4 Ways To Overcome Fear Of Rejection

afraid of rejection

As a guy in his early twenties, there’s only a few things in life I care about.

My family. My friends.

My various online projects. (Like this one helping people who have shyness or social anxiety.)

My free time pursuing different interests like reading unusual books, drawing, exercising and travelling. (I recently spent six months backpacking throughout southeast asia and it was life changing.)

And, last of all…

Girls.

Is that really a surprise?

Growing up I was extremely shy around girls. In fact, I was a virgin into my twenties despite being decent looking and having nothing “wrong” with me so to speak except for being extremely shy.

One of the reasons shy guys have almost no success with women is because they fear rejection. The woman usually has to make all the moves and give a lot of obvious signals she is interested. Otherwise the shy guy is terrified of getting turned down, or ignored, or being laughed at, or made to look like a loser.

And this fear doesn’t mean that they’re lacking “balls.” It’s actually hardwired into us. Scientists at UCLA have discovered that social rejection activates the same areas of the brain that real physical pain does. So making yourself open to rejection is like asking someone to punch you. Very hard to do, especially if you have shyness or social anxiety.

When people feel rejected or left out, they often describe their feelings with physical pain words, complaining of  “hurt feelings” or “broken hearts.” Our research has shown that feeling socially excluded activates some of the same neural regions that are activated in response to physical pain, suggesting that social rejection may indeed be “painful.”

– Naomi Eisenberger
Associate Professor
Ph. D., UCLA

So since I was afraid of rejection, I stayed lonely. Until I decided to do something about it.

My Unusual Social Experiment

I decided, as an experiment, to go out and start approaching girls in my city. I would go out, almost every day, sometimes with a friend, and strike up conversations with girls. In bars or clubs, out in the street, on the university campus, in the shopping mall.

And you know what? It was terrifying. For the first few months I procrastinated and did nothing. Whenever I saw a girl walk by who I liked my mind would come up with a dozen excuses.

“She’s walking too fast. She’s too pretty – probably has tons of other options. I’m not feeling confident enough today.” And so on…

After a few months I finally mustered enough courage to start. The first few times I approached a girl I was almost shaking with anxiety. My armpits were sweaty. My voice barely came out. And none of the girls seemed to like me.

I was rejected. I felt humiliated. I questioned why I was even bothering to try.

But then I started getting some success. Longer conversations. Less awkwardness. Girls who stayed and talked instead of ignoring me or running away. Phone numbers. Dates. Sex. Longer relationships.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Now, I have more options than 99% of other guys out there, because the majority are too scared to approach a random girl. Their options are limited to their social circle, work, or maybe meeting someone drunk at a party.

And the lessons I learned went far beyond just dating. They helped me to meet new people in general, become more confident, and care less about what other people think of me.

In this article I’ll show you a few ways I overcame much of my fear of rejection, and show you how you can do the same.

These tips can help you whether your fear of rejection is holding you back from meeting new people, dating, or even business networking or sales.

1. Realize That Rejection Teaches You How To Stop Getting Rejected

Why is rejection painful? Because usually people interpret rejection to mean: “There’s something wrong with me.”

But what if you looked at it a different way? Instead of seeing rejection as a reflection of your own worth, see it as useful feedback.

One of the things I read early on in my journey overcoming social anxiety was this saying:

“There is no failure, only learning experiences.”

When you get rejected, you should be grateful. It shows you that you’re doing something wrong and need to reconsider your approach. Whether that be making more eye contact, speaking louder, learning how to relax in social situations, or something else.

Of course, this also requires you to have a longer-term mindset when it comes to your personal development. To stop putting so much importance on this one person’s opinion of you and instead see them as one among hundreds you are going to meet.

2. Lower Your Standards For Success

Most people put too much pressure on themselves to perform well.

Whether that means being seen as the fun, outgoing person at the party. Or getting that girl to laugh and be really into them. Or (if you’re a salesperson) making a sale from every phone call you make.

When your idea of success is trying to control how people respond to you, then you’re in for trouble. You can’t ever really control someone else’s behaviour. You can’t control whether they will like you or be annoyed by you.

So when you put pressure on yourself to do well all you do is make yourself really anxious. You create a type of performance anxiety in yourself. And this stops you from even trying. From even making the approach in the first place. From introducing yourself. From making that phone call.

The solution to this is very simple, but powerful.

Since all you can really control are your own actions, then judge yourself ONLY by your actions, not other people’s responses.

