15 surprising habits that reveal an underlying fear of rejection

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Rejection is a painful experience for all of us.

We’d all rather avoid it and not have it happen.

But some of us fear it more than others. In fact, for those who’ve been especially painfully rejected, the fear of it happening again can consume them. 

They’re so scared of being turned down or treated poorly again that they begin structuring their life in a certain way to avoid it happening again. 

But these traits and habits for the rejection-fearing are not always what you’d expect, in fact some of them are quite surprising. 

Here’s a look at underlying signs that someone is terrified of being rejected.

1) Trying to be perfect

Those who dread rejection try to keep it far away by being as perfect as possible. 

While they realize that perfection isn’t possible, they still strive for it

In their behavior, their personal life, and their work, they want to be at such a high standard that they’re irreproachable. 

They want to make sure everything they put into life is Grade A.

In such a way, they hope for nothing but green lights in life and love. 

2) Trying to be popular and follow trends

The next trait of those who secretly fear rejection is a strong interest in trends and popular culture.

“Have you heard about X?” is a statement that immediately piques their interest. 

What’s X? Is it cool? Do many people like it? How does one show their interest and affiliation with X, too?

These are the questions that somebody who fears rejection will be asking themselves. 

It’s not just that they’re bored, it’s that they crave belonging and validation, and whatever new X comes up, it seems like it could offer that. 

3) Excessive social media posting

A closely related issue to trend following is excessive social media posting

We all know this kind of person and may have engaged in it ourselves:

Posting every moment of our lives that seems fun, cool, or exciting. 

This can often signify more than just having a great time and can mean that a person is trying to be validated and be sure they are worthy and wanted. 

Each new “like” is a preemptive strike against rejection or feeling unworthy. 

See, people like me! 

4) A fixation on physical fitness 

People who fear rejection are sometimes obsessed about physical fitness.

I’m not saying all gym buffs are feeling scared of rejection, but it’s not out of the question. 

When you worry about people not liking you or have been badly burned in the past by rejection of any kind, working on your body is natural:

You feel more integrated into your body, gain confidence, and start looking healthier and sexier. 

Who would reject you?

You’re the man!

You’re a hot lady!

5) Trying to have ‘higher vibrations’

On the emotional level, people who have a strong fear of rejection will often get seduced by sleazier aspects of the self-improvement industry.

This is especially true of manipulative gurus who talk about things like “high vibrations” and “emotional purity.”

They create systems where life rewards the positive and punishes the negative:

Those who come to them for help are, of course, on the bottom of that ladder and must work their way up, paying money, sex, and time along the way. 

Those who fear rejection often chase this goal for years before realizing they’re just being preyed upon. 

6) Pursuing overly idealistic goals

Without idealism, many great works of art, engineering, and societal progress wouldn’t exist. 

But overly idealistic goals and obsession also kill many ideas and advances that would otherwise occur. 

The problem with extreme idealism is that it can act as a way to hide from real action and face up to disappointment. 

People may end up living so much in daydreams that the real world begins to take a backseat.

7) Becoming a workaholic

Those who fear rejection often turn to work as a way to completely distract themselves and wall themselves off.

This makes sense when you think about it:

Work is a way to be focused and use your energy. The person will get out what they put in, more or less and it’s at least somewhat under their control. 

Whereas a personal relationship can go either way, focusing on a self-driven work project is likely to bear fruit if a person dedicates themselves fully.

8) Taking on too many responsibilities 

On a related note, the person who fears being rejected may saddle themselves with tons of responsibilities.

The instinct here is to become so needed that they literally can’t really be rejected. 

Or at least that’s the idea. 

If a person is coaching their kid’s little league team, volunteering at the food bank, taking on a new work project, and leading a course online about new meditation techniques, they’re a little busy to be hurt by anyone, right?

Who’s going to reject them if they’re so busy and contributing to so much?

That’s the idea, anyway.

9) Anxiety in meeting somebody new

If and when they do meet new people and go out on dates or begin making new friends, people who fear rejection are consumed by anxiety

They find themselves overthinking how to act, what to say, and how they should present themselves. 

What should they wear?

Will this person like them? Will they come across as socially awkward or ugly or weird?

They try to optimize everything about themselves before meeting up with anyone, in hopes that doing so will eliminate the chance of rejection or somebody disliking them. 

10) Hiding how they really feel from others

In order to avoid rejection, this person will also be likely to hide how they really feel if it seems like it could be unpopular. 

They’ll pretend to like food they don’t like and believe things they don’t believe. 

They’ll nod and smile even when they’re saying “what the f*ck” inside…

They fear rejection and being disliked so much that they’ll do almost anything to avoid someone disliking them. 

11) Difficulty in saying no

As a result of wanting to be liked so much, this individual will also have a lot of difficulty saying no

They find themselves agreeing to almost anything, and being so agreeable that their own personality becomes indistinguishable.

The upside is people may find them very easygoing. 

The downside is that this agreeableness can lead to all sorts of mistreatment. 

Which brings me to the next point… 

12) Allowing themselves to be pushed around

People who fear rejection will often allow themselves to be pushed around in unhealthy ways

This can include taking on too much at work, letting boundaries be crossed in personal relationships, and having friends and strangers depend on them in many ways. 

They give out loans they shouldn’t, are a shoulder to cry on when they aren’t even handling their own emotional needs, and many other examples. 

13) Settling for somebody they aren’t in love with

In relationships, people who fear rejection will often date people way below their league. 

This is sad to see, but it’s understandable. 

When the thing a person fears most is to be thought undesirable by somebody they want, they’ll do almost anything to avoid that. 

The easiest thing to do is settle for somebody they know won’t reject them.

Even if they don’t feel much attraction, they feel reassured that they won’t get ditched. 

14) Remaining in toxic relationships

As a result of fearing rejection, this individual will also do anything to avoid it in any relationship. 

This often means staying in unhealthy and toxic situations. 

Even though they’re being treated horribly they feel there is no option but to keep putting up with it. 

At least they aren’t being told it’s over and shown the door and maybe if they’re quiet their partner will relax…

15) Taking rejection personally

Those who have a strong fear of rejection tend to take it very personally if and when they get turned down or rejected in any way. 

In their love life, by a work colleague, by a friend, even by a stranger…

Rejection is against them specifically, and they tend to internalize it and see it was worth fixating on. 

This often means there is a lower problem with self-esteem and self-worth going on.

The ugly truth about rejection

Rejection happens to everybody and it doesn’t get any easier. 

There is no formula for not caring about rejection or making it pain-free or hurt less. 

If you care for somebody and they reject you, you’re going to hurt. 

That said: 

We have to accept that rejection can’t be avoided otherwise the fear of us controls us. 

That’s why the above habits are necessary to become aware of and reduce. In trying to run away from rejection we run away from an authentic experience of life and become scared of being true to ourselves.

It’s ironic to say, but it’s true: once we stop rejecting rejection and accept the pain without letting it become part of our story, we can get on with our lives.

9 phrases manipulative people use to control and dominate others

6 undeniable signs your partner sees you as a prized possession