Are you one of those oversensitive souls that take things too personally and oftentimes feel attacked when the other person didn’t intend to hurt you? Possibly, they were just giving you feedback or making suggestions to you, and you took it to heart. Or, maybe they actually were confronting you or even criticizing something that you were doing, and you felt like you melted into a puddle on the floor, feeling worthless. Maybe you search for facial expressions or gestures that might validate others’ dislike towards you, because you already know inside that they don’t care for you or that you’ve disappointed them. Maybe, you over-analyze even a huff, or reading into getting no responses from others as reinforcing your belief that you don’t matter to them. If you struggle with being over-sensitive to rejection, are you also your own worst enemy? Does your inside voice rattle off a plethora of negative statements about yourself, questioning your own self-worth? Your strong yearning to be cared about and approved by others may actually be an attempt to overcompensate for the lack of support you give yourself.
Oftentimes, those that are over-sensitive to rejection have experienced significant rejection in the past, although there are some who have more of a biological propensity to being over-sensitive to rejection. Possibly, they have received strong parental criticism or verbal and/or physical abuse and neglect as a child. Others may have been victimized by significant bullying and negative peer relationships, and with continual taunting and ridicule, grew up believing that they were “no good”. Oftentimes, those that have experienced significant rejection, also anticipate that they will continue to be rejected or criticized. This isn’t about feeling bad about making mistakes. It is only about self-rejection.
Unfortunately, those who remain oversensitive to rejection and continue doubting themselves oftentimes become over-dependent on others for validation and support. As the quality or equality of the relationship swings the pendulum to a lopsided relationship, partners oftentimes feel they are “walking on eggs” and have to be careful how they approach sensitive subjects ,or they may puppet or connive the sensitive person towards being controlled by them with the use of criticism and condemnation if not followed. Regardless, the relationship is impacted by one struggling with an oversensitivity to rejection.
For many, it is not easy to learn not to be self-rejecting. It’s usually a habit developed over a lifetime. However, it may be worth the battle to go inside and fight those invisible tigers. With research suggesting that we can change the hard drive in our brains by how we think, it seems like a worthwhile pursuit.
Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW