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Food (& Love!) Hack Friday: Stepping Beyond the Fear of Rejection

FRIENDS.  Life is amazing.  I am currently attending AHS, and it’s rocking my world.  More re: that later, I think.

But this I would never put off.  Food & Love Hack Friday?!  Forget it.  I’m not missing this for anything.

This week’s hack is I believe one of the more effective ones, if not one of the more difficult.  It is about acknowledging a universal characteristic of humanity (fear), and then taking practical steps (love) to mitigate it.

Today’s hack:

Remember this, and well: to every person we meet, we are saying to them, “love me!”

And every person whom we cross is also thinking “love me!”

24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  We humans want to be loved above all else.  And desperately.

So because affirmation is such an intense desire, we are horribly afraid of being rejected.  We are so afraid of rejection, in fact, that we rarely reach out to people.  We look down when we walk down the street, we glue our eyes to the countertops at checkout counters, we glance away as fast as we can when we catch the eye of a cutie.  These actions are so automatic and so ingrained in us that we often do not even realize we are doing them.  But we have laced them into our lives, into the very fabric of how we navigate our spaces and our relations.  We do not want the person we find so attractive to even have a chance to reject us, so we avoid them.   We do not want our brothers to insult us, so we insult them first.  We don’t want that stranger to sneer at our supposed flaws, so we do not even look in his direction.

Worse, when we are feeling particularly self-conscious, we feel the need to defend or protect ourselves, often by lashing out.  This makes us even more removed, and even more isolated, and alone.   We might even be snippy, or mean.  Better be solitary than in pain, we think.  We are so afraid of getting hurt, and of being rejected, and of having our “love me!” thrown back in our faces, that we retreat behind nasty walls.  This closes us off from people.  It’s heartbreaking.

But here’s the thing: everybody else on the planet is the exact same way.  We are all afraid of rejection.  That man on the bus that you are afraid to look at, he’s afraid to look at you, too.  And that person who had a bad day work and needs a friend, she just needs kindness, too.   Everybody wants to be affirmed, but we are all so fearful of rejection that we end up not affirming each other.  You might be self-conscious, and you might feel a need for affirmation, but the whole world is self-conscious and feels a need for affirmation.

We are the most closed off from people when we are the most vulnerable, self-conscious, and afraid.  Post-binge, post-break-out, post-dance-class, post-mirror-session, post-shopping, post-TV-watching, post-argument, post-guilt.  We have the least amount of love in our lives when we need it the most.  

Today’s task:

Today’s task is to take the first step.  When we recognize that our self-consciousness is a product of our desire to be loved, and that our closed-off behavior is driven by fear, we can deliberately push beyond that into new (if initially frightening) territory.

So do this: be the first person to give love.  Someone has got to be the one to open up a safe space of interaction.  I read this quote once, in a beautiful love story: “Their eyes locked, but neither of them had the nerve to turn the key.”  This sentence was meant for a romantic moment, but the idea applies to all situations.  With every person we encounter, we have a brief moment in time and in space in which to be human together.  If we are both afraid of each other, we might just look off to the side and shrug our shoulders and ignore each other altogether.  Historically, it’s been safer.  It has protected us from being rejected.    But what if one of us dares to engage each other?  To be affirming?  To smile, or to tell the other her hair is lovely?

What happens is that we end up breaking down that wall, bit by bit.   We learn through repeated practice and experience– from deliberately engaging other people over and over again even while we are defensive and afraid– that we really have so little reason to be afraid.  Once we positively engage other people, open up, get vulnerable, reach out, they almost always feel safe enough to positively engage us back.  The whole trick is getting one of us to turn the key.  So why not do it?  Why not be the first?  Why not dare to affirm others, to give them love, to treat them with the same tenderness and appreciation that we are so hungry for in our own lives?

Go out and dare to be open and dare to be kind.  The more defensive, vulnerable, and afraid you are, the more important this is.  Do not wall yourself up in your pain.  Do not get wrapped up in perceived imperfections.  No one else is worried about your “flaws”– they are worried about their own.   Tell them it doesn’t matter.   Give them love.  Make the world a positive space, and bask in the happy results that follow.  People respond happily and positively to affirmation.  Your kindness will make other people more kind to you, and it will teach you that you are not defined by your body image, your crooked teeth, your scarred skin.  Not in the slightest.  You are defined by your whole self, by your spirit, by your life and your gifts.   Share them with people.  You won’t be disappointed.


This post is dedicated to my wise, lovely friend, Lex C.


