Life is full of risks. This last year has made it even more clear that, to maintain and protect ourselves, we have to weigh in on just which level of risk we can afford. That level may vary in different contexts as well. One may not volunteer to lead a group (low emotional risk) but go paragliding (high physical risk). In relationships, the risk of rejection and sometimes the risk of acceptance may guide behavior. None of us likes rejection. But risk of acceptance? That if you reach out, there may indeed be a reciprocal interest in you? What makes some jump in and some to pull back? Why are we sometimes reluctant to express our feelings?

I have come to know many people who have grown up in families where feelings were discouraged from being expressed. Being stoic was the norm. You not only did not express anger, or joy, or pride, but you also did not even talk about them. In that way, we learn that feelings are verboten, that they are not justified. What an unhealthy way to live…If you are a human being, you have feelings. The key is to learn how to express them in a productive, and not destructive way. If internalized consistently, there does come a time when they erupt. That eruption may take the form of physical ailments, or behavioral outbursts. In either case, a pattern starts that does not lead one to health.

However the belief in not expressing feelings started, the roots of that aversion go to fear – fear that we will be rejected. If I am angry with you and express it, you will not love me. If I tell you I like you, you may laugh at me. Is it possible that these negative reactions occur? Of course! But the reality is, no one withers and dies from rejection. We all survive breakups, separations, divorces and even when we are mocked or laughed at. To stop looking for love because we might get hurt deprives us from the possibility that it could go RIGHT, that the other cares about us too, that he/she is equally nervous about jumping in and taking that risk. The key is to be able to balance the cost and benefit. That may sound crude, but all human behavior is guided by that. As long as we can be realistic about each aspect of that equation, we are on solid ground. If I consistently go after unavailable people, whether they are already in a relationship, or too closed, I am choosing those where the cost is too high, setting me up for frequent loss. Why would I do that?

Question yourself as to how you perceive and feel about yourself. Challenge your brain as to how worthy you feel. Think of how life was in your growing up years. You are the only one who can take care of that inner core of self-esteem by using all resources of your mind and your environment.

Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577