Once, I walked up to a smoking hot girl in the smoking area of a bar and said “Hi!”. She playfully patted on my pot belly without saying a word, smiled, and left.
The message was clear. She didn’t like men with pot bellies and rightfully so. That was one of the instances that motivated me to lose my belly fat and get six-pack abs.
Obviously, not all rejections in life will be as playful and involve a clear message. I had my share of rude, harsh, and meaningless rejections but still, overcoming the fear of rejection is a key component of getting ahead in life.
There’s no doubt that humans are hardwired to fear rejection. We all fear it. But is this a rational fear? Not so. Rejection is, and will always be, an unavoidable part of life.
To put things into perspective, imagine the opposite scenario where you are guaranteed to never get rejected. You would never be satisfied with what you currently have in life because you would always have the nagging feeling that you could do better.
There’s always a better job, a more beautiful woman, more money, a better place to live in, and so on. We get unhappy when our choices are unlimited. You would need thousands of lifetimes to go through all the available options.
On the other side of the coin, if rejection didn’t exist, you wouldn’t be able to reject anyone and your life would turn into hell rather quickly, filled with undesirable people and duties.
As you see, rejection is not only inevitable but it’s also necessary. When you put your fear of it aside, it’s only rational to accept and embrace rejection.
What the Fear of Rejection Costs You
If not overcome, the fear of rejection is incredibly costly.
If you fear rejection you will…
- Never realize your potential. If you aren’t getting rejected, you aren’t pushing hard enough and you’re leaving bounties on the table. You won’t get what you want without asking for it.
- Miss out on opportunities. Imagine that there’s a hot girl sending signals of interest towards your way. Since hot girls don’t approach men, you must risk rejection and approach her. If you don’t approach her, you’ll beat yourself about it later. Rejection is better than regret.
- Delude yourself with unrealistic expectations. The reality often mismatches your imagination so the best way to get a reality check is to act and see what happens. The fear of rejection denies you this vital reality check which results in unrealistic expectations that are guaranteed to bite your ass sooner or later. Risking rejection allows you to act, evaluate, and adjust. Facing, evaluating and accepting reality will prevent you from living inside your head.
- Not be able to speak your mind. Most people are afraid to speak their minds with the fear of ostracisation which is a form of rejection. When you are not able to speak your mind you lose your autonomy which is disastrous to your integrity.
- Seek approval. Fear of rejection results in needy and approval seeking behavior which tarnishes your value in the eyes of the people you interact with. It’s impossible for people, especially women, to respect a man who demonstrates approval seeking, needy behavior.
- Not do well with women. If you fear rejection you will inevitably come across as a pussy. This will instantly disqualify you in the eyes of attractive women because women are hardwired to be attracted to bold, strong, confident men. Furthermore, fear of rejection will prevent you from approaching the women you want and reduce you to go for the sure thing, which will always be the low hanging fruit, and cause you to either settle for inferior women or no women at all.
- Have a hard time saying “NO”. When you fear rejection you’ll tend to assume, due to empathy, that rejecting people is a horrible thing, which will make it difficult for you to say “no”. If you are unable to say “no”, you’ll frequently find yourself in situations that you don’t want to be in. You’ll hate yourself for it.
- Be prone to suffer from oneitis. Oneitis is a disease that wreaks havoc on your romantic options and leaves you vulnerable to the whims of a person. If you fear rejection, you will hold on to an unhappy relationship, or worse, chase the wrong person for extended periods of time because you are too scared to open up to her and face rejection.
- Put up with abuse. Fear of rejection will severely limit your options so you will find yourself having to endure abusive relationships and oppressive environments.
- Overanalyze. Overanalyzing occurs because you want to decrease or eliminate the possibility of rejection. Since it’s impossible to fully control other people’s decisions, overanalyzing will usually result in wasted time and opportunities.
- Suffer from a scarcity mentality. Resources are abundant in life be it money, women, or anything else that you need (other than time). Ironically, fear of rejection costs you a lot of time, which is the only asset that’s scarce.
- Be unable to develop confidence. Confidence is often assumed to be a natural quality but it’s not. Confidence comes from mastery, which is impossible to build without an inevitable series of failures and rejections.
Why We Fear Rejection
First of all, there’s no human being who doesn’t fear rejection. Yes, there are humans who act in the face of the fear of rejection but the fear is always there.
I believe that the fear of rejection is partly a relic of the tribal times when rejection meant death, and partly a childhood fear when rejection also meant death.
