6 subtle ways people reject themselves before they give others the chance to

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Rejection stings.

It makes you question your self-worth, feel discouraged, and reflect on your shortcomings.

Many people can’t handle that.

So, instead of taking risks and allowing others to reject them, they find ways to protect themselves.

The problem?

These coping tactics aren’t particularly healthy and can hinder your personal growth.

Here are 6 subtle ways people reject themselves before others get the chance.

How many of these are you guilty of?

1) They don’t go after what they want

The simplest way to protect yourself from the possibility of being rejected is not to try.

You want to find a partner, but you’re scared of people refusing your advances, so you don’t even sign up for dating apps.

You want to go after that promotion, but you don’t think your boss will be receptive, so you don’t even ask.

You want to write a book, but you’re afraid that none of the agents you researched will be interested, so you don’t even reach out.

(That last one is from personal experience, fun!)

In short, before others can have a chance to reject you, you reject yourself by not going after what you want.

Perhaps you will get a lot of dates, score that promotion, and stumble upon an agent who is enchanted by your book idea.

Perhaps you’ll get rejected. You’ll have to face your shattered dream and feel uncomfortable.

The only way to find out is to take a risk.

You can’t experience the best-case scenario if you’re unwilling to entertain the worst.

2) They pretend to be someone they’re not

When I was younger, all I wanted to do was fit in.

For others to accept me and want to hang out with me.

I’ve always been a little too weird, a little too quiet, a little too earnest.

But for a while, I found a way to mold myself into someone more socially acceptable.

Who liked to go out, talk to strangers, attend parties, engage in stupid shenanigans that were sure to go wrong.

It’s when I had my widest circle of friends. Also when I was at my most exhausted.

Pretending to be exactly like the people you are desperate not to reject you makes them more likely to give you a chance, sure.

But if, deep down, you’re not like them one bit, pretending is also a way to reject yourself.

Before long, the effort to put up a façade will be too much, and you’ll realize that authenticity is much more important.

I now have exactly two close friends, and I’m doing fantastic.

3) They put up walls

Maybe you don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, but how often do you let others in?

Another subtle way people reject themselves before others get the chance is by refusing to be vulnerable.

They put up emotional walls and don’t let others get to know them beyond a certain point.

Here are a few signs this might be the case:

  • When interacting with casual acquaintances, you redirect conversations away from personal topics
  • When interacting with loved ones, you downplay or dismiss the significance of your own feelings
  • You have a hard time trusting others or forming deep connections
  • You are obsessed with projecting an image of strength and confidence
  • You are self-reliant to a fault and reluctant to ask for help

A strong fear of rejection from others can easily lead to defensive behaviors like these.

Instead of showing people your true colors, you avoid situations where you have to be vulnerable.

You push down your emotions and insist that everything is fine all of the time.

Because what if you cry in front of a friend, and that friend is revolted by your display of emotion and cuts all ties with you?

Sorry to break it to you. That friend wasn’t worth having in the first place.

4) They self-sabotage

We all have a self-destruct button we’re tempted to push every now and then.

Fear of rejection is a common underlying factor why.

Rather than allowing someone else to reject you, you reject yourself first by doing something dumb.

The saddest part is that once you do the dumb thing, the other person has no option but to reject you, making your terrifying prophecy come true.

Humans are weird this way.

A few years ago, a guy I was friendly with was dating a girl he thought to be out of his league.

He admitted that he went after her with zero expectations and was extremely surprised when they actually clicked.

But despite their getting along well, the guy was sure that the girl would eventually realize he wasn’t good enough for her and reject him.

This fear grew into certainty, so I guess he decided to speed things along.

He cheated on her, and they broke up.

I ran into the girl a few months later, and she was still upset over his betrayal.

It turns out she had no plans to break up with him before he broke her trust, and she liked him more than he estimated.

When you self-sabotage, you cut your own wings.

You reject yourself before others get the chance.

They might have no intention to do it.

5) They make (too many) self-deprecating jokes

I love self-deprecating humor.

I consider myself humble and realistic, so I’ll be the first to admit my faults.

I also think of myself as funny, so jokes are my primary mode of communication.

However, I realized that while a little self-deprecating humor can serve you well, a lot erodes your confidence.

Self-deprecating jokes generally involve highlighting your perceived flaws, mistakes, or shortcomings.

In moderation, these jokes allow you to connect with others and show that you’re self-aware.

But when all you do is make jokes at your own expense, you reinforce negative beliefs about yourself, damaging your self-esteem.

You reject yourself and make yourself small.

Not only that, but you’re revealing to others all the reasons why they *should* reject you.

A much healthier approach?

Balance self-deprecating humor with an appreciation for your accomplishments.

Everyone has things they’re proud of, be it your impressive achievements at work or the fact that you’ve managed to finally organize your closet.

Next time you socialize, sprinkle in some brags.

Talk about your strengths at least as much as you talk about your weaknesses.

This way, others will get a more well-rounded picture of who you are.

6) They exclusively rely on external validation

Individuals who seek external validation develop a desperate need for approval from others.

Their self-worth starts to depend on how others perceive them, and their mood fluctuates based on this external feedback.

With me so far?

Over time, fear of rejection becomes a dominant force that influences their behavior:

  • They preemptively reject themselves by avoiding actions or expressing opinions that don’t align with societal expectations
  • They neglect their values, needs, and desires as they chase others’ approval
  • They set unrealistically high standards for themselves and believe that only perfection is acceptable
  • They compare themselves with others who are “better,” fostering a negative self-perception that further contributes to self-rejection

Ideally, the bulk of the validation you need should come from within.

When you accept yourself as you are, warts and all, other like-minded folks follow suit.

Final thoughts

Being rejected isn’t fun, but it’s also not the end of the world as we know it.

At the very least, it shows that you are willing to put yourself out there – something not many people have the guts to do.

Plus, the more rejection you’re forced to deal with, the more resilient you get.

Soon enough, you will no longer need to reject yourself before others get the chance.

You’ll know that, in the unlikely event they do, you’re strong enough to take it.

Lost Your Sense of Purpose?

In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.

Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.

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With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.

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