The fear of rejection is holding you back from finding love. That fear is often painful, crippling — and important to the human condition. In this episode, I share tips along with profound and practical concepts that you can incorporate into your daily life that will help you to get past your fear of rejection.
Listen in to find out if you are being held back by your fear of rejection and what you can do about it.
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- How to overcome the fear of rejection
- What are the side effects of feeling excluded
- How do people with ADHD deal with rejection
- What to do if you get rejected
- What are the things that help us connect with our real selves
- Where does the fear of rejection come from
- Get a copy of Deeper Dating by Ken Page
- Join the Coaching and Mentorship Intensive with Ken Page
- Connect with us on Instagram
Hello folks, and welcome to The Deeper Dating® Podcast. I’m Ken Page and I’m a psychotherapist, the author of the book, Deeper Dating, and the host of this podcast. And I’m so glad to be here with you today to talk about how to get past your fear of rejection, how to turn the volume down on your fear of rejection. And we’re going to be talking about some ideas that are very profound and other ideas that are very, very practical, but all together make a huge difference and have made a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives.
So first, I just want to say that in this episode, and every episode, I’m going to share with you the greatest tools that I know and that I have learned to help you find healthy love and to keep it flourishing, and to heal your life in the process, because the skills of dating are the skills of intimacy, and those are the greatest skills of all for a rich and meaningful life.
And if you like what you learn here, please feel free to go to the Deeper Dating® Podcast. And there you can find transcripts of every episode, learn about a lot of free resources, and also join my mailing list, in which case you’ll get lots and lots of resources from me that will help you in your search for love. And if you like what you’re learning here, I would love it if you could leave me a review. Written reviews are amazing, just stars are great too, and subscribe as well. So thank you so much for that. Let’s jump in.Somehow we are more connected to our humanity if we can hold the fear and pain of rejection with cupped hands. Click To Tweet
So fear of rejection, it’s such a crippling experience, such a painful experience, and it’s also so, so important to the human condition. And I think that a lot of us are kind of stunned by how much we feel the pain of rejection, by how much the experience of exclusion actually really hurts us. And there’s a lot of research on this as well. In fact, your body experiences and registers the pain of feeling excluded in very similar ways to physical pain and actually in ways that activate the physical pain system in the body.
In fact, there was a study done around 2010 by DeWall and colleagues that what they did was they gave people acetaminophen, which is a pain reliever. And as a result of that, people felt the hurt of exclusion to a lesser degree. And I think part of the message there is that exclusion really hurts and people who have been rejected are more likely to overeat, procrastinate, take unnecessary financial risks, perform poorly on tests of intelligence, and actually be aggressive as well.
Feeling excluded increases this sense of helplessness and worthlessness that we might feel in our lives, and that actually threatens our very meaning of life. We are herd animals and we care deeply about being connected. It’s as if there’s an oxygen tube and the experience of exclusion pinches the oxygen tube so that we feel less safe in our very survival because connectedness is so essential for our survival.
And people with a deep, deep need for connectedness and affiliation can have that fear in an even stronger way because this, what I call a Core Gift-quality of needing deep connection can both bring them more joy than many other people feel, but also create more pain when they feel like that’s threatened.
And people with ADHD, by the way, can have an intense, intense reaction to rejection. It’s something that’s actually called rejection-sensitive dysphoria, and it’s one of the greatest pains that people with ADHD have is how profoundly sensitive they are to rejection.
So I’m talking a lot about the pain of rejection, and I want to say that… So now we’re going to move to what do you do about rejection? And I’m going to share with you some concepts that are very profound and some concepts that are very practical and really helpful. But what I want to say first is that I think that the first step always, always, always, always is making space for these feelings that maybe we think we shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t care this much. I shouldn’t be this sensitive. Well, I am. So I’m not going to change that by telling myself not to be. That will absolutely not work. What can I do instead?
Connect to your humanity:
I can acknowledge the tenderness of my being and I can hold that with what I call cupped hands, making space for it, not squeezing it, not trying to change it, not trying to shift it, but also not looking at it with coldness and a kind of chilly objectivity, but to hold it as part of my humanity.
So I think that that kind of self-compassion, what it does, it doesn’t take the pain away, but it makes the pain less pointed and richer. Somehow we are more connected to our humanity if we can hold that fear and that pain with cupped hands. Does that kind of take us from that problem or dramatically reduce the volume? No, but it helps.