In tribal times, hitting on the wrong woman could mean that you would be killed or kicked out by the leader of the tribe. Being ostracised from the tribe meant a quick death in the jungle. This is why the fear of rejection is hardwired into our brains although the dangers are no longer there. It’s unlikely in today’s world that you will be killed for hitting on a woman or die after being ostracised from a social environment. Also, childhood is a period where it’s impossible for us to fend for ourselves. If you were denied your needs in childhood then you would die.
In the modern world, we are unlikely to die in adulthood due to rejection. Nevertheless, the fear is hardwired into our brains although it’s irrational and costing us a lot of what life has to offer. Since it’s a hardwired and irrational fear, it’s difficult to shake off.
In addition to the hardwired fear of rejection, there are also learned ways of the fear of rejection. A streak of painful rejections can lower our self-esteem. Low self-esteem (inferiority complex) amplifies the fear of rejection because when your self-worth is already hanging on a thread, you will be unwilling to risk losing it.
Benefits of Overcoming the Fear of Rejection
Overcoming the fear of rejection isn’t easy. Most people never overcome their fear of rejection, live in misery, and die with regret.
If you overcome the fear of rejection you will…
- Take your destiny into your own hands. When you fear rejection you fear to ask for what you want. When you fear to ask for what you want, you’re like a stray dog waiting to be thrown a bone. When you have the courage to face rejection, you are like a lion who fearlessly goes after what he wants.
- Save time. Time is your most valuable asset because it’s not renewable. When you run out of time, you die. If you are unwilling to risk rejection you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find ways to circumvent it. It’s not uncommon for a man to chase the same woman for years just to make sure she’ll reciprocate his feelings without him having to take the risk of rejection by opening up to her.
- Receive valuable feedback. Rejection has the potential to expose your shortcomings. Having shortcomings is obviously not good, but having shortcomings without being aware of them is worse. You can always overcome your shortcomings by improving yourself but you will never overcome them when you don’t know what they are.
- Build mental toughness. No one enjoys getting rejected. Rejection inevitably causes some distress, the level of which differs from person to person. What matters is the ability to endure the sting of rejection which builds mental toughness. Mental toughness is an indispensable part of succeeding in life.
- Realize your potential. Fear of rejection results in going for “the sure thing”, “the low hanging fruit”. Facing and enduring rejection is a must for pushing yourself as high as you can reach.
- Develop social skills. The fear of rejection results in avoiding human contact which cripples your ability to develop social skills. Overcoming the fear of rejection will result in improving your social skills and enable you to meet valuable people.
- Expand your comfort zone. Fear of rejection is a subset of the fear of leaving your comfort zone. Nothing noteworthy happens within your comfort zone. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the only way to expand it.
- Be in touch with reality. People who fear rejection tend to lose touch with reality which makes it harder for them to endure rejection when it inevitably happens. Sometimes it’s good to go out, get rejected and humble yourself with a healthy dose of reality.
- Multiply your options. Fear of rejection severely limits your options. Having multiple options is not only good for improving your lot in life but it also gives you the freedom to walk away from toxic settings and relationships.
- Find opportunities to grow. Overcoming the fear of rejection opens new doors no matter whether you are rejected or not. If you aren’t rejected then you get what you want. If you are rejected then you will often get valuable feedback to act upon.
- Get more and better women. Fear of rejection prevents you from approaching the women you desire which sentences you to celibacy or relationships with inferior women. Men who risk rejection can play the numbers game and dramatically increase their odds of finding more and better women.
How the Fear of Rejection Manifests Itself
There are obvious as well as not so obvious signs of the fear of rejection. Not so obvious signs are the most dangerous because they are harder to eliminate. Undiagnosed problems remain unsolved, which prevents you from living your life to the fullest.
Be on the lookout for the following signs or symptoms of the fear of rejection:
- You preemptively reject yourself before you risk rejection. “That girl is out of my league. There’s no way she will give me a chance”, “I will never land a job like that”. Such internal dialogues are possibly the signs that you are preemptively rejecting yourself.
- You reject others before they reject you. (a.k.a. sour grapes). This manifests itself in silly mantras like “money doesn’t bring happiness”, “beautiful girls come with a lot of problems”, “a high-income job is also a high responsibility job so it’s undesirable anyway” and so on.
