Fear of rejection is a common theme in most people's lives. The fear of looking foolish, and receiving negative judgments. The fear that getting a "no" means that you weren't good enough, or someone didn't like you. The concerned thoughts of "what will people think of me?" I've experienced these fears nearly every day of my life, and because of that, I've tried to hide from rejection. I've hid by: not applying for jobs I wanted, not asking people to do activities, not going to networking events, not being honest about my feelings, not asking for help from others. By hiding from rejection I've stunted my personal and professional growth, and have cut myself off from building relationships.
My life and business coach gave me an assignment that forever changed the way I view rejection. Inspired by 100 Days of Rejection by Jia Jiang, my coach challenged me to do Rejection Therapy for seven days. I had to actively pursue being rejected. I had to come up with ways of asking for things to get a "no" response. By doing this, I would be facing and (hopefully) overcoming my fear of rejection.
When she first asked me to do this, I gave a weak reply of "ok..." and then immediately went into panic mode. I could barely sleep that night from anxiety. I knew that I could easily half ass it by approaching people I knew instead of strangers, or saying I did the assignment when I really didn't, but knew I'd only be cheating myself. If I really wanted to get rid of this fear, I had to face it head on. I decided to record all of my experiences for accountability and shared them every day for 7 days on my instagram. Here are my experiences:
Day 1-Ask a stranger for $20:
I was so nervous that morning that I was sick to my stomach and physically shaking. I knew that I needed to get it over with first thing, otherwise I'd be sick all day. I went with Jiang's first idea which was asking a stranger for $100. Of course, I was too scared to ask for $100, so I played it safe and asked for a $20 instead. I approached the first person I saw, and stuttered out my request. I was expecting an immediate "no", but instead she said she didn't have $20 to give me, but then proceeded to give me $10 because that's all she had in her wallet. I was so caught off guard by her genuine kindness and willingness to help a stranger.
Lesson learned: Don't be afraid to think bigger. If I had asked for $100 I probably would've gotten a direct "no".
Day 2-Ask to do my own haircut:
After surviving day 1 of my rejection challenge, I felt exhilarated about coming up with creative ideas but I was also still anxious every time I thought about it. This day I knew I was getting my hair done, and figured it was a good opportunity for rejection. I knew it had to be something more out there than my first attempt, because I wanted to get a "no". When I asked my hair dresser if I could do my own hair, she looked at me like I had two heads. She didn't understand what I was asking. I mean who would come to a hair dresser asking if they could cut their own hair?? She wanted to try and appease my request but kindly explained why that wouldn't be a good idea. Thank God, because I did not actually want to cut my own hair. Knowing I'd be seeing this person again in the future, I ended up explaining to her my challenge.
Lesson learned: I was very concerned about what others would think of me. Even though I don't know my hair dresser that well, I still cared enough about what she thought of me that I felt the need to tell her about my challenge, for fear she'd think I was crazy or a weirdo.
Day 3-Getting free guacamole at Chipotle:
I went into Chipotle and asked if I could have my guac for free. Without hesitation the cashier said "sure". I had built it up in my head that I was going to get a no, and although it may have seemed like a small request, I wasn't expecting to get a yes. Because of my anxiety, I had thought something was going to be a bigger deal than it was.
Lesson learned: It only took two days of this challenge for my anxiety to subside drastically. I definitely still experienced some butterflies in my stomach but knew that despite my physical signs of nervousness, it didn't prevent me from taking action. And recognizing that getting a"no" wasn't as big of a deal as I was making it in my head, the anxiety passed.
Day 4-Get a warehouse tour at Target:
I wasn't nervous making this request, but getting those "huh?" looks from people still made me feel awkward. I asked the customer service reps at Target if I could take a tour of their warehouse. After some confused looks back and forth, they asked management. They ended up saying no because it wasn't Target's policy to give tours to the public.
Lesson learned: One of the challenges within this challenge was filming. I wanted to be discreet with my camera and at the same time wanted to make sure I was capturing my interactions. I noticed when people eyed my phone nervously, probably thinking I was trying to punk them, but because my request was made purely out of curiosity and not to be malicious, they were willing to help me out.
Day 5-Have Happy Birthday sung to me when it's not my birthday
This was one of Jiang's ideas in which he did get a "yes" to his request, but I did not. At the restaurant we went to, I asked the waitress if I could get "Happy Birthday" sung to me even though it wasn't my birthday. She said they don't do "Happy Birthday" due to the set up of their restaurant and not being able to have waiters gather for safety. I had never heard of this safety policy at restaurants before, but then again, I've never asked to have people sing to me for my birthday.
Lesson learned: I never pushed back on any of the "no's", and I think if I had for this particular one, I would've gotten a "yes". Even if they did legitimately have a safety policy in place, I probably could've asked for the waitress alone to sing me Happy Birthday. The point of this challenge isn't to get rejected, but rather to allow myself to experience rejection. But that doesn't always mean I have to accept the first answer I'm given. I think too often we hear "no" and think "well, that's it, onto plan B"...but what if we didn't accept that first no? How often would we actually get a yes?
Day 6-Ask a stranger to take a picture with me
I knew one of my rejection attempts was going to be asking a stranger to take a picture with me, unfortunately the day I planned to do it turned out to be the worst weather of the week and there weren't many people outside. I decided to ask the first person I saw. When I approached these two women, and asked for a picture, they asked "why?", which at first caught me off guard. I didn't want to lie or fabricate a story to get them to say yes, so I felt it was best to just be honest, and surprisingly they were cool with my simple response. However, the woman who took the picture with me asked that this not be posted on social media, so I made sure to block out her face. I was honestly expecting a rejection for this one partly because of the weather, and partly because it's a very strange request.
Lesson learned: It's probably rare that people would flat out say "no" to a request without a reason why. Sometimes they just need a little more information. They either want to know YOUR why for asking, or they want to explain THEIR why for saying no. I also believe part of getting a "yes" just requires the courage and confidence to ask for what we want.
Day 7-Race a random person up a flight of stairs
For my last rejection attempt, I was the least nervous and least prepared. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but thought of racing a random person up a flight of stairs while I was at the gym. This was why the intro in my video was recorded after it already happened. This was probably my favorite one because it was so chaotic to film, and the whole experience was hilarious to me.
Lesson learned: I made sure to apply my lesson from yesterday, because if I had just asked the question without trying to coax her a little bit, she probably would've easily said "no". To get a yes, sometimes we just need to be a little persistent.
I'm grateful for my coach for challenging me to expand my comfort zone and do something I never would've thought to try on my own. My intent for this challenge was to get rejected, and because of that I never personalized or internalized the rejection. The biggest lesson I learned from this week was that rejection doesn't define me. A rejected request is not a rejection of ME as a person. Anyone who struggles with the fear of rejection should try this, because rejection can actually be a blessing if we can get beyond our ego and understand the lessons from it.
Would you ever try a Rejection Therapy Challenge? Comment below, I'd love to hear from you.