And now I want to talk about a very, very powerful thing that helps and also helps in our relationships, in our careers, in our expression of self in the world, and in some really, really particular ways in our dating lives.
And here’s what that is. In some amazing way, the more we feel connected to the experience of self, to an actual visceral sense of self, what I call connected to our Core Gifts, connected to your heart, connected to your sense of your body, connected to your sense of purpose, that kind of wonderful space where you feel that there is a self there and that there’s a kind of emanation of you-ness coming from that self. When you feel that, the more that you feel that, the less you will feel anguish around rejection.
I don’t know of research to back this up, but I know it’s true in my life and in my decades of work as a psychotherapist. I’ve seen it be true for so many people and a very, very liberating thing. There’s such a pressure from the outside world. Sometimes it’s imagined, and sometimes it’s real – about what we have to achieve and the milestones we have to hit and accomplish and the things we should do and the ways we need to act, and the ways we need to look. God knows that is true in the land of dating. There’s such a pressure that goes outward from the outside in. It’s this constant pressure.
When there is a sense of self that we’re feeling, a sense of connection to our gifts, our heart, our purpose, our visceral presence, that presence is like a beaming outward. It counters the pressure from the outside and it stops us from collapsing from that outer pressure. When we think about how other people are perceiving us, that sense of self starts to fade, and then this collapse happens when we get too worried about that, it’s a collapse of self. The pressure of the outside eyes begins to crush us.
When we instead can think, what am I feeling? What would bring me joy here? What hurts me here? What are my needs here? Who am I and what do I want? We create a pressure that goes from the inside out and counters the pressure of the outside world and actually becomes kind of an emanation of who we are. There’s an inverse relationship between living present sense of self and that crippling painful fear of being rejected.
I remember many, many years ago being in therapy and I had a boss and I was really, really constantly thinking about what she thought about me and always feeling not right and not good. And my therapist said something really wise. She said, “What do you think of her?” Which was really interesting, and I had my thoughts.
And she said to me, she said, “The degree to which you lose that eye that looks out at the world, to that degree the eyes looking at you will become giant. They will dwarf you. They will be senior to you. They will make you doubt yourself. If you can’t find your E-Y-E, eye, then the eyes of the world will kind of eat you alive.” Well, this was just a revelation.
When there’s a vacuum of sense of self or authenticity, like we want to do something or say something, but we can’t even let ourselves find it inside because we’re so worried about what other people expect of us and how we’re performing according to that, we create a vacuum inside. And nature abhors a vacuum, and that vacuum gets filled with lots of different kinds of pain where the world’s eyes begin to take us over and colonize us.
So then there are a few questions that come up with that. How do you develop that sense of self? Well, that’s a rich, rich question, and this is something I would love you to think about right now. What ways of being activate that sense of self, that emanates outward, that has a sense of life and mission and worth? Who are the people with whom you feel that? Like you want to get out there, you want to play, you want to be alive, they want you to do that. You are welcome. You are invited. Those are your people.
I heard of an experiment, I don’t have any details about it, where the experience of senility was induced in some people. There was a group of people that were living together and a number of them were targeted as the ones who would be excluded. And their words, their advice, their insights would just be treated in a way as somehow less than, in a way that happens often with older people in our culture. And the symptoms of senility were induced by people doing that to them, which is poignant and painful but helps us understand the preciousness of our humanity.
So what are the things that help you connect with the real authentic you? Every time we feel fear of rejection, what we can ask ourselves is, who am I wanting to be now? What am I not liking about what’s going on? What am I not appreciating? What doesn’t feel right? What am I needing that I’m not getting? What doesn’t feel safe here? These questions will help us reclaim our sense of self. And now I want to talk about this in, well, I’m just going to back up for a second.
In my work, in all of my work, I talk about Core Gifts. And the Core Gifts are the parts of ourselves that we feel the most deeply. They are our magic. They’re where we feel the beating heart of our humanity. They’re in the things that hurt us the most and the things that fill our hearts the most. They’re in the things that we’re most tender to share. But then when we find people who get and appreciate those things that we’re shy to share, it’s like we find our place in the world and in a deeper way, we find our mission, because it’s the things that we feel so timid to share that are our treasures and our Core Gifts.
So as we replace that fear of this part of me won’t be accepted with, oh, this part of me has worth, this part of me has value. I got something to say. There’s something I want to do. The emanation of who I am in the world right now would want to do this or that. There’s an inverse relationship between that active sense of living us and our fear of rejection. I’m not saying that’s completely true, but I’m saying it’s largely true.