- You weasel out from possible rejection scenarios with bullshit excuses. “That hot girl is looking at me but I will not approach her now because [insert bullshit reason]”, “I will not apply for that job I want because [insert bullshit reason]”.
- You fear going out alone. “I want to go to that club but I don’t want to go alone because people will think I’m a loser”
- You find it hard to say “no”. You hate to be told “no” so you assume other people would hate you to say “no”.
- You fear offending people. You walk on eggshells around other people to avoid saying something that might offend them because you fear being ostracised.
- You have an inferiority complex. You think that you are “not good enough” which results in the fear of rejection.
- You are a people pleaser. People-pleasing is one of the most common manifestations of the fear of rejection. “If I please them enough they will not reject me”.
- You depend on crutches to weasel out from your own responsibilities. You can’t talk to a girl without the help of some alcohol in your system. “Alcohol gives me the courage to talk to girls”. You rely on others to set you up for a job or a relationship because it’s painful to go out on a limb in the real world, risk rejection and fend for yourself.
- You have low standards. You think you can eliminate rejection if you bring your standards down to a low enough level that you will never get rejected.
- You have impossibly high standards. Having high standards is a good thing but setting your standards so high that you don’t even attempt to lift a finger to attain them is also a manifestation of the fear of rejection. You still absolve yourself of the responsibility to get your needs met. “I want a hot girlfriend and an exotic car but these things are impossible for me to get because [of my genetics, my family isn’t rich, I was born in a poor country, etc.]”. You give up before you even try, which conveniently eliminates the possibility of rejection.
- You are envious. Envy results in wishing to bring others down instead of pushing yourself up, which is, of course, difficult because you instinctively know that you will face numerous rejections on your way to the top.
- You care too much what others think about you. You like that girl but you are too scared to go and talk to her because it’s too hard for you to perform the walk of shame with your tail between your legs in case she rejects you.
- You are prone to develop “oneitis”. Oneitis is a disease that men develop due to various reasons one of which is the fear of rejection. The fear of rejection makes you stick around a girl pretending to be her friend and expect things to develop organically without you opening up to her and risk rejection.
- You live in a world of fantasy. Watching porn, playing video games, watching childish fiction, etc. excessively are insidious manifestations of the fear of rejection. Instead of going out and getting rejected in the real world, you prefer to live in a world of fantasy.
All of the symptoms mentioned above are dangerous signs to look for because they might end up being a part of your personality, a part of who you are, in which case they become almost impossible to shake off. If you catch yourself doing any of the above then you must intervene before it’s too late.
Mindset Shifts and Actions to Overcome the Fear of Rejection
The fear of rejection will never completely go away because you aren’t wired to enjoy not getting what you want. Therefore, your aim shouldn’t be to eliminate the fear of rejection but rather, to act in the face of your fear. As the old saying goes, courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s acting in the face of fear.
Here are some helpful tips to overcome the fear of rejection. These mindset shifts, reinforced with action, will help you to confront and overcome your fear of rejection.
1. Reframe rejection as a badge of honor
Getting rejected means that you acted in the face of your fear and risked rejection. In other words, you were courageous. Courage is something to be proud of, not something to be ashamed of. Plan to pat yourself on the back in case you get rejected instead of beating yourself up for not getting what you want. If you are persistent enough then you’ll eventually get what you want.
2. Develop an abundance mentality
There are 7 billion people on the earth, 3.5 billion of which are women. There are trillions among trillions of dollars of money. There’s no need to fixate on a single case of rejection by a human being or a lost opportunity to make money. The only thing that isn’t abundant is time. Don’t waste your time ruminating on a rejection. Rejection isn’t the end of the world. There is always an abundance of other options.
3. Understand that most of the time rejection isn’t personal
A woman might reject you for no other reason than she’s in love with her boyfriend or her husband. A client might reject you for no other reason than he simply doesn’t need your services. Most rejections aren’t personal at all so it’s only logical to treat them as an inevitable part of life and move on.
4. Understand that other people don’t care about you
No, people aren’t laughing at you because that hot girl in the club turned you down. If anything, they respect you (for about 2 seconds) for gathering up the courage to go after what you want. People are selfish. They spend the majority of their day thinking about themselves, just like you. No one cares for more than 2 seconds whether you got rejected or not.
5. Understand that rejection is a part of life
Think of it the other way. If rejection didn’t exist, you would have to accept every demand that comes your way. Your life would quickly turn into hell. Without rejection, the world would be unlivable. All successful people face and endure countless rejections throughout their way to success. It’s simply impossible to succeed without enduring numerous failures and rejections.
