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Overcome the Fear of Rejection

How to feel safe, loved, cared for, and protected.

Key points

  • Children with insecure attachment feel at the mercy of their parents' love and care.
  • Kids who grow up with insecure attachment prioritize relationships over their own well-being.
  • You can change insecure attachment and take better care of yourself in love and romance.

Attachment style is influenced by early environmental experiences with your caregivers. If you felt like your needs were not consistently met, felt unsafe, or as if you couldn’t count on support from your family, you may have an insecure attachment style. Kids with insecure attachment often feel at the mercy of their parents’ love. At one moment, they’re getting their needs met, and in the next, they feel invisible, emotionally or even physically neglected.

An inconsistent pattern of attachment leads to worry and anxiety. Once the child grows up, this insecure pattern can repeat in romantic attachments. One moment, you feel in love with your partner and the next you worry and wonder if they love you or if/when you will see them again, or if they are annoyed by you in some small way. You likely fear rejection and value yourself in terms of how much time and attention your partner is giving you.

All of this leaves the anxiously attached individual vulnerable to one-sided romantic connections or connections with partners who neglect them in the same ways their parents did. Some anxiously attached adults are also attracted to secure/healthy partners, but their anxiety may affect the relationship by overwhelming and confusing their partner.

If this describes you, take a moment to work on your anxious attachment style so you can be comfortable in your relationships, feel safe, loved, cared for, and protected.

4 ways to take better care of yourself in love

  1. Build Self-Awareness: Anxious attachment typically means you fear abandonment, cling to others, and have a heightened sensitivity to relationship cues. This kind of anxiety undermines intimacy and true security. Look back over your relationships with caregivers growing up and romantic or platonic relationships you’ve had. Do you see clues of anxious attachment? If so, make the commitment to start working on this to become more secure. Accept that you need more than reassurance from a partner to overcome this pattern.
  2. Turn toward yourself: If you have an anxious attachment, you crave closeness and reassurance and are likely overly preoccupied with your partner's availability and intentions. This is a lose-lose proposition. When you turn to others for security you are never secure because you can’t control other people and are always dependent on someone else to feel okay about yourself. Instead, learn to develop internal validation.
  3. Self-Soothe: When securely attached, it’s easy to bring to mind an internalized healthy parent who can comfort you when you are afraid or upset. If you have an anxious attachment, it’s important that you cultivate this comfort for yourself by finding ways to soothe your nervous system. When anxious and upset, meet your feelings and thoughts with compassion and warmth. Find a soft internal tone that acknowledges what you are feeling and remind yourself that these feelings will pass. Look for healthy distractions that comfort you—reading, watching a movie, taking a walk, talking to a friend. See if you can weather the storm of feeling insecure about a partner without that partner reassuring you, but by comforting yourself all on your own.
  4. Corrective Emotional Experiences: Taking good care of yourself in love means partnering with people who are healthy and don’t aggravate the wounds you carry from inconsistent loving. In fact, the more you surround yourself with healthy friends, partners, and colleagues, the more you can rewire your brain toward healthy attachment. Note and take seriously when people mistreat you or don’t follow through with what they’ve committed to you. Allow yourself to enact healthy boundaries with others. Work to get to know new types of people who can be reliable and consistent in their treatment of you.
  5. Build a Stimulating Life: If you are turning to people to feel secure, then relationships start to feel burdensome and like a minefield. Add to your life deeper meaning and connection through hobbies, work interests, creativity, and joy. Cultivate interests that help you recharge and that you can depend upon even if your relationships are out of sync or disappointing.

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

More from Jill P. Weber Ph.D.
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