In my example of approaching girls, I decided that my only criteria for success is that I actually walked up and talked to them. In other words, no matter how she reacted I still succeeded. By adopting this mindset, I found it took a lot of pressure off of me. I ended up approaching girls far more often and doing much better. My “results” shot through the roof.

Next time you feel anxious about getting rejected, tell yourself that the only thing that matters is that you put yourself out there. And even if you do get rejected, allow yourself to feel proud for acting with courage in spite of fear.

3. Rejection Therapy – Make It A Goal To Get Rejected

This is similar, though different to the last point.

A guy called Jason Comely invented rejection therapy. Originally, rejection therapy started out as a game for businesspeople and salespeople to grow their businesses.

The idea behind it is simple. Here’s how his website describes “rejection therapy“:

REJECTION THERAPY – THE GAME

consists of only one main rule…

YOU MUST BE REJECTED BY ANOTHER PERSON AT LEAST ONCE, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Please notice the wording of the rule. It doesn’t say you must attempt or try to be rejected. The rule is you MUST be rejected by another human being. In this game, rejection is success.

No other outcome will meet the requirement of Rejection Therapy.

To put yourself in a situation where rejection is likely, but to your surprise your request is granted, is not a successful outcome. Why? Because you weren’t rejected. You didn’t ask for enough.

Seems pretty crazy, doesn’t it?

It works, though. In business, every rejection leads you closer to an acceptance of your offer. And the same philosophy can be applied to overcoming fear of rejection in social situations.

There’s nobody in the world who has any success without also facing failure and rejection. So the idea is to aim for the rejection, and the success will come as a byproduct.

Many of the most famous authors got rejected countless times before they were finally published, and their books went on to become bestsellers.

  • JK Rowling was rejected countless times before the first Harry Potter book was published.
  • Stephen King‘s first book was turned down 30 times. In frustration, he threw the manuscript into the garbage. His wife encouraged him to submit it just one more time. It got published, and now he’s one of the most popular authors in the world.

4. Rejection Is A Filter For Compatibility

There are over 6 billion people on the planet right now. They all have different values, interests, hobbies and personalities.

Somewhere out there, there are people who are similar to you. People who you can connect with. People who share your interests. Or simply people you have chemistry with. But these people are the minority.

The majority of people out there you won’t be able to have any sort of deep relationship with because of incompatibility. And that’s okay.

Everybody isn’t supposed to like each other. And rejection is the “sorting mechanism” that allows people to find those they are compatible with. When someone rejects you, they are saving you both from wasting time.

What I used to see as rejection I now realize is usually only a lack of chemistry. Here’s a great video by Mark Manson that explains this idea well in terms of dating:

Rejection is not a reflection of your own worth as a person. In fact, once you get a great “inner circle” of friends who accept you for who you are, then rejection becomes almost meaningless.

“But Most Of These Points Just Tell Me To Do It!”

You’ll notice something similar in all of the points I talked about. None of them mentioned avoiding rejection. Instead, it’s my belief that rejection is a basic fact of life for everyone. It never goes away.

You can either hide away from rejection or learn mindsets and strategies for dealing with the fear. The mindsets I talked about here are useful because they take the pressure off of you to perform and they allow you to see rejection as a positive thing instead of a negative judgement of you.

And if you want to learn my complete strategy for overcoming anxiety and fear in social situations, then check out my program called “The Shyness and Social Anxiety System” here.

It will show you specific techniques you can use to lower anxiety and nervousness on the spot. It will also show you how to overcome that paralyzing fear that stop you from meeting new people. Everything is written from my own firsthand experience as someone who suffered social anxiety most of my life.

About the author

Sean Cooper

I study all areas of psychology, sharing what works (and what doesn’t) for overcoming shyness and social anxiety. After curing my own severe social anxiety I created “The Shyness and Social Anxiety System” to help others. This program has received stunning reviews from psychologists and people like you.

Now it’s my life’s mission is to help 25,000 people get the confidence, friends and romantic partner you want!

Read more about me here.

19 Comments

    • Most of the time people who have social anxiety cause other people to brush them off or reject them because of their own behaviour.

      Look at it from the other side. If someone isn’t able to relax, joke around, maintain an interesting conversation or have a good time with you, then you probably won’t be too eager to be friends with them. This is why it’s important to sort out your own issues like anxiety, insecurity or conversation skills first.

