Replace "loneliness thinking" and "self-depreciation thinking" with positive thinking that makes you happier and more attractive to others. Do you want to improve your ability to form new relationships? Do you fear or dislike being alone?
Do you feel uncomfortable in situations such as meeting new people, speaking in front of groups, dealing with someone who is upset, having to tell someone you care about a mistake you made, or telling about your inner feelings or thoughts when you know they are different? Fear of rejection may underlie all of these situations. If we really value other people and how they feel about us, it is natural that we would feel some fear of rejection as a whenever there is the possibility for actual rejection. Like other fears the fear of rejection is increased by the importance of the other person to me, my perceived inexperience or lack of skill in dealing with the situation, and with other factors which may affect my actual chances of being rejected.
However, some people seem to suffer more intense levels of rejection for longer periods in their life than other people. To the extent that factors such as those listed below underlie our fear of rejection, we may experience a greater problem with fear of rejection that permeates more of our life.
Underlying my fear of rejection might be a fear of being alone. I might fear that I might end up all alone in the world with no one who really cares.
The thought of being all alone in the world is not in itself something to panic about. While some people panic at the thought--others delight at the thought. If you believe that you can take care of your own needs well and be happy even if you are alone, then being alone is nothing to fear. If you believe that you need others to take care of you and "make" you happy, then you are totally dependent on others and their absence is something to "panic" about.
PRACTICE: Examine the degree to which you can create your own happiness--even when alone. Examine how too much dependence on others for happiness can undermine your feelings of confidence with others and lead to fear of rejection.
If your self-image is too closely tied to what others think of you or how well you relate to others, then fear of rejection can be a threat to your whole self-image. That in itself can create a lot of anxiety. If you are used to defining the core of your Self or your future as "popular", "married", "well-liked", "a leader", or the like, then you threats to any of these self-concepts may create a great deal of anxiety.
PRACTICE: (1) Make a list of at least 10 important general characteristics of yourself. (2) Examine items on that list which are "interpersonal" in nature. How would you feel about yourself if all of these were threatened at once. Could you still love, respect, and take good care of yourself and still be a happy person? If not, then try to re-examine what changes need to take place in your beliefs about yourself to become less dependent upon others and their view of you.
(The higher my "attachment" the higher my fear of rejection!)
The more emotionally "attached" you become to someone--the more important you believe they are to you--the more anxiety you will create about losing them. One of the best ways to control your fear of rejection is to not get overly attached to someone. The following factors are especially important sources of attachment that is too much, too soon.
SUMMARY: Some "do"s and "don't"s to keep from getting too attached too early. Constantly remind yourself, "I want to control my anxiety and fear of rejection, don't get too attached too early." Question thoughts like, "This is the only person I can be happy with." Don't fantasize about the future with this person. Avoid sexual involvement that is too early (before strong, reciprocal relationship factors are satisfactory. Don't focus all your thoughts and fantasies on this one person--especially before you have established a strong dating relationship. Fantasize about a variety of people (even movie stars, or imaginary people) so that you relate to this person as a real person--not as a fantasy.
There are many levels of closeness and intimacy with other people. Examples include: marriage, closest family and friends, close friends, friends, friends for specific needs (e.g. work, bowling, church), acquaintances. There are many differences between different levels of intimacy. The amount of physical and communication intimacy, time spent together, commitment, sharing, helping each other, etc. will vary with each level.
Every person you contact in your life has some maximum potential level for achieving intimacy with you. This will depend upon many "personality" and other factors. Many others have the potential for lower levels of intimacy--such as "acquaintance", but very few have the potential for the highest levels--such as marriage. The fact that a person that you may spend time with only achieves a certain level does not mean that the relationship "failed"--it merely achieved its maximum potential level of intimacy and could go no further.
How many people out of 10,000 people in the appropriate age and sex group would you really want as your "significant other"? How many are really right for you? Most people I meet/date will not be right to be person(s) closest to me.
