A fear of rejection has hindered my life in almost every aspect. When the Starbucks barista hands me an incorrect drink, I gratefully accept whatever vile concoction they’ve mistakenly made and go about my day. When I meet a cute guy on a night out I tremble at the thought of making an advance and waste the opportunity. This anxiety exists because of my fear of a simple “no."
So, when I stumbled upon a TED Talk surrounding the topic of rejection therapy, I was immediately intrigued. This talk by Jia Jiang explained rejection therapy as an experience people seek out in which they make ridiculous requests of people with the sole intent of being told "no." Asking a stranger for $100, for example.
Albeit my skepticism, I decided I would undergo a shortened version of rejection therapy over seven days and report back on whether it was an effective therapy.
Day 1 actually didn’t happen. I decided my first rejection would be asking a cashier at a store for a free item, but every time I thought of attempting this, I shied away from the potential embarrassment it might cause. I elected to try again the next day.
This rejection was a spur of the moment one. I was on a run in the park near my house and came upon a wedding at a venue on the lake. Guests were situated outside taking pictures and I had the intrusive thought to ask to take a picture with them. I walked up and simply asked if it would be possible to be in one of their pictures. They gave an awkward “No, sorry,” and I was immediately on my way.
This rejection was honestly a let down. Maybe I felt emboldened by the endorphins from my run or maybe it was just because of how odd the situation was, but I felt no lasting effect of this rejection. It didn’t provide any real insight on social anxiety — it just slowed down my mile time.
This rejection sat with me for hours after it happened. I was on my way to the beach with friends when we stopped at a gas station. I was buying water when I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to complete my initial idea to ask for something for free. I walked up to the counter with my smartwater and asked if there was any way I could have it for free. She was immediately annoyed (and as someone who works in customer service, I would be too).
She said “Is this a joke?”
“No,” I said.
“Well, then that’s ridiculous.”
She was right, obviously, but my anxiety had taken control and I could no longer muster up the words to explain the situation and just stood there. She continued on emphasizing how stupid of a request this was and I ultimately just pulled out my card and paid.
It might sound dramatic, but for someone who repeats their order in their head 10 times before ordering food at a restaurant, this was a disaster for me. I no longer wished to continue with this rejection therapy. I had tried it and decided the payoff was not worth the excessive humiliation.
But, hours after it happened, I noticed something. I had forgotten about it. I realized that as more time went on, I didn’t care as much. And writing this now, I truly couldn’t care less. I asked a weird question and got a weird response. I’ll never see that woman again and even if I did she has no genuine connection to me that would make what she thinks of me important.
So, in the off chance the gas station cashier in Oak Island is reading this, I’m sorry, but this was the first day in which I understood just how rejection therapy was intended to work.
My friends and I were shopping at a fudge shop in Wilmington and I noticed they were cutting huge blocks of fudge behind a glass screen. I knew immediately what my next rejection would be.
I asked the employee if I could cut my own piece of fudge in the back, and with a quick giggle she explained it was unsanitary and said no (obviously). This was a very nice break from the previous day’s embarrassment and I started to view this so-called therapy with a slightly different light. It was honestly kind of fun. I looked forward to finding new ridiculous requests and sought out places I could submit them.
For this day’s rejection, I elected to go with the classic rejection therapy option: asking a stranger to borrow $100. I was walking down Franklin Street and walked by a couple that seemed to be in a relatively good mood. I stopped and asked them if I could possibly borrow $100. After their initial shock and confusion, they apologized and said no. I thought it was humorous that they were apologizing for turning down such an absurd request, but it was clear to me the rejections were getting easier day by day. The “no’s” were beginning to add up, but they meant less and less as I continued to deal with these rejections.
I went to the grocery store one night when they were making an announcement about the store closing in thirty minutes. I decided that my next rejection would be asking if I, too, could make an announcement. I walked up to the 20-something-year-old at the front and said I had always wanted to use the grocery store speaker. For a moment, I thought he might actually say yes. He thought it was a funny request and said he’d ask his manager. I had just started getting my hopes up when the manager came over and said that he couldn’t let me.
No worries. I was becoming slightly accustomed to rejection and it didn’t bother me. I walked out with my two packs of Go-Gurt and started thinking toward tomorrow.
I couldn’t quite decide what rejection I wanted to undergo today, so I took to the internet.
One suggestion was to ask random people for compliments. This wasn’t exactly rejection focused, but I thought it was an interesting way to end my week. Once again on Franklin St., I approached three women sitting outside Ben and Jerry’s and asked for a compliment. This was truly an uncomfortable experience. They stared for a few seconds before understanding, then one woman stated she thought I had really pretty eyes (I do). I thanked her and was on my way.
Having finished this week of awkwardness and nonstop rejection, I can’t say I feel completely changed — I’m still nervous to correct my barista. I can say, however, that I’ve had some new insights on rejection. Sure, it’s horrible. It makes you uncomfortable and truly sucks. The one thing I can conclude, though, was that it’s really not that big of a deal after a while.
You get rejected – it’s an unavoidable aspect of life and you might as well accept its inevitability. I think I’ll pause on my rejection therapy for a while, but if you, too, tremble at the thought of asking for a refill while out to eat, it’s certainly something to consider.
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