Anxiety Shorts: Rejection

One fear common to people with social anxiety is the fear of getting rejected. The thought of being told no, having a disagreement, or being in an awkward situation is just too painful.

Because this fear is so prominent, many people with social anxiety become quite proficient at figuring things out independently. And yes, you can actually find out many things by researching online or planning. However, for someone with social anxiety these things are sometimes done as an avoidance strategy.

Not all people with social anxiety experience this fear. Other concerns often include messing up, being evaluated, or simply burdening someone. However, fear of rejection can have many problems associated with it. For example, with this fear you’re much less likely to ask for help or talk to someone when you need it. This is quite interfering. Think about what it takes to ask someone on a date, change an order, try on clothes/shoes, give an opinion, ask questions, or go to a party. All these things require you to risk someone saying no or judging you. All chances to get rejected. If this is your fear then you’re much less likely to talk to people, which can become quite isolating.

What To Do About It

One of my clinical supervisors once told me: “Practice breeds competence, which breeds confidence.” The more you do something, the better you get at it, and that makes you feel more confident.

To begin with, social anxiety treatment manuals would have you try to talk to someone. Sample what happens and build from there. There are many ways to talk to someone. For example, asking directions is helpful. Going into a store is also a good strategy because the employees are literally paid to help you and hopefully be nice! This is basic practice and experimentation. Talk to people (or even just make eye contact) and see what happens. Are people nice, mean, or something in between? How often are you outright rejected? If you are, how bad was it?

Once you have done this several times, it should get easier and feel less scary. You’ll feel more confident. Then treatment protocol would normally move onto harder things. To really tap into the fear, it involves deliberately trying to get rejected. You read that right…Deliberately.

Fear Of Rejection

You have to get creative to do this well. One method is to think about what a prankster might do and try it out yourself. For example, I could go into a “Seattle Sports” store and ask if they sell any merchandise for LA Galaxy. I’ll probably get a “no” and a strange look! I could ask for the “good guy” discount every time I buy something to see whether a store will give me any money off. I could ask if they sell food at a library. There are a million ideas. Check out this really cool site which has videos of 100 exposures for the fear of getting rejected. My favorite is to ask people if you can borrow $100. Fun fact, I’ve done this and a guy once said yes to me!!!

Why Go To This Extreme?

Yes, these types of exposures are going to get you strange looks, “no,” and even negative judgment. But that’s the whole point. You must go to this length to actually learn something valuable and overcome this fear. When I do this I’ve learned a few things: i) People actually smile and it’s a fun conversation, ii) Sometimes I actually get a “yes” to something I thought impossible, and iii) Getting rejected is no big deal. This is something you can’t just logic, you have to experience it.

Good luck, and if you try to do this let me know how it goes!

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