6. Understand that feelings aren’t reliable indicators of reality
Rejection is painful but it’s a feature of life, not a bug. Failure is painful but it’s a necessary part of success. Our feelings aren’t usually reliable indicators of reality. It’s infinitely better to be rational than to be emotional.
7. Rejection might be a blessing in disguise
Getting fired from your job is painful but it might very well cause you to find a better job or building your own business. Getting dumped or rejected is painful but it might result in finding a better partner. A distressing short term loss might lead to a blissful long term gain.
8. Err on the side of overconfidence
Humans tend to err on the side of underconfidence when they are in doubt because underconfidence leads to inaction and inaction is safe as it allows them to remain within their comfort zone. In reality, life tends to forgive overconfidence in many cases but it never forgives underconfidence. Overconfidence leads to action and life rewards action. Underconfidence leads to inaction and life punishes inaction.
9. Visualize the worst-case scenario and accept it
What’s the worst that can happen if you walk up to a girl, say “hi!”, and she turns you down? If the worst thing that can happen is to perform the walk of shame you have no valid reason to fear rejection. What’s the worst that can happen if your job application is turned down? You wouldn’t have that job if you didn’t apply anyway, so what outcome does the rejection change? If you visualize the worst-case scenario and accept it, nothing stands in your way to act.
10. Correct your posture
Standing up straight with your shoulders back subconsciously registers in your brain that you are ready to stand up to the challenges of life.
11. Stop seeking approval
Approval is for dogs. Conflict is a part of life and, ironically, running away from conflict invites more conflict into your life.
12. Understand that getting rejected is masculine
There’s a girl you like and she likes you back. Who’s expected to make the move? Of course, the man is expected to make the move because men are natural risk-takers. That’s how the natural order of things is. There’s a reason that courage is a male virtue that’s encouraged and celebrated. No, it’s not because life is unfair, it’s because courage is a masculine strength and nature selects strength over weakness.
13. Go out and get rejected
All of the above mindset shifts remain as mental masturbation unless they are followed by real-life action. Going out and getting rejected in the real world will build callouses and scar tissue which are required for enduring the upcoming rejections in your life.
14. Improve your value
It’s impossible to completely eliminate rejections but you can minimize them by becoming a man of higher value. High-value men get rejected less. People compete with each other to do favors for high-value men.
Also, self-improvement leads to improved self-esteem and self-acceptance. It’s easier to be accepted by others if accept yourself first. Self-acceptance is tough when you are a 400-pound unkempt slob. I’m not saying that you should improve yourself to impress others. Improve yourself to impress yourself. If you are impressed with yourself than there’s a good chance that other people will be impressed with you too.
Things To Watch Out for when Overcoming the Fear of Rejection
Overcoming the fear of rejection doesn’t mean that you should take stupid risks. In fact, taking stupid risks is a manifestation of the fear of rejection because they often involve taking the shortcut when other options seem too lofty to achieve.
- Don’t shit where you eat. Don’t hit on women in your workplace. No woman in the world is special enough to risk losing your job. Your income is your lifeblood and there are 3.5 billion women in the world that you can hit on without risking your job. Act with an abundance mentality.
- Don’t go for the low-hanging fruit. Getting rejected is fine when you are going after what you want but it’s not fine when you are going after an inferior option that you don’t actually want. “Act in the face of your fear of rejection” isn’t a free pass to lower your standards. Quite the opposite. Keep your standards high, fearlessly go after what you want and if you are not good enough then improve yourself and try again. Never settle for the low-hanging fruit.
- Watch out for the confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses1. If you have low self-esteem, every rejection you face will tend to look like a confirmation of your preexisting beliefs of inferiority when in reality they probably have nothing to do with you. Just be aware that the confirmation bias is there and adjust your thoughts and actions accordingly. Your aim is to overcome your fear of rejection, not to eradicate rejection completely, which is impossible anyway.
Be sure to read:
- How to Be a Superior Man, Chapter 1: What Makes a Man a Superior Man
- “I Can’t Stop Thinking About Her”: How to Cure Oneitis and Move On
- How to Get Over a Girl
- 10 Unrealistic Expectations About Life That Will Destroy You
- How to Stop Being Needy
- 21 Ways to Stop Being an Effeminate Modern Man and Be More Masculine
- I’m not good at anything” – How to Stop Feeling Inferior