And now I want to say something about how profoundly that affects dating because here we are and we’re like naked. We’re auditioning. We are out there in the world with strangers looking for our soulmates. That is not easy. And also it is a cold dating world out there, as we know. I’ve talked about that so many times that everybody, everybody knows how true that is.
And once again, the same formula, the degree to which we are worried and disturbed by the eyes looking at us. “Will I be seen as attractive? Will I be wanted? Will I be desirable? Will I make it in that world? Is the degree to which we’re going to reduce the emanation of self, the degree to which the pressures of the outside will collapse our sense of self-worth.
So what do we do about that? Well, in all the work that I do, that is so much of what it’s about in my intensives, in all of my work and my writing, that’s what I talk about. And in very simple terms, a way to think about this in your dating life is this. Your goal is going to be, and it’s brave and it’s scary, but it’s beautiful, is going to be to just be you, to be the essence of delicious human, imperfect, authentic you. And as I say that, I imagine that you get a taste of that you, and that’s the you. That’s the you.
So if your mission in dating shifts and becomes less, “how am I going to find somebody where there’s mutual attraction, who’s going to like me?” And it becomes, “I’m going to emanate me and I am going to look for the people with whom my soul feels safe and seen and appreciated when I do that”. When you go out on a date and that becomes your intention, A – you will be brave. B – you will be kind of operating on a higher level because there’s something heroic in that way of living. And you will know it. You will know, I’m being brave. I’m really being brave by doing it this way.The fear of rejection is often a kind of fear of success. Click To Tweet
I had a client that went through this experience of naming and identifying his Core Gifts, these qualities that were the most essentially him. And he said really clearly, this was incredibly helpful for me in the work that I did, he said, “I have totally different intention in dating. It’s completely different now. My intention is to go out and be authentic me and see with whom that works, with whom that vibes, with whom that feels wonderful. That’s my job. That’s my intention.”
And he described directly how dramatically his fear of rejection diminished by doing that, and also how much more likely he was to meet women who really matched for him and he met his soulmate and they got married.
This was because of this shift where he treasured and became who he was. And his intention shifted. And I want to encourage all of you in your dating life to have intentions of authenticity, intentions of being connected. If you’re going out to an event, this is a really helpful tool, is have an authentic intention. Like, if I do that, I’m going to be being me.
For example, I’m going to smile at people. Even if I feel shy, I’m going to crack a smile. I’m going to smile at people. And even not just the people I’m attracted to, just two people at this party. That’s going to be my intention. So you do that at the party and let’s say you meet nobody, but there’s some kind of personal power that comes and a sense of some success because you have lived your intention.
So I want you to just picture the freedom and the beauty of living that way. And what I want to tell you is that when you do that, not only will your fear of rejection diminish not all the time and not perfectly, but pretty significantly, but also, you will be so much more likely to meet somebody who is looking for somebody like you.
So you may be hearing little drip, drip, drip, drip, drip. It’s raining outside and the rain is quietly hitting my window. I don’t think you’ll be hearing it, but if you do, my apologies.
Another really interesting thought is that fear of rejection is kind of fear of being bigger. Because when you think about and living this way that I’m talking about, it involves a bigness of self. It involves an expressiveness, an authenticity, a spontaneity, a playfulness, a soulfulness, a sensuality. And we become bigger when we do that. And that bigger-ness on its own is scary.
And Abraham Maslow actually said that a lot of times our fear of rejection is not so much fear of rejection. That fear of rejection is a way of stopping ourselves from being so much bigger. And he says that it’s an evasion of one’s own growth, setting low levels of aspiration, the fear of doing what one is capable of doing, voluntary self-crippling. And he talks about these as being fears of if we’re too big, we will feel like we’re being grandiose. We will feel like people will think we’re grandiose. We are too much.
Self-sabotage on the road to love:
I think that’s a really interesting thing, this concept of fear of rejection is often a kind of fear of success. And there’s a really interesting question that I want to pose to you, because… And this is a little bit different, but let’s just go with this concept of sometimes our fear of rejection that then stops us from being this richer, more authentic, more vibrant, more risk-taking version of who we are, that maybe we’re doing that because we know that if we do it, we’re going to be more successful, we’re going to be more powerful, we’re going to be more alive, we’re going to be more magnetic. And that brings up its own set of fears.
