WebMD BlogsRelationships

How to Work Through Your Fears of Rejection

woman alone
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistJanuary 27, 2021

“I’m afraid of what people think of me.”

I’ve heard this countless time from patients who are struggling with fear of being judged and rejected -- and with corresponding emotions like hurt, inadequacy, and anger, all of which grow weightier with time. These people often feel like there is a boulder on their chest, making it hard to breathe. If you can relate, what you may not realize is that it’s more like you are pinned below a pile of rocks than a single boulder. The difference is having many smaller emotions to contend with rather than one huge, overpowering emotion. This difference points to a solution: You can remove smaller rocks (or emotions) more easily than you can remove a huge, undefinable one.

As I explain in the book Bouncing Back from Rejection, you can take one emotional “rock” off your chest at a time by setting aside some quiet time to do this “Begin the Offloading Process” exercise:

Attend to your emotions.  Close your eyes and focus your attention on your emotional experience. You are aware of feeling rejected or being afraid of being rejected, but pay attention to what else you are feeling. Some people find it helpful to focus first on their physical sensations, which can then connect them with an awareness of their emotions.

Identify the emotions.  Label the emotions you are feeling. If you have trouble doing this, you might find it helpful to look at a list of emotions. Your list may include feelings such as rejected or abandoned, unlovable, hurt, betrayed, angry, or afraid.

Focus on one emotion.  As you become aware of the emotions stirring within you, choose to focus on one. Do not try to do anything with the emotion other than keep your awareness on it.

Sit with your chosen emotion.  As you stay with it, you might notice that it changes on its own. That’s OK. Perhaps that mild sense of being rejected by your friend is overtaken by being “peeved” and then angry. Next, you might feel afraid of your anger -- more specifically, you might fear that it will lead to outright rejection, an experience that has seemed to haunt you forever. In this way, the unfolding of your emotions increases your self-awareness and can even offer great insight. Keep paying attention until you feel that your work is done for the time being.

When you find that you get distracted while sitting with your emotions, remind yourself to refocus on them.  You might need to do this several times. Many people also find it helpful to bring their attention back to their bodies and then notice that particular emotions arise from their bodily sensations.

After completing this exercise, you will probably still feel quite emotional. However, you will be better able to process your emotions and consciously take steps toward recovering from rejection. (For more on overcoming rejection, check out the brief video, Don’t Let Feelings of Rejection Stop You.) 

You can repeat these steps for other emotions, though I don’t suggest you do this all in one session. It takes time and can be emotionally draining. You will most likely need to go through this exercise many times to identify, experience, and think through each significant emotion that is part of the “massive boulder” pinning you down. But each time you do, you will likely find that your experience becomes less overwhelming.


WebMD Blog
© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blog Topics:
About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

More from the Relationships Blog

  • giving advice

    Think Twice Before You Give Advice

    If only we were as good at solving our own problems as we are at solving other people’s. But like so many great ideas, our solutions for others often become less perfect the more we learn about the problem ...

  • photo of couple arguing in bed

    How to Keep Your Emotions From Overwhelming You

    If you’re someone who gets emotionally overwhelmed, relationship conflict can be difficult to manage. When you get upset with your partner, you don’t handle it well. You are too upset to think clearly. So you ...

View all posts on Relationships

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More