Overreacting: A Stress Response For Fear Of Rejection

Dealing With Anxiety: A Stress Response For Fear of Rejection

Do you find yourself overreacting because of stress? I do, and I'm just a simple homemaker. I'm not supposed to have stress. After all, I am not climbing the career ladder. I don't have a demanding boss giving me work with impossible deadlines and expectations. But what if I told you that stress can be internally imposed?

It won't matter what type of job or home situation we have. We will carry one or more patterns of stress wherever we go. Now, I'm not a type “A” personality and neither are many of you, but we still get stressed. As long as we carry a stress reaction pattern, we will experience stress; and often, for very small things. Allow me to share my experience.

I knew my daughter wanted to be at school earlier than usual. Since I did not get up any earlier, I was rushing to get the lunches and my mother's breakfast ready. So, when my loving husband greeted me with a sweet “good morning” and a hug, I reacted with annoyance.

This was my internal talk, "Can't you see how full of anxiety I am trying to do everything I usually do in the morning ahead of schedule? Come on, be a little sensitive here!"

His good intentions were met with annoyance. I was sure he picked up on that discrepancy! So, I explained, "I'm rushing because our daughter wants to leave early".

Though a bit guilty, I still felt justified in my annoyance. I was desperate to meet my deadline; and unfortunately, he got in the way. 

As my husband leaves to check if the kids are ready, I pause. I remember the last time someone "got in the way". I was dropping my kids off at school and a car ahead of me did not go forward all the way, blocking the rest of us from coming in.

I overreacted with unusually strong anger. See Article, Feeling Angry? Let It Go With Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). This makes me wonder, "Is this a pattern particular to me?”

When my husband returns, I ask him, "Do you ever get stressed when you have to finish a pair of shoes for someone and you are behind schedule?"

My husband, who is a self-employed cobbler, says, "No".

I persist, "What I mean is, if you know that a customer is coming to pick up their shoes and you are rushing to finish them, don't you feel stressed?"

"Not really," he responds.

I still have a hard time buying that answer, so I look at him directly and say, "Well, what happens if they come and the shoes are not ready?"

"I ask them to wait," he says.

This is a "WOW" moment for me. That type of behavior would never come from me.

But, bringing the focus back to my behavior, I see that I'm really concerned with pleasing the customer, which in this case, would be my daughter. I share this with my husband.

He remarks, "Well, our daughter is in her room taking her time; she doesn't look rushed at all".

I laugh at myself.

My child is off to school and to her field trip, but I am left feeling uncomfortable. I imposed stress on myself, and worse, I overreacted and rejected my husband's loving gestures.

I understand pleasing the customer is a highly valued quality in an employee, but I'm not employed and my daughter is definitely not my customer. So, I pause again to go deeper into my feelings.

I discover that I did not want my daughter to be mad at me. But honestly, "What is so bad and threatening about making an eight year old mad?" This is still not making sense.

Then, I connect this to my experience in Feeling Angry? Let It Go With Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) where I was trying to please the school administrators. I also remember wanting to please my teachers in school. So, I've had a people pleasing pattern most of my life; and it's showing up here.

Another question comes to me, "If I am afraid of displeasing people, but my husband doesn't worry about making a customer, of all people, wait; I must be perceiving my situations very differently.”

Indeed! Notice the use of the word, "afraid" above. I recall a tightening in my belly when I was making the kids their lunches. But what can be so scary about the consequences of not pleasing people?

I can think of some from childhood: "They will be mad, they will hurt me in some way, they will not like me, I won't have any friends, they will pick on me, I will be embarrassed, they will not give me what I want, they will think I'm bad, I will only be loved conditionally, I will be excluded, I will not fit in, I will be rejected, I will not belong, I will not be a part of ‘the family’, etc.”

The common denominator is the fear of rejection.

I understand now. From this perspective my survival is at stake in making sure my daughter is pleased with me. If she is not pleased, I will have to face her rejection and the fearful consequences my childhood imagination is still holding on to. No wonder I'm stressed. This is digging up buried survival fears that I will be rejected, separated from the flock and not survive.  

A people pleasing pattern is not the only pattern that comes from the fear we will not survive. The good news is there are many techniques available to help us let go of the stress coming from our fears and heal ourselves. Two that I recommend are EFT tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques) and Bach Flowers.

There is no need to be stuck in past patterns of fear and survival. A life free of self-imposed stress and emotional pain is available to us now.