The Fear Of Rejection


We've all been there.... you meet someone you really like and things seem to be going great. You've been chatting, messaging, snapping and flirting for weeks and you seem to have loads in common with them. They're good banter and they seem to like you too so you want to take things to the next level. You want to ask them out on a date. But what if it all goes horribly wrong? What if you've built yourself up to the point where you're brave enough to ask them out or even worse, make some kind of romantic gesture and then..... They say no! It can actually be pretty terrifying. There are so many questions running through your head. What if they say no? What if it ruins our friendship? What if they say yes but only out of pity? It takes a lot of balls to look at someone you have feelings for and ask them if they'll go out with you because of all those hypothetical answers I've just mentioned. But then again, what if they say yes?


I'm well aware of all the questions that run through your brain when you start to fancy someone because I have a massive fear of rejection. So much so that a girl will have to hold up a sign saying "I like you" before I'll make a move or, more commonly, make the first move themselves. I'm getting a lot better at it but nonetheless; I'm very familiar with the doubts and the fear of rejection that comes with asking someone out. And it is real. They might say no. You might feel embarrassed. There's no point in dismissing that but there's also the potential that the person you like will return your feelings and overcoming the fear and the doubts will totally be worth it. So how do you do it? How do you overcome the doubts and the fear of being rejected and take that chance? I can't give you a magic spell or a hack but what I can give you are some tips and advice that I've studied myself.


Give Yourself A Break


Often the biggest thing standing in your way when it comes to the fear of rejection is you. Have you ever thought, "Well this person isn't going to say yes to me because nobody ever says yes to me"? If you have, you're not the only one because this kind of thinking is very common, especially for people who struggle with low self-esteem. The biggest problem with this kind of thinking is that you become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you never put yourself out there, then you'll never know if someone actually does like you and will say yes. Imagine the person you like is waiting for you to ask them out because they too are too nervous to make the first move. Then, if you don't ask them, they'll think that you don't feel the same way and what could have been a nice opportunity to be happy together is lost. The moral of the story is not to approach this situation thinking the worst. If you've been chatting to them for a while then you have some chance at least so even if it doesn't go the way you'd like, don't lock the door before you try to open it.


The Fear Of Being Vulnerable


A fear of rejection usually stems from a fear of vulnerability. If you asked your friend to buy you a burger after the nightclub and they told you where to go you'd probably laugh it off so the word "no" isn't that scary in itself. So, what makes it so scary when you want to ask a person you like to go for a drink with you? Vulnerability. It's not easy for anyone to bare his or her feelings to the world – especially if it's to someone you have actual feelings for. It's not about someone not wanting to go for a drink, the fear lies in the fact that you put yourself out there, let someone know that you liked them, and got rejected. And it's a pretty awful feeling. The only way to get past it is to take baby steps. When you're in the chatting/messaging phase, take small risks by being vulnerable in little ways. Like if they if they ask you what songs you like, tell the truth and tell them the reason instead of picking something that you think will make you seem cooler. You don't have to be too dramatic but a little honesty will help break down barriers and let get you get used to showing vulnerability to someone you like.


Have Some Chill


As in try not to fall too hard, too fast. When you ask someone to go out with you, start small. Think about the date itself and don't start thinking about the future beyond the date. It's hard because your thoughts will gravitate towards the future if you really like the person. But in the interest of softening any potential rejection, try to focus on thing at a time. Why? Because you'll find it easier to deal with the idea that someone doesn't want to go for a drink with you than the rejection of an entire relationship that you may have already built up in your mind. It's not easy but it does make things easier. In reality, you need to have realistic expectations when it comes to asking someone out. They might say yes to dinner or a drink but that's really all they're agreeing to so don't start thinking of baby names or pricing hotels for the afters of your wedding. I'm not saying you should have no or low expectations, rather keep them reasonable so if the bubble bursts, the fallout is less severe.

The Past Is In The Past


One thing that can really hold people back when it comes to a fear of being rejected is real evidence based on past rejections that you've experienced. It can lead people to think that everyone will reject you because the last person or persons did. When you do this, you're not being fair to you and you're not being fair to the new person you've started to have feelings for. The opinions and reactions that people have had towards you in the past don't hold any bearing on the opinions that someone new hold unless you let them (self-fulfilling prophecy remember?). So, if you feel that you like someone and that the time is right to ask them out, don't assume that they will have the hang-ups as the previous people who didn't go for the idea. Sometimes the things that others see as "flaws" are things that a new person will find funny or charming.


The Mental Health Fallout


On its own, rejection is fairly s**t. However, when it's paired with anxiety and or depression, it can be even more intolerable. When battling a mental health issue daily life is already a struggle without the added burden of dealing with rejection. Obviously, the first piece of advice that I'm going to give here is that if you are battling with mental health issues then don't go through it alone. Talk to your friends, talk to your family and if necessary, talk to your GP and a counsellor. It's 2018 and it's no longer a source of shame to be open and honest about your mental health. If you broke your leg you'd need painkillers and rehabilitation to get back to your normal daily routine and your mental health is no different to your physical health in that sense. Access to resources such as medication and therapy will get your symptoms under control and make your daily life far easier to handle. With regard to rejection, it's important to continue on your journey with your GP and counsellor because if you deviate from it, the pain of rejection is likely to hit you a lot harder. As with all forms of rejection, nothing is forever and one person's opinion doesn't define you as a person. If your mindset is prone to negative thinking patterns due to a mental health issue, it can be easy to think that one rejection means that you are forever destined to be alone and no one will ever want to be with you. If this sounds familiar then ask your GP about CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) as it can help to replace these negative thought patterns with more positive ones. Like for instance the idea that one person's rejection means that no one will ever say yes to you. Where's the evidence of this? What it usually means is that you are not compatible with this one person but that has no bearing on any of your potential future endeavors.


Accept It


So to bring it right back to the beginning, if you have been chatting to someone for weeks and there seems to be a connection so you overcome your fear of rejection and bite the bullet and ask them to go for a drink with you..... and they still say no! The best thing to do is accept their answer with grace. If you start to argue with them or make a scene, then dealing with the fallout will include feelings of guilt, shame, and regret for not respecting that persons wishes. It's not a nice feeling but you must accept it, pick yourself up and move on. I also wouldn't advise pestering the person in an effort to try and change their mind. You'll only make it worse.


Things don't always go the way you'd like them to and certainly, there will be times in your life where you'll have to deal with the cold reality of rejection. The main thing to remember is that you can't let the fear of rejection tamper with your chances to find something great and real. I'm speaking from experience, I know I've had more than a few ones that got away and I've learned that people I really liked felt the same way years after the fact. I've learned to work on my fear of rejection because of this. So if there's someone in your life that you like and you think there's a realistic chance that they like you too then go for it.

Patrick McLoughney