So that’s a really fabulous question too. If I let myself be this fuller, richer me, what am I afraid of? Yes, I might be afraid that I’ll be rejected, but let’s just say I won’t be rejected, and more people are going to be interested in me. Well, then what is scary about that? Maybe it’s saying no to people. Maybe it’s having romantic and sexual boundaries because those boundaries have been invaded in our lives. Maybe it’s because we will have to really continue to reveal our humanity or our vulnerability, and that’s scary too.
So sometimes fear of rejection is actually kind of something different. It is a way to keep ourselves safe from being the bigness of who we could be. So I just want to offer that as a connected thought. And now I want to share last this kind of practical thing that you can do.
So I had a client once who said to me that a coach said to him that he had an assignment. And the assignment was to go up to the 10 most attractive guys in a bar or at a party, the 10 most attractive guys, and say hello to them and interact with them and approach them, actually in a way that subtly and appropriately let them know that they were interested. So he did that. He said it was tremendously empowering. I was single at the time, and I tucked that exercise away thinking I could never, never do that. And one night I was in New Orleans, I was alone. I was in this club and I said, I’m going to do it. And I did it. I went up to 10 different people, the 10 guys who were the most attractive to me in this big club. I did it.
Every one of them was not interested, all 10, I swear to God. Not one was interested, but this is what I have to tell you. If I would’ve not had that exercise and I would’ve gone up to two people and they would’ve not been interested, I would’ve left that bar deflated, really deflated. I went through 10 different people rejecting me, and I left feeling kind of okay, I had a sense of emanating self. And why was that? That was because it was my intention and my decision, deciding what I wanted to do and then doing it. So I just love that story. And I want to share one more story.Where there is presence of self, fear of rejection is somewhat less crippling. Click To Tweet
I used to run Deeper Dating® events, which were events for single people who wanted to meet in a healthier, more positive, wonderful way in person. These started with gay men and they spread to many different populations. One of my dearest friends, a psychotherapist, he would often run these events and he talked about the time that he could have met and hung out with, and maybe had a date with Stephen Sondheim.
And he blew it. He blew it because he was too shy. And he realized that the pain of missing that opportunity was about a thousand times worse than the pain of having had Stephen Sondheim not be interested. So that really hit him, and he shifted as a result of that.
So in this Deeper Dating process, we would have people interact in all these different ways, and then there’d be an open period and you had a piece of paper, you had your name on it, and in those days, your phone number or maybe, maybe email, and the mingling process was that you would give your number to people. And the rule was nobody could say no. They had to say thank you, and they had to take your number so that you never experienced that really painful deflation. That did not mean that that person needed to contact you.
Their job was to take in the appreciation that someone is interested in them and get a kick out of that, enjoy it, be warm, be respectful, and thank that person. Everyone would just keep on doing that with everyone they were interested in. And they would build this amazing muscle, and they would talk about it too. They would say, “It was really hard, but then I found myself at a party or on the subway or on the street like that muscle was stronger. And I actually kind of…” It’s an experience of empowerment. It’s a kind of micro heroism.
Presence of self:
So my dear friend Hernan would tell everybody, don’t lose the opportunity. Give out your number all over the place because you’re going to regret more losing the opportunity than you will somebody not getting back to you. And that kind of freed people up because their intention became to give out their phone numbers.
Their action was one of an expression of self, the generosity of taking the risk to let people know that they’re interested. And there is something so empowering in that. So I just wanted to share that piece too. Where there is presence of self, fear of rejection is somewhat less crippling.
Most important, when you go out into the dating world and your intention is to be you, but you have the discrimination to know that if somebody chips away at that sense of you, if they don’t make you feel safe, if they make you feel criticized or unseen, then you know that that’s probably not the place you want to land. So there’s a dignifying of self in this act of self-expression.
So do all of these things or do any of these things eliminate our fear of rejection? No, but they help. They turn the volume down. And this ability to have an intention in your search for love, of being the most essential you and have your goal only being looking for people where that lands in a beautiful way, you will crack the spine of a lot of your fear of rejection.
I’m really excited to have you try these exercises and write back and let us know what you think, how it worked, what you noticed, and what your reflections were. So thank you so much for listening. If you’d like to leave a review or subscribe, I would love that. And thanks again, and I’ll see you on the next episode of The Deeper Dating Podcast.
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