Loneliness and Fear of Rejection

Fear of rejection and a negative self-image are associated with persistent feelings of loneliness. Find out about loneliness and how to attract a person who is right for you.

Replace loneliness thinking and self-depreciation thinking with positive thinking that makes you happier and more attractive to others.

  • Do you want to improve your ability to form new relationships?
  • Do you fear or dislike being alone?
  • Has a relationship ended and you want to feel better about it?
  • Do you feel lonely too often?
  • Are you too worried about pleasing others?
  • Loving and taking good care of yourself is the first step to self-confidence and respect from others.



Do you feel uncomfortable in situations such as meeting new people, speaking in front of groups, dealing with someone who is upset, having to tell someone about a mistake, or divulging your inner feelings? Fear of rejection may underlie all of these situations. If you really value other people and how they feel about you, it is natural that you would feel some fear of rejection. Whenever there is the possibility for actual rejection, most people feel some fear. Fear of rejection is increased by the importance of the other person to you, by your perceived inexperience or lack of skill in dealing with the situation, and by other factors.

However, some people suffer more intense levels of rejection for longer periods in their life than other people. Deeper issues such as those listed below may be increasing your fear of rejection.

Underlying your fear of rejection might be a fear of being or living alone. You might fear ending up all alone in the world with no one who really cares.

The thought of being all alone in the world is not in itself something to panic about. While some people panic at the thought--others delight at the thought. If you believe that you can take care of your own needs well and be happy even if you are alone, then being alone is nothing to fear. If you believe that you need others to take care of you and "make" you happy, then you are too dependent on others and their absence is something to "panic" about.

PRACTICE: Examine the degree to which you can create your own happiness--even when alone. Examine how too much dependence on others for happiness can undermine your feelings of confidence with others and lead to fear of rejection.

If your self-image is too closely tied to what others think of you or how well you relate to others, then fear of rejection can be a threat to your whole self-image. That in itself can create a lot of anxiety. If you are used to defining the core of your Self or your future as "popular," "married," "well-liked," "a leader," or the like, then you threats to any of these self-concepts may create a great deal of anxiety. Or you may view your life script as being married, having children, or having a number of close friends. To the degree that any of those expectations are threatened, and you cannot see how you can be happy without them, then you will experience anxiety.

How can you overcome fear of rejection due to threat to your self-image or life script? You must define yourself and your essence in a way that does not depend upon what others think. For example, if you define yourself as someone whose main goals are to seek happiness for yourself and others; treat others kindly, honestly, and assertively; be a person of integrity; and not worry about other's reactions to you, then meeting your primary goals will not be dependent upon what others think. Your happiness will be in your control, and you will feel much more secure.

On the other hand if you define yourself primarily as someone who must be loved and accepted by others, then your happiness will be in their control and you will always fell insecure and anxious at some deep level.

PRACTICE: (1) Make a list of at least 10 important general characteristics of yourself. (2) Examine items on that list which are "interpersonal" in nature. How would you feel about yourself if all of these were threatened at once. Could you still love, respect, and take good care of yourself and still be a happy person? If not, then try to re-examine what changes need to take place in your beliefs about yourself to become less dependent upon others and their view of you.


Factors Affecting my Fear of Being Alone 

(The higher your "attachment," the higher your fear of rejection!)

The more emotionally "attached" you become to someone--the more important you believe they are to you--the more anxiety you will create about losing them. One of the best ways to control your fear of rejection is to not get overly attached to someone. The following factors are especially important sources of attachment that is too much, too soon.

1. HOW "SPECIAL" THE OTHER PERSON IS--the more you want to be wanted by them, the more anxiety it will cause. Many people develop a fantasy or script about what love should be like. For example many people expect to marry their "first love," or the person that they have called their "soul mate." Letting yourself develop and fantasize about the future with a person increases attachment and anxiety about the expectations or plans not coming true. Any little event that makes the plan seem likely makes you feel elated; any event that makes it seem unlikely makes you feel devastated. You can get on an emotional roller-coaster, dependent upon these little signs of success or failure in the relationship. You may then drive the person away by being too emotional or needy.

