Conquering Your Fear Of Rejection: 99 Steps to Success!

Let me tell you a story about a very cool guy named Albert Ellis. Ellis is reckoned to be the second most influential psychotherapist of the twentieth century by the American Psychological Association. Albert Ellis, who died in 2007 aged 93, was the founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy which he admits is based in large part on the teachings of Stoic Philosopher Epictetus. Namely that it is not what occurs to us that causes us pain, but rather it is our judgments, our perceptions of what occurs that causes how we feel. Another major tenet of REBT is the concept that no one is inherently good nor evil, only a persons actions can be viewed as good or evil, and that every person has the capacity to do both good and evil actions, as Albert says; “I don’t damn any person, including Stalin, Hitler, and President Bush”. So the main point when practicing REBT is the Rational part, it’s about analyzing our irrational, exaggerated, “awfulizing” thought processes or “Self-talk” and replacing them with rational, true statements that reflect reality and ease our anxiety.

Dr Albert Ellis – Founder of REBT

I plan to post a more complete article on the benefits of REBT and how to practice it later, but this post is about overcoming the fear of rejection so I’ll get back to the story! So at the age of 19, during a break in his college schedule, Albert Ellis gave himself an extra curricular homework assignment in what is called “In Vivo Desensitization” in order to overcome his crippling fear of rejection. In Vivo Desensitization simply means taking incremental steps to face your fears in order to slowly form a tolerance to that which you feared, to become desensitized. Ellis decided that for the next month he would have lunch every day in the Bronx Botanical Garden, and when he would spot a female sitting alone, he would sit with her and force himself to engage in at least a minute of conversation. He claims to have calmed his fears the same way he did when he spent 10 months in Hospital as a child with Nephritis (infection of the kidneys), which was to repeat to himself; “If I die, I die — fuck it — it’s not the end of the world.”

Ellis claims that over the month long experiment he spoke to 100 women and acquired a date with just 1! But more importantly he acquired a tolerance to rejection, he broke through the fear and came to the realization that rejection is no big deal. Albert later in life boasted that thanks to his self imposed homework assignment “I got to be one of the best picker-uppers of women in the United States, and finally started making it with them, a lot.” And so despite his early failure rate of 99%, his experiment lead to a life of successful socializing and interaction with attractive and interesting people that he otherwise would have missed out on.

It happens to all of us, might as well get into it!

According to Albert Ellis we defeat ourselves through the practice of what he calls “Awfulization”, which can be defined as making grand irrational statements that foster fear and stop action from taking place. Some examples, in the case of rejection might include “I won’t be able to cope if she says no! I’ll just die of embarrassment if I say something stupid!  Everyone will think I’m an unlovable loser if I get rejected! She might say something really cruel that I definitely couldn’t handle!” and so on. Let’s take a cursory look at whether or not any of these statements are in fact true.

  1. False! Of course you’ll cope if she/he says no, he/she’s only one person in a world of billions. People just like you are coping every day from being rejected. If you never try sure you’ll never fail, but you’ll also never have the chance to succeed.
  2. False! Science shows that you cannot die from embarrassment. You are 100% guaranteed to say something stupid at some stage in your life, no doubt you already have and are still here, alive and kicking! People come out with stupid and embarrassing things every day, you’re going to say something stupid at some stage anyway, you can’t use that as an excuse!
  3. False! Being rejected by 1 person does not equal being rejected by ever person. When someone turns you down it does not effect your self worth one iota, think about how absurd that would be if it were the case! Every time someone turns you down it’s one less person you have to think about, onto the next one!
  4. False! If the person you approach decides to be cruel and hurtful that is nothing to you, thank your lucky stars that they decided to expose themselves as a cruel and indecent person before you got involved. Whatever pain comes from the hurtful words will heal, while their cruelty is a much more serious problem, and it’s theirs not yours.

So as you can see, through a combination of In Vivo Desensitization, that is to say a gradual expansion of your abilities to comfortably engage with people you like, and Rational Self-Talk, which is the act of identifying and analyzing your irrational, limiting thoughts and then replacing them with the true, rational and empowering ones, you can overcome your fear of rejection. Is it easy? No, it takes work, it takes time, but it can be done and there’s no ‘tricks’ or ‘lines’ or ‘plays’ involved. It’s just a matter of being genuine and approaching people knowing that you have everything you need to deal with whatever may occur. You don’t need ‘self esteem’, “‘I did well, therefore I am good,’ which means that when I do badly — back to shit-hood for me” says Albert on the subject of self esteem. And you don’t need to look like Brad Pitt (see picture of nerdy Albert Ellis below).

Albert Ellis: Lady Killer

Now Ellis’ mid-term experiment was a little extreme to be sure, but we don’t need to talk to 100 strange women in a park every day for a month to see results, Albert had his 99 failures so that we don’t have to. To practice In Vivo Desensitization try making and holding eye contact with attractive people as you pass them by, then try smiling as they pass by. Engage in conversations in ‘low risk’ environments like with Baristas, Cashiers or bar or restaurant staff, these are great to practice on and who knows you might spark something! According to Albert Ellis In Vivo Desensitization interrupts irrational self-talk like “I must not be rejected! I’m a no-goodnik for failing to get accepted! My whole worth as a person rests on my being approved!” When approaching someone always go in with the mindset of preference toward things going well rather than a need for things to go perfectly, which is simply unrealistic. You have no control over the reaction of the other person and so it’s no reflection on your self worth whether they like you or not. Also keep in mind that although this post had been mostly about rejection when approaching people to ask them out, this also applies to fear of rejection when going for jobs or positions, submitting work or any other form of rejection out there!