If I believe that only one person is "right" for me, then I will become extremely dependent upon that person. "Putting a person on a pedestal" like this will most likely lead to dependent feelings and behavior that actually causes both of us to be unhappy. I may try so hard to please and keep that "person I can't live without" that I end up losing my sense of freedom to be myself and giving up my own happiness. In turn I will become increasingly unattractive to my "pedestal" person. Remind yourself of the following,
If I believe there is only one person for me, I would probably never find that person.
If I did, I would be extremely dependent on that person.
In fact, there are many people I could be happily married to.
Knowing that sets me free from too much dependence on any one person.
Does it mean that they must be the only person for me? Continued fantasies about one person will stop when you (1) get emotionally clear about the negative side of that person and how they were "wrong" for you, (2) get involved with someone who is more "right" for you, or (3) until you actively create new fantasies to replace them.
Does This Person Provide What I Want To Meet My Values And Be Happy? Similarly, ask yourself, "Am I happier with them than with others or alone? The happier people are together (compared to how happy they think they can be with someone else) the more likely they are to stay together.
According To Research Similarity Increases Happiness--in almost all areas! The idea that opposites attract has rarely been found in research. Check out each area below for similarities--especially those areas that are important to each partner.
Beliefs about traditional vs. "liberated" sex roles, beliefs about "togetherness" vs. "privacy", philosophy of life/religious beliefs, beliefs about our financial affairs, beliefs about social (political, ethnic, cultural) issues.
Overall, the most important issue in a relationship is that both partners feel that the decisions being made are in their best interest and lead to their overall happiness ("win--win" outcomes).
Generally, a situation where both people feel they get their way in conflicts about half of the time contributes most to BOTH person's happiness. A partner who gets his/her way 80% of the time is often not really happy with a partner who is probably perceived as weak, unhappy, and distant (due to their never getting their way).
Similar communication beliefs and styles. Research has shown that more similar communication beliefs and styles tend to cause people to be happier together.
Communication skills. In addition some people seem to be "better" communicators than others.
Communication areas. There are different communication "areas" in a relationship and one person may be better at one area than another.
Intimacy skills. Research shows that honest, open, positive expression of feelings and thoughts regularly create an intimacy that is very important in increasing relationship happiness. Both self- disclosure skills and empathetic listening skills of intimate feelings and thoughts are vital to create and maintain close, intimate relationships.
Diplomatic, positive assertion and conflict resolution skills. Research shows that assertive (vs. non- assertive or aggressive) communication including empathetic understanding is especially effective in promoting happy relationships.
Even though this may seem obvious, this is a very powerful statement! The above factors are the kinds of factors that will be the major factors in determining whether I and another person will be happy together. Most of these factors are determined by parts of myself that are highly stable over many years and which I probably do not want to change about myself. This means that no matter what I do, I will be doing what is a natural outgrowth of being who I really am. If the other person is "right" for me, they will like me as I really am, and they will be attracted to stay with me.
Creating A Happy Me Creates A Confident And Attractive Me Focusing on learning how to create my own happiness alone is a key part of building self-confidence and overcoming fears of rejection and loneliness. As long as I do not believe that I can create my own happiness and enjoy life alone, then I will be dependent on others' creating my happiness. This makes being in a relationship much more important and therefore more anxiety producing.
If you do not have many interests which you enjoy alone, it is important to begin exploring and finding more. If you have few interests that you can do alone, because you have spent most of your life either with other people or doing what others wanted you to do, then it is especially important for your own independence that you begin to explore new potential interests. You can learn to like activities you currently do not like. Remember this, "If many other people love this activity there must be some fun in it, all I need to do is learn how to enjoy Career interests, sports, music and the arts, reading, entertainment events, hobbies, do-it-yourself projects, taking classes, walks, shopping, bike rides, or taking oneself out for dinner are but a few examples of things people do to entertain themselves.
Contacting other people and joining organizations are examples of ways that we can create our own happiness by initiating people activities.