To prevent this emotional roller-coaster, don't develop the expectations prematurely. Don't fantasize and plan for the future prematurely. Always know that it may not work out and have alternative plans that you know you can be happy with.

2. BELIEVING ONLY ONE PERSON IS RIGHT FOR YOU vs. many are right. The fact is that many people who thought someone was the only person for them and thought their life was ruined because they could not be with that person later found someone else with whom they were much happier. Remind yourself that, no matter how much you may feel that is the only person for you, you can be wrong!

The less confident you are that you can create a happy relationship or get a person like you want, the more likely you are:

(1) to pick someone with whom you will not be satisfied. Or you may wait for others to approach you. People who tend to use or dominate you may be the very type of more outgoing people who will seek you. Then you may later wonder why you keep getting into relationships with people who don't treat you well. Learn to be active in the process of meeting others and getting involved in a relationship. Keep the initiation of mutual activities closer to a 50-50 level, and don't just go along for the ride when you are seeing red flags.

(2) to pick someone who "needs" you to take care of them, because they do not take care of themselves well. Frequently in a codependent relationship, the codependent partner believes his/her "weak" partner is so dependent upon them that they will not leave them. The codependent partner may also believe that he/she is not very attractive and believes he/she could not attract someone as attractive as this irresponsible partner if the other was not so needy. They are not willing to risk finding someone who is not needy, who would only want them for how much they enjoyed being with them.

They are afraid no one they would want would really be attracted to them or stay with them. If you are one of these people, it is important to test that assumption. You probably have many other desirable qualities another would love that you don't appreciate about yourself. See the section below on "stereotypes". Also, if you really believe that you do not know how to create fun and happiness for yourself, you may want to work on that. That could make a difference in attracting a more fun loving, happy person if that is the type of person you want.

Sharing life events increases attachment. Just being together in a variety of circumstances seems to build some degree of closeness. However, sharing important life events, sharing of one's innermost feelings and thoughts, and physical intimacy are powerful forces that can lead to very strong "attachment" (to the degree that these events are positive). If you have gained a high degree of intimacy, that is great! However, it does not mean that you can't find it with someone else. On the contrary, it means that you have learned how to be intimate, and your chances are very high that you can find at least that much intimacy again. Most often people move into better--not worse--relationships after one has ended.

SUMMARY: Some "do"s and "don't"s to keep from getting too attached too early.

  • Constantly remind yourself, "I want to control my anxiety and fear of rejection. Don't get too attached too early."

  • Question thoughts like, "This is the only person I can be happy with." · Don't fantasize about the future with this person.

  • Avoid sexual involvement that is too early (before strong, reciprocal relationship factors are satisfactory).

  • Don't focus all your thoughts and fantasies on this one person--especially before you have established a strong dating relationship. Fantasize about a variety of people (even movie stars, or imaginary people) so that you relate to this person as a real person--not as a fantasy.



There are many levels of closeness and intimacy with other people. Examples include marriage, closest family and friends, close friends, friends, friends for specific needs (eg. work, bowling, church), acquaintances. There are many differences between different levels of intimacy. The amount of physical and communication intimacy, time spent together, commitment, sharing, helping each other, etc. will vary with each level.

Every person you contact in your life has some maximum potential level for achieving intimacy with you. This maximum level will depend upon many factors. Many people have the potential for lower levels of intimacy (such as acquaintance), but few have the potential for the highest levels (such as marriage). The fact that a person only achieves a certain level does not mean that the relationship "failed"--it merely achieved its maximum potential level of intimacy and could go no further.

How many people out of 10,000 people in the appropriate age and sex group would you really want as your "significant other"? How many are really right for you? Most people you meet/date will not be a good enough match, so why beat yourself up when the relationships end. The relationship was almost certainly a mismatch.

Instead, try to understand the reasons the relationship ended. To what degree was it due to differences between the two of you? If the reasons partly include that you haven't acted in ways consistent with your own standards for yourself, then change your thinking and actions for the next person .