And so I wish you good luck, god knows these techniques have worked for me and many others, and if you take it seriously they’ll work just as well for you :) I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts from Dr Albert Ellis on the subject:

“Being rejected does not mean your rejectors will, with their own obsessive-compulsiveness, eternally disfavor you. Even when they usually do so, that still doesn’t mean they forever will. Also, they may dislike something about you, but rarely will they dislike you totally, in every respect.You may do rejectable things, but you are never totally rejectable or worthless. Someday you may act acceptably — especially if you keep persistently trying with in vivo risk-taking.

So be heartened. Yes, you may have done badly this time but you are not what you did. You are many possible acts — some of which you will discover if you keep trying. Moral: Try it and see! If you unconditionally accept you with others’ rejections of your behaviors, you won’t always win. But you also won’t always lose. Experiment! Try it!”

Related Articles:

Rohan Healy is the author of “Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism in the 21st Century” and “The 7 Things That Made Me Genuinely & Irreversibly Happy: And How They Can Do The Same For You”

Click the book titles to visit their Amazon pages, read the reviews, and sample or purchase the books.

28 thoughts on “Conquering Your Fear Of Rejection: 99 Steps to Success!

    • Thanks for the lovely comment :) Haha, Wonderfulization, very nice, I think you’ve just invented something :)

      Thanks for stopping by and bringing my attention to you blog!


  1. I really enjoyed this, look forward to more! I currently on a path of fully accepting rejection, as one step closer to ‘yes’. I’m inspired I’m going to blog a bit now ;-)

    • Thanks for the comment, I’m glad you liked the post :) Yes exactly a woman named Byron Katie talks a lot about the ‘Stories’ we tell ourselves. She uses a kind of Socratic reasoning when our stories are making us anxious or fearful or depressed. We simply have to ask “Is it true?”, if the answer is yes then “Is is really true, all of the time, no matter what?” of course the answer in no. It’s just another way of exposing the ‘awfulizations’ for what they are, just stories not based in reality :)


    • Yup, but only if it’s something you really want to do. I don’t think there’s any need for me to go take a spider bath just for the sale of it lol!!!

      Thanks for the comment, love you blog :)


    • I had my hair long in my early teens too, certainly led to some strange situations :/ I did Aikido for 6 months when I was 12 everyone thought I was a girl, I didn’t have the heart to tell them the truth. That was weird lol O_o

      Thanks for the comment, I like your photos :)


      • lol i looked at some pictures of myself as a teen and tend to think i got treated better because people had mistaken me for a girl when i was trying to proclaim my so called rock and roll heritage which kind of consisted of listening to it

  2. Excellent blog. I read somewhere years ago that if you consistently do the thing you fear, your fear will eventually vanish. A bit like how confidence is generated simply by doing whatever it is and gradually getting skilled at it. I guess confidence comes with skill and practise and as it does, the fear of failure or rejection diminishes :)

    • Thanks for the comment Rory. Yes exactly. And so much of the fear of failure or rejection is in all the assumptions you make about what will occur when you fail or are rejected. Once you experience failure and rejection a number of times and see that in fact you are ok, everything is fine, the world didn’t end and all your ‘awfulizing’ and ‘catastrophizing’ was way overblown, you lose that fear and you gain a confidence :)


  3. It all comes from confidence in ourselves and self-like/love – then rejection isn’t so threatening. Empowerment from positive thoughts and emotions within the self is key.

    • Yup it’s all about self love and self acceptance. Then you’ve just gotta get out there and pass through the fear. Once you’ve experienced failure or rejection and see that it’s not so bad, that it’s not the end of the world, your confidence grows even more :)

      Thanks for the comment!


  4. Excellent post. Rejection sucks. Having a public blog means setting ourselves up for it – not everyone will like us. But it’s hard, because I think everyone wants to be accepted. Published authors face the same thing. We writers have to separate ourselves from our actions and our work. But like I said, it’s hard. Maybe I should read up on this Albert guy.

    • Yes, I’ve been putting my music and writing up online for many years now and in the early days it was very tough to hear anything negative. These days I find it much easier to brush off!

      And yes Albert is well worth looking into!

      Thanks for the comment :)


  5. Reblogged this on Starfish Way and commented:
    “…it’s about analyzing our irrational, exaggerated, “awfulizing” thought processes or “Self-talk” and replacing them with rational, true statements that reflect reality and ease our anxiety.”

  6. Pingback: 7 Things You Can Do To Make Your 2013 Better than 2012! | rohan7things

  7. Pingback: 3 Reasons Why The Results of your Actions Don’t Matter! | rohan7things

  8. Pingback: Rejection and knowing what you want

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