  • Awesome! Never forget that if you see a girl that you like or are interested in and you decide to go talk to her and after talking to her she rejects you, remember that there is no harm in chasing her rejection, after rejection UNTIL…. she is yours 🙂

    • Persistence is okay, but there’s definitely a line where you should pay attention to whether you are making her uncomfortable. Imagine a girl who you weren’t attracted to chasing you over and over again, even if you want her to stop. 😉

  • Sorry to change the subject but I’m new and am not sure where to ask this question. My apologies if this is annoying.

    Sean, I was wondering if you’ve ever considered trying or have tried to use the principles of overcoming shyness to address other aspects on someone to change something else hat they wish to change?

    I find the science behind your methods fascinating so I wonder at the possibilities.

    Thanks, Kris

  • Hi great article! I guess everybody fears rejection, however, the tips you mentioned are really awesome and can help people. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Sean, such a great article!!! Thanks!!

    But I really need your help!

    I’m a uni student and I guess I have social anxiety & I’m shy!
    Every method I’ve tried till now doesn’t seem to help.

    I’m fine around close friends, close family, & some outgoing & accepting ppl.
    But I’m really shy & quiet around most ppl.

    At uni,….I think no one sees me! I’ve been going to uni for 3 years, & still haven’t found a friend. I sometimes sit with a girl, but she’s also really shy & private.
    & this situation makes me uncomfortable.

    We have to spend a lot of times at uni. & as I don’t have a good friend there, It all sounds boring and depressing.

    Most days, I really don’t want to go to uni, & I skip the classes whenever I can, whenever I think about our uni, or whenever I wanna go, I just feel anxious & depressed. & whenever I skip the classes, no one really understands it.
    Whenever I feel sad, no one understands it,

    No one cares for me, my peers rarely text me, they rarely ask me questions, & I guess most of them don’t really respect me!

    My grades are getting worse & worse each term. Every summer, I promise myself that I’m going to improve, & will try more & get better grades,

    But then I go to uni again, in that atmosphere, start feeling depressed, lonely & guilty, & don’t study, feel sleepy in classes or skip them if I can, & get bad grades again.

    I live at home with parents, & I’m not allowed to invite friends home. But I can’t afford living alone at all.

    I think no one sees me at uni, & even when a group of random boys & girls are debating, joking or being witty, I stay in the corner wishing I was one of them.
    I only can be serious around them, & as I’m usually anxious & depressed, any other gesture sounds weird!!

    & even when I’m around some ppl, I either keep quiet Cruz they are a clique & I don’t want to get rejected or bullied by them.
    Or I simply get anxious & don’t to what to talk about or how to start a conversation.

    I also can’t speak loudly there!!! I speak with a weird, serious, cold voice & I hate it.

    Others are usually comfortable there, talking, laughing, etc, but I just sit, keep quiet, wish I were like them, & feel tired & just want the classes to end, so I can go home!!!

    Sean, plz help me get better! My life in ruining.

    • I feel you..I experience exactly how you feel. What helps is not to think too much about what others think of you. Don’t be hard on yourself. To put yourself out there to become more noticed rather than invisible. Don’t compare yourself with others and give yourself time to reflect upon your thoughts, actions, how u spend ur time etc.. You know, improve on urself. I hope ur getting better now. All the best 🙂

    • Elly I am a Uni student too and I feel for you.
      As was mentioned in the above article, don’t focus on how others react to your behaviour. Instead focus on the reasons why you are going to Uni in the first place. Is that a course or area of interest to you? What do you want at the end of it?
      We cannot change on how others are, instead we can only change ourselves; and how we react or respond to what others do or act.
      Once I realised that, I, like Sean, had the courage to make the changes. I changed my attitude – “If they want to treat me that way, that is their problem, not mine!”
      You might need to put your studies on hold for awhile, and if you do go back to uni make sure that your course is something that you have a motivation for. I did that and now that I’m back I am doing well. Because I am in a course that I can do, and suits my needs and interests.

  • Thank you for this! I have started on my own jernuoy of awakening and hadvery good guides. So much has opened up to me consciously but the thingI really struggle with is fear & anxiety!! I have a job that requires attention toDetail and the work is always being scrutinized by others in order to be com

  • you’re a freakin’ genius Sean. the fact that you ended up with all of this by yourself alone. your depictions are precisely what i have and am living with blood and bone every goddamn day. your materials give insight they’re like unchaining a slave of a thousand of years. keep up the good work. congrats now, you just made yourself to be my number 1 hero.

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