If you believe that only one person is "right" for you, then you will become extremely dependent upon that person. Putting a person on a pedestal like this will most likely lead to dependent feelings and behavior that actually causes both of you to be unhappy. You may try so hard to please and keep that "person you can't live without" that you end up losing your sense of freedom to be yourself and giving up your own happiness. In turn you will become increasingly unattractive to your "pedestal" person.THE MAIN FACTORS CAUSING A PERSON TO WANT TO BE WITH YOU ARE INHERENT IN WHO YOU ARE!
Even though this may seem obvious, this is a very powerful statement! The factors that affect how much one person is attracted to another include the following:

  • General beliefs and values: cultural, religious, moral, political, family, sexual, etc.
  • Background: culture, family, career, education, organizations, etc.

  • Relationship factors: previous history, control style (dominant-submissive or assertive), problem-solver, conversational style, empathy, independence-dependence, emotional expressiveness, playfulness, romantic style, liberated-traditional sex roles, etc.

  • Interests: career, cultural, music, sports, education, romantic, etc.

  • Personal characteristics and habits: honesty, responsibility, ambition, achievement, caring/understanding, openness, emotionality, independence, self-esteem, positiveness, cleanliness, orderliness, stability, assertiveness, adventurousness, sense of humor, etc.

  • Personal problems and bad habits (big TURN-OFFs to almost everyone): addictions, dishonesty, cheating, withdrawal, suspiciousness, irresponsible, cruel, aggressive, extremely dominating or needy, emotionally out of control, etc.

The above factors are the kinds of factors that will be the major determinants of whether you and another person will be happy together. Most of these factors are determined by parts of yourself that are highly stable over many years. You probably don't want to change most of these aspects of yourself. If you just act naturally, you will reveal these true aspects of yourself to your partner (and vice-versa). Your partner will accept or reject you on the basis of how well these factors match their own factors (and vice-versa). Therefore it should be clear that nature tends to bring people together or apart on the basis of who they really are, so why try to hide?

Research and clinical experience shows that overall, the more alike partners are-especially in aspects important to the partners-the more likely the relationship will succeed and be happy.

If your partner is "right" for you, he/she will like you as you really are, and they will be attracted to you. Out there somewhere are probably many potential partners who are a lot like you! These are the people who will be naturally attracted to you. Think about it for a minute. How would you feel about being with a partner who is a lot like you in most important aspects?


Learning how to create your own happiness alone is a key part of building self-confidence and overcoming fears of rejection and loneliness. As long as you do not believe that you can create your own happiness and enjoy life alone, then you will be less confident and more dependent on others' creating your happiness. This dependence makes being in a relationship much more important, and therefore increases anxiety about being alone and increases fears of rejection. For example I have had many clients who thought they could only be happy if they get married and have a family. Yet some were fearing age would overtake their ability to have children, and no partner was in sight. They developed a terror of not having their happy family dream come true and living their lives alone. That fear caused a desperate need to marry. They became very "needy," manipulative, and scared potential partners away. As their desperation rose, their chances sank.

They escaped the catch by learning how to be at peace with the thoughts that they might never be married and might live alone the rest of their lives. They learned how to take care of themselves and how to be happy alone. The irony is that once they didn't need marriage so much, they were much more likely to get married. Because now they were less fearful and "needy" and more confident and relaxed.

How to become happier alone. If you don't have many interests which you enjoy alone, it is important to begin exploring and finding more. If you have few interests that you can do alone, because you have spent most of your life either with other people or doing what others wanted you to do, then it is especially important for your own independence that you explore new potential interests. You can learn to like activities you currently don't like. Remember this, if many other people love this activity there must be some fun in it. All you need to do is learn how to enjoy it.

  • Many activities are difficult to enjoy until you have learned the basics about how to participate in them. Most sports are that way, but even music and the theater can take some time to appreciate. Don't give up easily. Give the new activity a chance over a reasonable period of time.

  • Many people hate to do things alone, so they refrain from activities. A common reason is that they are afraid of what others will think about their coming alone. However, if you continue to do activities alone, you can eventually desensitize yourself to most of those fears.

  • Career interests, sports, music and the arts, reading, entertainment events, hobbies, do-it-yourself projects, taking classes, walks, shopping, bike rides, or taking oneself out for dinner are but a few examples of activities people do to entertain themselves.

  • Initiating activities with other people and joining organizations are examples of ways that you can create your own happiness with others without being in an exclusive relationship.

