One of the main symptoms associated with social anxiety is a fear of rejection. Usually, fear of rejection is developed in early life experiences.
In my practice, I have noticed an increase in the need for therapy after spending time with family. After the holidays, for example, many people experience painful rejection from family members.
The stories carry the same theme, with different details. For some reason or other, some feel they never truly belonged with their family. They have been treated unfairly and held to different standards. Now that they have grown up and begun to live their own lives, they find themselves in a place where they need to process their painful feelings of rejection.
Rejection is an Illusion
Firstly, rejection from others is an illusion, in reality, no one can reject you but yourself. What we often perceive as rejection is a lack of compatibility. Let’s a take for example, that you were recently gifted a pair of tickets to a basketball game. You then approach an acquaintance to attend the game with you, however, this acquaintance does not like basketball at all.
If this acquaintance is honest with you, he or she will tell you “no thank you.” If you are highly sensitive to perceived social rejection, you might reach the conclusion that this acquaintance does not care for you. Even if your conclusion where correct, it still wouldn’t be rejection but a case where you and the other party have little interests in common.
It’s About Compatibility
Assume the acquaintance, who does not like basketball, agreed to go with you to the basketball game. It is highly likely that in the company of this acquaintance, you will not enjoy the game as it will become apparent that your company is not having a good time. The solution would be for you to find someone else whom you know enjoys basketball as much as you do, or go to the game by yourself.
We are social animals. This is the reason people who grow up perceiving rejection fall for the trap of seeking external validation. However, the pursuit of external validation leads to a never-ending cycle of negativity from disappointment.
This is because we mistake poor compatibility as a rejection of our value as a person.
The solution for the person with social anxiety who dreads rejection is to seek validation from within themselves.
Fundamentally, people are inherently good. This is the reason people often will refer to their conscience when it comes to evaluating the moralities of their decisions. To see yourself as a fundamentally good person, you must come to accept yourself with unconditional regard.
Judgments of good and bad should only be based on your actions.
Once you begin the practice of accepting yourself unconditionally, you will find yourself naturally drawn to people who also have unconditional regard for themselves. As a result, looking for company at a basketball game becomes a matter of finding someone who is passionate about basketball.
In addition, disagreements with family members during holiday gatherings, simply means that you and those family members have a difference of opinion.
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