I am attractive to another person to the degree that that person perceives me as potentially contributing to getting their values met and contributing to their happiness. (Note: I am not responsible for their happiness, I am only being-myself and giving gifts and hoping these contribute to their happiness.)
PRACTICE: 1) List all of the characteristics you want in another person. 2) Make a "RELATIONSHIP RESUME" which describes all of your personal beliefs, attributes, interests, communication skills, which might be important in appealing to the type of person that you might really want to be with or marry. 3) If you want to learn to create your own happiness better, add some exploration or information gathering about new interests to your "to do" list.
PRACTICE: Make a list of the labels that stop you. Then take each one and decide the degree to which you intend to change it or accept it as it is. Then remember that there are many happily married persons who fit all of the above descriptions and realize that, "I am looking for someone who would be happy with a person just like me".
External events or commitments keep me from pursuing a relationship now. The difference between an EXCUSE and a CONSCIOUS CHOICE is whether you are being honest with yourself about all of your underlying motives or not. If you are avoiding involvement primarily because of fear of rejection or failure, then that is very different from saying that you are doing it because you are too busy.
It is ok to not be in a relationship or be looking for one. If you truly want to be alone now and/or pursue other parts of your life or developing yourself that can be very healthy in building your own "Higher Self", developing skills and resources, etc. It may also mean that when you are ready for a relationship, you will be more the person who will be attractive to the type of person you want.
PRACTICE: If you are not sure whether you are being honest with yourself about doing what might be helpful to improve a relationship or meet someone, try getting in touch with underlying feelings and beliefs, exploring new creative alternatives and possible outcomes, then making a conscious decision based upon your true underlying motives.
Men's stereotypes. From men I constantly hear stereotypes that indicate they think almost all women are primarily interested in money and expensive cars, restaurants, and gifts. Or that they only want a man who is extremely good looking and "charming" with a "good line" (can make a good impression, but is would make a poor partner).
PRACTICE: Make a list of any stereotypes you have which prevent you from approaching others or being yourself. Identify ways that you try to put up a front to make a good impression based upon your stereotypes. For example you may believe that you have to constantly be clever and funny because that is what you think women/men are looking for. In fact you may be turning the other person off, because you are being "phoney" and not truly being "intimate" about who you really are. You are making the mistake of underestimating the person you are with. You think that they are not able to handle honesty as well as you can.
Conclusion: If I have low self-confidence in how others perceive me, I am probably underestimating how much they like me and as a result not approaching people as much as I would like. If I start overestimating their reactions sometimes, it may lead to my approaching people more and that may in turn cause them to like me even better.
I can create my own happiness and take care of myself--I do not NEED ("must" have) anyone else to do it for me.
I love myself the way I am. Even though I may not ever be the person I would ideally like to be, I am learning to let go of "shoulds" like that. Instead my basic self-worth begins with loving myself because I am alive and a human being who needs me to love and take care of me. I can love me despite any imperfections and accept those imperfections as part of me. I can also believe that someone like me could love me the way I am (despite any imperfections), I do not have to "wait until I am perfect" before I seek a relationship.
I will attempt to focus on being my "higher self' while dealing with other people (vs. trying to be what I think the other wants me to be). Being my higher self includes getting in touch with all of my healthy psychobiological needs and my "inner child" as well as the more "adult" parts of myself.
I am seeking those who will like me like I really am. I only want to be close friends with someone who "knows all about me and likes/loves me the way I am". Therefore it is counter-productive to be the person I really want to be and reveal my inner feelings and thoughts more honestly with potentially close friends. (I will not be so open and honest with people who may use revealed information against me.)
If I have been successful before, I can be successful again. If I am feeling discouraged about finding someone I can be close with and feeling bad about myself and I have had some close friends, relatives, or relationship in the past, I can remember that at least one other person likes me the way I am and, I can develop another relationship at least as good as that one.
I may want to change for myself. If I think I am truly not yet the person I believe will attract the kind of person I want, then perhaps I need to make my first priority becoming more that person. I will then focus on being that person with as many people as possible as I learn.