  • Finally, if you are generally happy and enjoy life, your positiveness and happiness can help them be happier as well. And that will make you more attractive to anyone who wants to be happy themselves..

You are attractive to another person to the degree that that person perceives you as potentially contributing to their happiness. You are not responsible for their happiness, you are only being yourself and giving gift of your presence and actions. You are only hoping these gifts will contribute to their happiness. Each person is ultimately responsible for their own happiness.

PRACTICE:1) List all of the characteristics you want in another person. 2) Make a "RELATIONSHIP RESUME" which describes all of your personal beliefs, attributes, interests, communication skills, which might be important in appealing to the type of person you wish to be with or marry. 3) If you want to better create your own happiness, add exploration of new interests to your "to do" list.



Self-labels that prevent action. "I'M TOO...shy, heavy, boring, quiet, intellectual, much of a loner, afraid, conservative, inexperienced, clumsy, nervous, emotional, demanding, afraid of intimacy, ETC.

PRACTICE: Make a list of the labels that stop you from approaching others or being yourself. Then take each one and decide the degree to which you intend to change it or to accept it as it is. Keep in mind that there are many happily married persons who fit all of the above descriptions and realize that, you are looking for someone who would be happy with a person just like you.

External events or commitments that keep you from pursuing a relationship now. The difference between an EXCUSE and a CONSCIOUS CHOICE is whether or not you are being honest with yourself about all of your underlying motives. If you are avoiding involvement primarily because of fear of rejection or failure, then that is very different from saying that you are doing it because you are too busy.

It is ok not to be in a relationship or looking for one. You may want to be alone now. If you want to pursue other parts of your life and develop yourself into the person you want to be, that can be very healthy for building your own self-esteem and relationship potential. When you are ready for a relationship, you will be more the person who will be attractive to the type of person you want. If you aren't happy with yourself now, you might be wise to focus on that first!

PRACTICE: If you are not sure whether you are being honest with yourself about doing what might be helpful to improve a relationship or meet someone, try getting in touch with underlying feelings and beliefs, exploring new creative alternatives and possible outcomes. Then make a conscious decision based upon your true underlying motives.

Women's stereotypes. Women often say they can't find a men who can be both (1) sensitive to their feelings, romantic, loving, and fun and also (2) responsible, somewhat confident, and somewhat successful in their education and/or career. Women often think that men are "only interested in sex or the size of my breasts," "say they want an equal relationship, but are afraid of successful women". These are a few of the more common stereotypes that may fit many men, but also don't fit many others. Don't accept someone with whom you can't be happy. After all, what difference does it make if other men are that way if the man you're with isn't.

Men's stereotypes. Many men think that most women are primarily interested in money, expensive cars, restaurants, and gifts. Or, that they only want a man who is extremely good looking and charming with a good line (can make a good impression, but would make a poor partner).

PRACTICE: Make a list of your stereotypes which prevent you from approaching others or being yourself. Identify ways that you try to put up a front to make a good impression based upon your stereotypes. For example, you may believe that you have to constantly be clever and funny because that is what you think women/men are looking for. In fact, you may be turning the other person off, because you are being "phony" and not intimate about who you really are. You are making the mistake of underestimating the person you are with. You think that they can't handle honesty as well as you.

Treat potential partners as if he/she were as mature as you
and as if he/she were the kind of person you would want.

(Then you will probably be more attractive to them.)

The low self-confidence evaluation bias means underestimating how well people like you. A research study at the University of Oregon had single women evaluate their conversations with single men. The women evaluated the men on a number of variables including if they would like to go out with them. To their surprise low-frequency dating men performed just as well as high-frequency dating men in actual ratings by the women. However, the low-frequency dating men UNDERESTIMATED how well the women liked them, and the high-frequency dating men OVERESTIMATED how well they were liked. This became a SELF-FULFILLING PROPHESY. The men who overestimated how well they were liked would go ahead and ask the women for a date, while the ones who underestimated how well they were liked, didn't.

Conclusion: If you have low self-confidence in how others perceive you, then you are probably UNDERESTIMATING how much they like you. As a result, you don't approach people as much as you would like. If you start OVERESTIMATING their reactions, you may approach more people and have greater success.



