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6 Signs That You Might Be Rejection-Sensitive

Signs Might Be Rejection Sensitive

“Rejection sensitivity is hard to understand. Often, people can’t find the words to describe its pain. They say it’s intense, awful, terrible, overwhelming. It’s always triggered by the perceived or real loss of approval, love, or respect.” – Unknown

Key Points:

  • You may experience sensitivity to rejection in different areas of your life.
  • There are six common reactions to rejection sensitivity.
  • Developing compassionate self-awareness for your rejection sensitivity can help you feel emotionally stronger and become more resilient.

No one likes rejection. Even when you have the wisdom to see that it provides an opportunity for growth, you won’t like being rejected. But there is a difference between not liking it and feeling devastated by it. Unfortunately, rejection-sensitive people tend to see it everywhere, and for them, the impact is big—making it difficult to near impossible to move past even the smallest rebuff.

Your sensitivity to rejection can differ in the different areas of your life. You might feel capable and resilient at work, but sensitive to rejection in personal relationships—friendships or intimate relationships, or both. Or, you might feel emotionally strong in your personal life, but practically paralyzed by fear of being inadequate at work.

Some professions are breeding grounds for such fears. For instance, entrepreneurs, realtors, and artists of all types must learn to cope effectively with rejection if they want to survive and thrive in their chosen fields.

As I explain in Bouncing Back from Rejection, six common reactions of rejection-sensitive people are:

Related: 8 Little Reminders For People Struggling With Rejection

6 Defining Signs Of Rejection Sensitivity

1. Overreacting

Think about your experiences of rejection and ask yourself, “Do I tend to overreact?” Consider whether you tend to see rejection in ambiguous situations, or you respond to small rejections as monumental ones.

For instance, every time Stan’s supervisor asked to see him, he was sure that he was going to be fired—despite that supervisor giving him frequent positive feedback.

2. Being Unable to Move Forward

One way people overreact is that they ruminate about failing or being rejected. Like water flushing in the toilet, their thinking spirals downward into a dark hole—and they are unable to climb out.

rejection sensitivity
6 Signs That You Might Be Rejection-Sensitive

3. Responding with Intense Anger

If you are fearful of rejection, your fear may be accompanied by anger. It’s a way of fighting back the fear or trying to overcome it.

While anger can feel more empowering than fear, anger also keeps you focused on the other person rather than on your inner struggles. You may stir up more trouble in your relationships and never really address or resolve your fears.

Related: 4 Signs Of An Inferiority Complex In Your Body Language

4. Guarding Against Judgment

Many people who struggle with feeling inadequate or unworthy are, not surprisingly, sensitive to rejection. Expecting to be rejected, they naturally guard against being judged by withdrawing socially or being extremely attentive and caring to others.

While they might avoid rejection, they also suffer from feeling alone either because they don’t interact with others or because they feel that friends would not like them if they knew “the real me.”

5. Responding with an “It Doesn’t Bother Me” Attitude

Some people seem totally unphased by what others think. However, for many, this is a case of appearances being deceiving. They don’t want to be upset by judgment or rejection, so they pretend that they don’t care, or they numb themselves to its pain.

But the pain often cannot be contained and is expressed in indirect ways such as feeling depressed or anxious for “no reason” or being defensive in relationships.

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Leslie Becker Phelps Ph.D.

As an NJ and NY licensed psychologist based in Basking Ridge, Leslie Becker-Phelps, is also licensed to do telehealth (secure video therapy) in 26 other states. She is a therapist, author, speaker, and teacher with the goal of guiding people toward happier, more productive lives. This includes helping people overcome problems, as well as building on their strengths. She does this by focusing on improving their relationships with themselves and others. Along with helping patients to develop compassionate self-awareness, some approaches she uses are psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, behavioral, interpersonal, mindfulness, and mentalization.View Author posts