For the past week, I embarked on a quest to move past my fear of rejection through an exercise in Rejection Therapy. The premise is fairly simple: you commit to putting yourself in a situation where you are purposefully rejected each and every day in order to get over the natural fear of rejection. (Thanks to our buddy Graeme for the inspiration.)
When I started this exercise, I was pretty sure that it would be a piece of cake. The prompts seemed fairly effortless and, I figured, I’m pretty used to rejection anyways. (I am the one, after all, who sends out all of our estimates and proposals.) A week in and I can only think that this was incredibly, undeniably naive thinking.
Day 01 – Reach out to someone who has shunned you
This turned out to be the most difficult of the tasks. I was able to figure out someone to contact (that story is on The Job). I wasn’t sure how contact this person by telephone. Instead, I attempted to message and friend him on Facebook. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I can tell he read my message, but did not respond. Rejection! Afterward, I was annoyed with myself for not reaching out sooner and in a more personable way. Of course, I’ve probably always been too afraid of getting rejected.
Day 02 – Try to friend a stranger on Facebook
After the above situation, I do not see how being rejected by a complete stranger on Facebook could help or hurt. Instead, I attempted to follow a stranger on Instagram who has a private account. They accepted my request and now I feel a bit like a creepy stalker, looking at photo after photo from a family I’ve never met or have any reference for. Also, since being rejected is the one goal of this exercise, this day was a failure.
Day 03 – Offer to pay for someone’s order
In line, ordering an iced coffee at New Seasons, I was planning on offering to pay for the drink of whomever walked up behind me to order. Nobody got in line. Perhaps Portlanders scoff at coffee late afternoon on one of the first sunny days of the season. (That’s what ice was invented for, people!) Undeterred, I scanned the area for someone to approach. I noticed two women flipping though a book quite close to me. As I approached them, my stomach started getting filled with butterflies and I was sure I was going to be sick. Still, I walked up and said, “Excuse me.” First, they assumed that they were just in my way and started shuffling away from me. I went on. “Excuse me, I’m ordering an iced coffee over here. Would either of you like to order a drink on my tab.” One woman looked away, the other stared at me and finally said, “Uh, no.” The butterflied went away the moment she said no.
Day 04 – Smile at everyone you pass all da
I started the day by brining the family to Stumptown for coffee and croissants. I figured this would be a good spot for rejection, but I was (mostly) wrong. Save two gentlemen who looked away quickly when I directly looked at them and smiled, most everyone was extremely friendly and smiled back. I probably didn’t hurt that I was holding an awfully cute baby in my arms. (I will note that I could only get about 20% of people to make direct eye contact.)
Status: Success (it only takes one)
Day 05 – Ask someone for a job
One of the hardest things I do day in and day out is talk to people about spending their money with Needmore. I do not take this lightly. Given this, I mostly wait for folks to reach out to us before talking about working together. Today, I did something new. I wrote someone and told them exactly why I think their website needs help and why I’d love to do the work. In that I had chosen this business out of a real love of what they do, it was a terribly frightening thing to do. And, I haven’t heard back from them.
Day 06 – Ask someone out on a date
Coincidently, I got this prompt on the day I was celebrating an anniversary with the love of my life. We have had ten years on this road together and six years of marriage. When I thought about how to push today’s task, it was a bit of a conundrum since we were literally going out that night. And so, I pitched what I thought would be the perfect evening to my fella. A good number of my ideas were not embraced, but a surprising number were. It made for a great night, chock full of spontaneity.
One of the great things about this relationship is that we risk rejection every single day, both in our role as business partners and as partners in life. I’ve never more terrified of someone’s disapproval nor more certain of their acceptance. And, that is making me a better person each day.
Day 07 – Ask someone to make change for a dollar
I’m going to be honest. I didn’t do this. I started to, it seemed incredibly trivial. I was fairly fed up with the entire process by this day. After some soul searching, I realized that half my issue is that the app I have been using is incredibly horrible and out of date. (Also, full of typos.)
Whether or not I continue the 30 days of rejection, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. The few times I did get rejected, it didn’t feel all that bad at all. Certainly, it isn’t something to consciously avoid. It made me realize that rejection is more about the other person than it is about you. Given that, it isn’t actually the end of the world. And, if we are holding ourselves back because we fear rejection, the loss of the thing that we are missing out on is absolutely worse than the rejection we are fearing.