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How to Deal with Rejection Sensitivity for Someone with BPD

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Fear of rejection is common, especially among people that suffer from Borderline personality disorder (BPD). A heightened rejection sensitivity impacts every social part of someone's life, and it's hard to overcome since it's a survival mechanism rooted deep inside. Developing a thick skin, changing the perception of rejection, and changing the reaction after feeling rejected are ways to overcome the fear of rejection.

In this article, we'll try to understand where fear of rejection comes from, how we could potentially get control over it, and some of my own experience with rejection sensitivity.

Someone that suffers from fear of rejection, also known as rejection sensitive, doesn't always have to have a personality disorder. It's common for most people to deal with a fear of rejection, but people that suffer from BPD experience a heightened rejection sensitivity.

Why do I have a fear of rejection?

Someone who suffers from fear of rejection was severely rejected or neglected in the past or for a prolonged period by an important person in their lives, and it wounded them so deeply that they carry that pain with them and are terrified of it happening again. And since it's perceived as something dangerous and hurtful, their brain learned to be wary of rejection and how to predict it. If they keep getting hurt from feeling rejected, it's going to learn how to predict smaller and smaller signs of rejection. It's a way for the brain to protect us from being hurt. Rejection-sensitive people may overreact over a small sign, and a neutral comment can be misinterpreted as a sign of rejection, which causes confusion and difficulty in developing or maintaining relationships.

''The first time you say no is the last time I'll ever ask.''

How to deal with rejection with BPD

Developing a thick skin to handle rejection A way to handle rejection is to develop a thick skin. When you get rejected over and over again, you'll survive it, and after a while, you'll realize that it's not that bad. Even though getting rejected helps to overcome the fear of rejection, it's too terrifying. Imagine telling someone to get over their phobia of snakes by spending more time with snakes. Even if exposing someone to their phobia is a way to overcome it, dropping someone in a pit of snakes is something they are avoiding at all costs. The thick-skin approach works, but it's not realistic in most cases.

Changing the perception of rejection Since their minds were taught that the world is a dangerous place and that everyone is out to harm them, people with BPD frequently perceive everything for the worse.

The goal is to control your perception of the smallest signs of rejection. But first, try to understand where the idea of being worthy of rejection comes from. Chances are that it's a fear that you hold internally. As you think about past experiences, you will realize that those are the reasons for being rejection-sensitive today. As long as you hold that belief of being rejectable, it's going to make you sensitive to rejection.

You need to catch your mind in the act of perceiving signs of rejection. Before you react to the signs, you need to say to yourself: ''hold on a second, what actually happened?'' Figure out why your mind perceives this as a rejection. It's going to be really hard since your mind will automatically jump to that conclusion and react accordingly. It might help to write down what actually happened and how it made you feel. If you can alter your perception, then it changes your reaction. It will initially seem impossible to stop yourself before you react, but as you try to catch yourself more and more, it will eventually become habitual.

Changing your reaction when feeling rejected Sometimes when we get rejected, we just take that feeling, we stuff it down, live with it, and it can ruin our lives for days or weeks. When someone gets fed up from dealing with it internally, they tend to give people the cold shoulder and start to lash out. This behavior gets confusing for others, so they get frustrated, which feels like another rejection, and then the cycle repeats itself.

Techniques like the cold shoulder are passive-aggressive. They preserve some degree of safety and nebulousness into which you can't truly get rejected. On the other hand, having a conversation in which you truly open yourself up can cause the biggest possible rejection. For example, if you communicate to someone that texting every night is really important to you and if they then don't do it, it's the highest form of rejection because you've already stated how important it is to you. Because of this, people who are rejection sensitive are less likely to try and communicate because, for them, it's terrifying.

If someone doesn't text you back, there could be a thousand reasons for it, and you may feel hurt or rejected by it. But the other may just have never known that it has meaning to you, and it may not be a big deal to them to text every night. You're judging their actions based on your internal roadmap, which is why a small signal makes you feel rejected, whereas someone else is completely oblivious to it because it's not a big deal to them. The key thing here is communication, even though it's terrifying for people who are rejection sensitive.

When you sense a sign of rejection, your mind boards a train, and it goes past the causation of the feeling. But try to pause and track back and look at how you feel in the moment, and try to understand what is happening so you can start to control how you react.

My experience with fear of rejection

The fear of rejection impacts every social part of my life since it prevents me from being my true self around other people. I don't share what I think, don't do what I want to do, and isolate myself from other people as much as possible. When I notice a minor sign that someone might reject me for something, I immediately work myself in a position to not get hurt. It already hurts when someone rejects me over something minor, like when someone corrects something I said/did or when they don't agree with it. It hurts because it confirms the fear.

I put on a mask whenever I interact with people because I'm afraid of being rejected, which is also known as a chameleon personality. Instead of being true to myself, it convinces me to copy the opinions and interests of others. When I notice small signs of rejection or abandonment in a relationship, the worst-case scenario immediately comes to mind.

Being rejection sensitive not only impacts my relationships but also affects interactions with strangers. I once worked on a construction site where apartments were being built. I had to get in and out of every apartment to do my work. At one point, someone came up to me and asked if I was closing the doors behind me or not. At that moment, I immediately was thinking about what the other person wanted me to say instead of thinking about what I had really done. I replied: "I left the doors open since I thought it would be easier for the other workers on the construction site." The person told me that I should still close the doors behind me because the wind could potentially slam the windows and doors. Stupidly enough, I was closing the doors behind me, but the fear of rejection made me say something else. In the end, it didn't matter if I was closing the doors or not because the person just wanted to help, but I was afraid that a stranger would reject me, and therefore it made me lie without thinking.

These things will still happen in the future. Being calm, aware, and less anxious can help in these situations. And over time, when you get more self-aware you'll get better at dealing with it. The most important thing is to not beat yourself up for it.


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