The process of starting a new relationship can be exciting. However, it’s also one of the most vulnerable positions we can be in. We put our trust and faith into the arms of another person and hope that our love is reciprocated. And as we start forming a deeper connection and strengthening a bond with another person, we also rely on them for our emotional security.
As humans, we all share a need to feel connected and have a sense of belonging. At the same time, we’re wired to avoid potential danger, fear, and in this case, rejection.
What is a fear of rejection?
When we feel rejected, it strikes an inner belief of being unlovable, unworthy, or unwanted. The emotional pain we feel activates the same regions in the brain that respond to physical pain.
And since the mind and body are great at protecting us from pain, we’re hardwired to avoid it. As soon as we experience one, two, even multiple instances of rejection, our brains register them so we can avoid and prevent any future occurrences from happening again.
So how does fear of rejection show up in your relationship?
Rejection = proof that you’re unacceptable in some way, shape, or form.
This makes it incredibly difficult to feel safe and secure in your relationship. Even if you’re not currently experiencing rejection at this point, you may be watching out for signs of it or expecting it to happen at some point. This hyperawareness can lead to dramatic reactions that don’t seem to fit the circumstances.
On the other hand, minor mishaps can be perceived as neglectful. It leaves you feeling distressed, angry, and resentful as soon as you perceive a potential rejection.
If any of this is starting to sound familiar, here are eight things you can do to manage your fear of rejection to achieve a happy, long-lasting relationship:
1. Validate your feelings
Feeling embarrassed, awkward, or uncomfortable often tag along with feeling rejected. Before you begin addressing your feelings about rejection, acknowledge and validate them. Brushing them off and acting like you don’t care about getting hurt denies the opportunity to confront and manage this fear in a productive way.
2. Understand your fear
Taking some time to explore what’s really behind your fear of rejection can help you overcome it. What situations do you actively avoid in fear of being rejected? What ideas or requests do you not share in fear of being denied? What “no’s, are you afraid to hear?
3. Recognize what you can control
Since rejection is ultimately in the hands of another person, it makes it that much more intense when it happens. What you can control, however, is the way you respond to it. For example, feeling jealous or suspicious of your partner is one thing. But what you do with that feeling, like going to check their phone when they’re not around, is another. These unhealthy behaviors resemble a fear of abandonment, so it may help check in with those uncomfortable emotions and learn how to respond to them appropriately.
4. Honor your needs
Fear of rejection can lead to feeling like you need to act, dress, talk, and do things differently. Warning: this isn’t always obvious; sometimes, these things take time to notice. This doesn’t necessarily mean your partner has bad intentions; they just might not have realized because you didn’t seem to mind. Remember to check in with yourself occasionally and make time for the things you enjoy doing.
5. Practice being vulnerable (in small ways)
Fear of rejection often looks like difficulty expressing your own needs and standing your ground. Practice expressing your opinions, thoughts, and emotions in a clear, assertive way. Notice when you’re walking on eggshells or putting your feelings aside-this can quickly grow into resentment over time.
6. Check-in with your expectations
We all have ideas of what our ideal relationship looks like (even if we aren’t inherently aware of them). But focusing too much on these sometimes unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment. Mistakes, disagreements, and conflict all play a role in any relationship, so if your partner lets you down-check in with your assumptions about their attentions, don’t assume that a failure in competence is intentional. Let go of any unrealistic expectations of what you want your relationship to look like.
7. Practice emotional regulation
Easier said than done, but try to take a moment to stop and reflect on a distressing situation rather than respond right away. Look for an alternative explanation for the behavior rather than jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst-case scenario.
8. Focus on building a community
As much as you may adore your new partner, you can’t always share the same interests, passions, and dreams. Rather than focusing solely on them, surround yourself with like-minded individuals. There isn’t one person that can solve all of our issues and meet our needs. Maintaining relationships with people with your best interest at heart is essential, as they all play essential roles in our lives.
The bottom line
One of the most important things you can do in your new relationship stays true to yourself. After all, your partner should like you for who you are, not for the things you do for acceptance. When you’re authentic with yourself, the rest takes care of itself, and your relationship will be even greater than it is already.
If you feel that you could use extra support in managing your fear of rejection, consider working with a therapist. They’ll work with you to understand your fear and help you discover ways to overcome it.