  • You can create your own happiness and take care of yourself-You don't NEED (must have) anyone else to do it for you.

  • Love yourself unconditionally the way you are. Even though you may never be the person you would ideally like, learn to let go of "shoulds." Instead (1) replace the "shoulds" with "wants," and (2) learn that your basic self-worth begins with loving yourself unconditionally because you are alive and a human being. You can love yourself despite any imperfections and accept those imperfections as part of yourself. You can also believe that someone like you could love you the way you are now (despite any imperfections), you don't have to wait until you are perfect before you seek a relationship.

  • Attempt to focus on being your "higher self" while dealing with other people (vs. trying to be what you think others want you to be). Putting your higher self in control means choosing to think and act out of empathy and love for self and others, seeking happiness for self and others, seeking win-win solutions, etc.

  • Seek those who will like you as you really are. Choose to be closest friends with those who know all about you and like/love you the way you are. Reveal your inner feelings and thoughts more honestly with potentially close friends. This openness will show confidence and acceptance of yourself, reveal trust in the other, and serve as a test to see if the other can accept you as you are. If they can't accept you as you are, then they don't make very good candidates for close relationships. (Don't be so open and honest with people you have a reason not to trust.)

  • If you have been successful before, you can be successful again. If you are feeling discouraged about finding someone or feeling bad about yourself and if you have had close friends, relatives, or relationships in the past, remember that at least one other person liked you the way you are. You know you can develop another relationship at least as good as one of those. If you have grown since then, you will probably have a better relationship.

  • You may want to change for yourself. If you think you aren't yet the person you believe will attract the kind of person you want, then perhaps you need to make your first priority becoming that person. Focus on being the person you want to be as much as possible.
  • The person you are or want to be will be very attractive to the type of person who is "right" for you. Would you be attracted to someone else who also was like you?



Try following the happiness rule: Seek out people who can contribute most to your overall happiness and support your being the person you want to be. Many of these people will be similar to the type of person you really want to be. Avoid spending too much time with people who take away from being that kind of person.

Follow the self-selecting rule: Be the person you really want AND tell others your true inner feelings and thoughts more assertively. Even though you may fear that others may not like who you really are and reject you, that is good. Being open separates those people who are "right" for closer relationships from those who are not. For example, if you meet Sally (who is not potentially a close friend) and hide who you really are from her, it may take her a long time to find out what you are really like and reject you. In this case you have both wasted a lot of time. If you present yourself honestly and openly from the beginning, you will attract or repel people much faster. This saves a lot of time.

Incidentally, a bonus of this approach is that most people prefer honesty and the self-love and self-confidence that openness reveals, so you may be more appealing to more people.

Focus on your actions not their reactions. An important lesson about anxiety is that when we focus on external outcomes that are beyond our immediate control, we give up control of our emotions and will begin to feel anxious and helpless. The same is true in meeting people, approaching people, talking to people, trying to help people, trying to entertain people, etc. If you focus on their evaluation or approval of you, spending time with you, giving back to you, or any other reaction outside your control, you increase your anxiety and helplessness.

Therefore, focus on approaching people, being friendly, your talking and listening, your openness and honesty, your assertiveness, and your thinking positive thoughts. You can control what you think and do. The result will be that you are setting attainable goals that you have control over. Knowing that can give you peace.

In the long run, you may not want invest much energy in a relationship if you do not receive enough of what you want. However, in the short run, focus on your actions as ends in themselves to "practice your act" and be the kind of person in a relationship that you want to be. Eventually others will respond positively as you get better at it and as you approach the right people.

Also, say this to yourself, "My gift recipients have the freedom to do whatever they want with my gifts (my attention, help, etc.)--since it is now theirs." It is OK for them to reject the gifts and you can still feel good because you gave in the spirit of true unconditional, non-demanding love.

Do you ever feel anxiety about inviting someone to do something with you? If so, try viewing your invitation as a gift in the spirit just discussed above. It is a gift in two ways: (1) it is a compliment to the other person that you care enough about them and find them attractive enough to give the invitation and (2) your time is a gift which is offered to them. Thus even if they reject the offer to spend time together, they still have received the gift of the compliment. Accordingly, start stating your invitations more as compliments." EXAMPLE: "Mark, I've really enjoyed talking with you, I would really like for us to get together again soon." This is a very effective and efficient way to give an invitation.