The person I am (and/or want to be) will be very attractive to the type of person who is "right" for me. What if I become who I want and nobody likes me that way? Before I panic, I will think about it. If I really were the type of person I want to be, I would be really attracted to someone else who also was like this.
HAPPINESS RULE Follow the happiness rule: I will seek out people who can contribute most to my overall happiness and support me in being the person I most want to be. These are most likely people who are (or want to be) similar to the type of person I really want to be. I will avoid spending too much time with people who take away from me being more the kind of person I want to be.
SELF-SELECTING RULE Follow the self-selecting rule: I will be more the person I really want to be when I am with other people and tell them my true inner feelings and thoughts more assertively. Even though I may fear that they may not like who I really am and reject me, that is good because it more efficiently separates those people who are "right" for closer relationship from those who are not. In other words if I meet Sally (who is not potentially a close friend) and I hide who I really am from her, it may take her a long time to find out what I am really like and reject me. In this case we have both wasted a lot of time. If I present myself as I want to be from the beginning I will attract or repel people much faster. Incidentally most people prefer honesty and the self-love and self-confidence that it reveals, so I may be more appealing in general.
GIVING WITHOUT EXPECTING ANYTHING IN RETURN We have already seen in other situations how when we focus on external outcomes that are beyond our immediate control, we give up control of our emotions and will begin to feel anxious and helpless. The same is true in meeting people, approaching people, talking to people, trying to help people, trying to entertain people, etc. If I focus on their evaluation or approval of me, spending time with me, giving in return to me, or any other reaction in them, I am opening myself up to a feeling of anxiety and helplessness. It may is true that in the long run, I will not invest a lot of energy in a relationship if I do not receive enough happiness back. However, in the short run for any specific positive action I take toward them,
I WILL CONSIDER MY ACTION A GIFT THAT I AM GIVING FOR MYSELF My gift recipients have the freedom to do with my gifts what they want--since it is now theirs. It is ok for them to reject it and I will still feel good that I gave in the spirit of true unconditional, non-demanding love.
INVITATIONS AS GIFTS I will view an invitation as a gift in the spirit just discussed above. It is a gift in two ways: (1) it is a compliment to the other person that I care enough about them and find them attractive enough that I give the invitation and (2) my time is a gift which is offered to them. Thus even if they reject the offer to spend time together, they still have received the gift of the compliment which the invitation brings and I can feel good about giving that gift. Accordingly I will start stating my invitations more as compliments. EXAMPLE: "Mark, I've really enjoyed talking with you, I would really like for us to get together again soon." This is a very effective and efficient way to give an invitation.
ASSERTION TRAINING I will learn how to be an empathetic listener who looks deeply into important issues and someone who can communicate my own feelings in a direct, caring, and diplomatic manner to others.
(1) It will help you become aware of what you have to offer in a relationship as well as what you want from a potential partner. It may also help you identify problem areas or areas you want to develop more. (2) You can use this as a guide to make a plan of what you want potential partners to know about you (as soon as possible) to help "sell" you to someone who has similar values and criteria for what they are looking for. These can also be useful for answering "dating ads."
For each category below, fill in aspects of yourself that relate to that category.
EDUCATION & OCCUPATIONAL INFO
Accomplishments (Educ., Work Experience, etc.)
Goals (major) and why
INTEREST, FUN, RECREATION
Observer (TV, movies, cultural events, stereo music)
Active (aerobics, tennis, dancing, golf, biking)
Romantic (romantic walks, music candlelight, flowers, card, gifts)
Parlor games (Trivial Pursuit, cards)
Hobbies (photography, painting, computers, etc.)
Intellectual interests (science, history, literature, philosophy, religion, computers, psychology)
Family (all about them)
Friends & social activities, interests
If you are in doubt about where to turn for assistance, please feel free to call the Counseling Center at 661-654-3366.
This information was prepared by Tom G. Stevens, Ph.D. and the California State University, Long Beach Counseling Center to assist students with mental health issues. Information contained herein was gleaned from on-line publications.