. The person who operates out of a fear of rejection all too often ends up pushing away the very friends, family, and helpers who care the most. The pulling away of these caring ones appears to be rejection, and the vicious cycle goes on with negative results.


The causes of fear of rejection can range from such things as having a physical condition that  the person believes makes them unattractive to others, being rejected as a child, or having been abandoned or unloved. The person may have had a traumatic experience of rejection that deeply scarred them, they may have never been exposed to healthy ways of dealing with conflict or disagreement, or they may lack a healthy self-concept, sense of self-worth or positive self-esteem.

But regardless of the cause, it can create real problems in the "here and now". Fear of rejection can lead to codependent, clingy, obsessive, jealous, or angry behavior in relationships. It can make you drive others away from you.  It can cause you to reject others to avoid being rejected yourself.  Overall a fear of rejection can result in a very damaging pattern of emotion and behavior that can cause real hurt to relationships and your enjoyment life in general.

Fear of rejection and the unhealthy behavior patterns that develop as a result of this fear are very responsive to psychotherapy and a wide variety of therapeutic approaches used by psychologists and other mental health professionals.

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