So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

Managing director of Paleo for Women and author of Sexy by Nature.


  1. Wise words, Stefani.

    Just taking a moment to ask a cabbie “how are you” and actually mean it, open a door for a senior, or learn the bartender’s name can change a day. Then love gets viral.

  2. I’ve spent twenty minutes trying to figure out what to write while staring at the screen past the small little oceans in my eyes.

    I needed this post today.

    And I needed to be cracked open in a way that the last sentence so beautifully achieved.

    Thank you, Stef, though the phrase fails to suffice.

  3. I’ve always tried to make it a point to find something I like about someone and tell them that I like it upon meeting them. It’s usually something simple like “I love your shoes” but how someone reacts to that compliment can tell me a lot about what kind of person they are (even whether they’d be receptive to a conversation or not).

  4. Wow! This is an incredible challenge, so beautiful and moving! If I see someone look at me with anger, fear, resentment, disgust, annoyance, or even jealousy… historically, it has been my default to react by mirroring the negative emotion I am receiving, but today I just want to embrace them and say “I understand, I’ve been there”
    today, because of your timely post, I think will have a record breaking day of hugs and love.
    Thank you!

    • Yes yes yes yes yes!

  5. Yes! I needed to read this today. I need to share this far and wide. I am an introvert with an extroverts mouth/internet habits. In real life I am so shy and afraid to make a connection with people. I have a personal experience that really speaks to the fact that opening up and being vulnerable almost always works out awesomely. I had forgotten about this until I read these words.

    When I was 22 my BFF and I traveled the US in a beat up Ford Clubwagon van which was older than we were with a litany of problems and idiosyncrasies. That van broke down almost everyday or needed some kind of intervention to keep us moving along. We found ourselves coasting down off-ramps, broke down on the interstate, spewing fluids and noxious gases in every state. And every time we needed help, it came. Every time we asked for help, it was freely given. No one ever tried to cheat us, hurt us or make us feel less than. We met some dirty hippies (I mean that with great love) on the CA beach one night and adopted them and their dog – driving with them through northern CA, OR and WA. It was a wonderful time of openness and friendship freely-given. I say this all just to support Stefani’s point that everyone is asking for friendship and love and kindness; and if we face the world with love, we will receive love. If we face the world with fear, we get isolation and regret. I know that picking up strange men on the beach is probably not the ‘smartest thing’ to do. But it was a magical thing for us. And really, nobody picked up anybody – we just fell into friendship born by a golden retriever and a bongo. So take the chance. It’s how magic happens.

  6. beautiful. thank you for sharing. i have “LOVE” tattooed on the inside of my left wrist but the past couple months ive been getting over my recent breakup and have forgotten to just be open. thanks for the reminder and encouragement to just be.

  7. Beautiful, inspirational, truth.

  8. Everything you say is true. I learned a few years ago to actually appreciate my flaws, and instead of hiding them fearfully from people, I talk about them openly. When I do, it instantly engages others. They automatically begin to lower their defenses. Some never truly open up, but I can tell they have a sense of comfort around me. They know I would never judge them for anything the choose to keep pent up inside. I think what people need to realize is that good can come from your flaws. They don’t always have to be a negative that you beat yourself up about. It’s the human condition to always seek approval from others because we are so critical and non-approving of ourselves. I’ll tell you this, a million people could sing my praises, but if I don’t think it or feel it myself, the affirmation will never help. It HAS TO come with in….and it starts with acceptance and love of self.

  9. Your mom is so proud of you. You have grown into a beautiful woman.
    Luv Ya

  10. I have shifted my land to be just this… a beaming source of love… even in the darkest of days, i strive to be love – even tonight… faced a tough scenario that would have caused my building to crumble down – I understood it… I saw it… I stood up for myself… and I walked away unscathed.

    At work today I marveled at how much my face was hurting from smiling so much. I love moments like that. I LOVELOVE LOVE telling people something about themselves that I respond to – their shoes (big one), jewelry… hair… colors… skin… Life is too short to be closed… to be scared – to be trapped.

    I was trapped for a LONG time. I am free. It feels so fresh and lovely to be free. xo

  11. Beautiful, Stefani. Thank you – I needed to be reminded of that.

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  13. This reminded me of my favorite quote from The Color Purple: “Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance and holler, just trying to be loved.” – Alice Walker

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  15. Very inspirational! I enjoyed reading your post. 🙂

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  19. This was so incredibly beautiful to read, it makes me see the power in vulnerability and feel braver to NOT instantly avert eye-contact with any cute guys I’m “crushing” on 😛

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