I have realised recently that I have a big fear of rejection. Yep, we’re diving straight in today!
Perhaps I’ve known it in some way previously it’s just that I haven’t been able to articulate it in this particular way. I’m afraid that I won’t be liked and I won’t fit in or belong. And it turns out my behaviour (without me even realising it) has been working in my favour to make sure I do belong.
It’s just that, it hasn’t really been ‘working’.
You see when there’s unconscious behaviour patterns going on unchecked there’s a chance they could be working against us instead of for us. While their initial intentions could be great, if they’re operating under false premises – i.e. if they’re operating under some hidden rule that ‘if you do X you won’t belong’ – then they’re actually keeping you stuck right where you are.
Let me see if I can explain a bit further… because believe me getting sucked into the cycle can be a little confusing!
Here’s what I know about human behaviour and psychology. When we’re little, we’re all doing the best we can to ‘be loved’. And we’re looking to our ‘big people’ around us for cues on how to fit in.
Some of us do this by way of rebelling to stand out or being good or even being funny. There’s lots of ways that we do it. But at its core one of the key reasons we do it is that we want to fit in. We want to know we’re part of the tribe. So we’ll be kept safe. And when we behave in a certain way we get rewarded (i.e. we feel safe).
That sets the scene for automatic behaviour patterns that, left unchecked, travel with us all the way into adulthood. It’s just that in adulthood, the scene is very very different. We don’t need the same kinda cues, we’re way more capable. We have choices, we start making our own decisions – about our career, what home to live in, where to live, who we partner with, what sports to play, what to eat for dinner.
So why would we keep the same decisions about how we behave, when so much else has changed?
For me, I practiced ‘fitting in’ by being a ‘good girl’. I always did the right thing, tried to be a great listener for friends, let others ‘win’ at stuff, and intended to generally make those around me feel good or feel happy.
This translated into what you’re probably familiar with as some form of people-pleasing and high-achiever modes. Perfectly okay traits to have, if they’re supporting me to be ME. Fully.
While I feel I’ve come a long way and mostly no longer seek to please others first (I make sure it feels right for me first), nor feel I’m striving for high-achiever mode on things that don’t matter to me (I absolutely still want to excel at the things that do matter to me!), I still have this lurking sensation. This fear. That, if I don’t do X then I will be ‘rejected’.
The difference is that I’m aware.
I’m conscious that if I don’t do some work around shifting into a new behaviour pattern then I’ll be right back where I started. Stuck in a loop of wanting to feel like I belong, so second-guessing myself about how I respond and interact in order to be more connected, yet at the same time constantly feeling like my needs aren’t getting fully met.
Feels messy. Confusing. And certainly not like something I want to keep doing. And quite possibly a huge big energy leak!
Part of unsticking myself once I’ve become aware is about choosing to do something different. Like when I notice myself cringe, or my stomach tighten when someone says ‘no’, I can label it “oh, that’s just my fear of rejection” AND I can also re-label it “thanks fear, but I got this one, I’m safe”.
Or I can set myself mini tasks that put me right into the heart of the behaviour – like purposefully connecting with more people, doing things my way (watch out, they might not like it!), or showing up and still inviting people in for connection, then being kind to myself about the outcome. Like still reaching out and messaging people. Or still making those calls even if I know they may not answer.
I fully recognise that this is a process. And not something that will ‘fix itself’ overnight. Me bringing consciousness and awareness and making a change will start to shift that fear. There’ll be times where it pops up again, but at least I’ll know what it is and how to talk to it. I’ll know not to take it as truth and instead trust that I am safe and I do belong. Regardless.
If you’ve ever been afraid that you won’t fit in, what is it that you tell yourself in that moment? And if you could change one thing about your response, what could that look like?
Find this valuable? Please share with a friend today and help them know they belong no matter what too.