Strategies to Tear Down the Fear of Rejection
Along this journey of living my dreams, loving my life and discovering my inner voice, I’ve learned many a thing about being a parent. Having been a married parent and now a single parent, I’ve learned that in the end, children want what grownups want for ourselves: the right to be loved, honored and respected. They–like us–want the people in the their life to embrace them wholly without prejudice or undue bias. This means we as parents refrain from spewing phrases like “you’re so disrespectful, just like your father” or “you’re a flirt, like your momma.” Statements like these uproot seeds of individuality and innocence replacing them with weeds of bitterness, anger and resentment which then becomes the ideal breeding ground for the fear of rejection.
After reading 3 Simple Strategies That Teach Children the Role of a Mom or Dad by Tina Portis, I decided to have a talk with my children about how they felt about dating and marriage. I wanted to know what they really thought about Mommy remarrying and whether they were really as gung-ho as they indicated over the years. I decided to brooch the topic by asking how they’d feel if we went on an outing with a really good male friend of mine–would they have a problem with it. Not because the man and I were romantically linked but because I thought they’d want to know more about who Mommy spends some of her “me time” with.
At first, silence. Then an emphatic “yes, I would have a problem with it.” Stunned I asked why. Again silence. I asked: is there something you don’t like about him? Something that bothers you? “No. I like him a lot. I just don’t want to spend time with him.” I asked why and what I heard sucked the breath from lungs: I just don’t want to open myself up, like I did with Dad, and be hurt again.
It’s a tough thing to realize your children carry such a heavy burden, especially at such a young age. But, having lived through my own bout with the fear of rejection, I decided to take what I’d learned over the years from New Life Ministries as well as from my personal experiences and apply them in this instance.
Fear, be it rejection or some other thing, breeds in hidden places like the mind and soul. Often times, these places are so inundated with the things of life that many times fear goes unnoticed or worse, unaddressed. I’ve discovered that one of the most powerful weapons against fear is exposure. In a dark room, a coat rack can easily pass for an 8-armed monster but in the light, it’s hard to believe it’s anything more than what it really is. The same applies to fear. Allowing it to remain hidden or unaddressed, gives fear much more clout and power than it really has. Expose it for the liar and the condemner that it really is.
Once exposed, fear can be addressed at length. In this situation, I listened to what was being said and refrained from adding my two cents. Why? Because I wanted them to hear their own words, have time to talk about their feelings and put it all on the table. I wanted to allow them the right to expose their fears without interruption or hasty judgment–on my part or theirs. This ripens the atmosphere for acceptance, trust, and release–the enemies of fear. This simple act sets the stage for fear’s demise. Rules of thumb: 1) ask open ended questions, questions that require more than a yes or no 2) ask why or why not and allow them time to answer honestly and 3) reassure them that talking about it is safe and they’re feelings are safe with you. How? Light touches, hugging, soft voice, etc. Opening up is never easy but it’s certainly easier when you feel safe with the person you’re talking too.
What exactly? That we all have bouts with fear but it certainly isn’t designed to orchestrate how we live in life. Some kinds of fear are needed: fear of danger, fear of going to far, etc. These kinds of fear help remind us of our boundaries and limitations. Fear is NOT supposed to stifle, suffocate or burden us to the point where we’d rather fore go any chance at something great if it means there’s a possibility that we won’t get hurt. We must remind ourselves and our children that fear is apart of life but it lives and breathes on OUR say so, not the other way around. So, we accept that fear is here to stay BUT we acknowledge that it doesn’t mean we have to let it control what we will or will not do.
After our lengthy discussion, I was elated. Not because they magically recovered from the fear of rejection–they didn’t. I was elated because even though this was painful for both of them, the fear of rejection no longer had the power it had a few hours before. I was elated because by asking questions and allowing time for them to process their own feelings and thoughts, it robbed fear of the ransom it once held over their lives. They even began to feel better about the outing.
I’ve learned that fear of rejection can only be as strong as we allow it to be. Get a mediator, counselor, pastor or psychiatrist involved if you have too. There is wisdom in wise counsel and there is NO SHAME IN IT!!! Do what’s best for your children and watch the fear of rejection’s power dwindle right before your eyes.
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