Learn the difference between non-assertive behavior ("I lose, you win"--passive, indirect, avoidance); aggressive behavior."I win, you lose"--dominating, controlling, selfish); and assertive ("win-win"-caring, calm, understanding, diplomatic, honest, but direct and firm behavior). The most successful relationships are assertive-assertive ones.

Learn how to be both an understanding listener who looks deeply into important issues and someone who can communicate my own feelings in a direct, caring, and diplomatic manner to others.

CHECK OUT University Counseling Center Self-Instructional Videos to build Interpersonal skills in MEETING PEOPLE, DATING, ASSERTIVENESS, AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS. Hundreds have increased their meeting people, dating, and assertiveness skills with these videotapes. Ask receptionist.

Men and women often differ considerably in their knowledge and expectations about romance. One survey found that 94% of romance novels are read by women. Women gain a lot of knowledge and expectations from their reading, watching romantic movies, and talking with each other. Many men could learn more about what women want simply by going to romantic movies, reading some romantic books, or just asking women what they think is romantic. Also, anyone can buy books that give tips about how to be romantic.

Most men feel inadequate in the romance area, but won't admit it to anyone. Instead many just belittle romance as being unimportant or avoid dealing with it by saying, "I'm not the romantic type." However, anyone can add romance to their relationships. Anyone can buy cards, flowers, give compliments, be affectionate, take someone to a romantic setting, enjoy a sunset together, learn to dance, or go to romantic movies. Above all, ask your partner what he/she wants and what he/she thinks is romantic, and then be open for developing a more "romantic" outlook and actions. It can add a lot of fun and intimacy to your relationship and make you more sexually desirable.

If you want your partner to be romantic, remember that he/she may feel insecure in that area and be very sensitive to criticism. So use a positive approach as much as possible. Tell your partner how important romance is to you, be specific about what actions you think are romantic, and praise your partner for any romantic attempt (never make fun of attempts). Say, "How romantic," not "its about time you bought me some flowers."


Make your own relationship resume.
(1) It will help you become aware of what you have to offer in a relationship as well as what you want from a potential partner. It may also help you identify problem areas or areas you want to develop more.
(2) You can use this as a guide to make a plan of what you want potential partners to know about you (as soon as possible) to help "sell" you to someone who has similar values and criteria for what they are looking for. These can also be useful for answering "dating ads."

For each category below, fill in aspects of yourself that relate to that category.

Name, age, ethnic, etc.

Accomplishments (Education, Work Experience, etc.)

Goals (major) and why


  • Observer (TV, movies., cultural events, stereo music)
  • Active (aerobics, tennis, dancing, golf, biking)
  • Romanic (romantic walks, music candlelight, flowers, card, gifts )
  • Parlor games (Trivial Pursuit, cards)
  • Hobbies (photography, painting, computers, etc.)
  • Intellectual interests (science, history, literature, philosophy, religion, computers, psychology )


  • Family (all about them)
  • Friends & social activities, interests


  • intimacy (openness, honesty)
  • affectionate
  • empathetic understanding
  • assertive (friendly, fair, diplomatic)
  • desire equality vs. traditional male-female


  • honesty/integrity
  • optimism/positive attitude and point of view
  • self-esteem/confident
  • independent/self-reliant
  • cooperative
  • friendly
  • sense of humor
  • hard-working/motivated/ambitious
  • complimentary vs. critical
  • assertive vs aggressive or non-assertive
  • good emotional control
  • reliability
  • spiritual/religious values
  • material/monetary values
  • family or people-related values
  • career/education-oriented values
  • self-development values
  • giving vs self-centered
  • any addictions or bad habits

Add your own items

About the author: Dr. Tom Stevens was a licensed psychologist with over 25 years of psychotherapy experience and has rank equal to full professor at California State University, Long Beach, in the Counseling and Psychological Services Center. He is the author of the book "You Can Choose To Be Happy: Rise Above Anxiety, Anger, and Depression."

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2021, December 22). Loneliness and Fear of Rejection, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Last Updated: March 16, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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