If I had a dollar for every time I was rejected for something I really wanted, let’s just say I wouldn’t be working where I work now (kind of an over-exaggeration). The idea of rejection and failure is what keeps most people from going after what they really want in life. This crippling fear of failure and embarrassment is what makes our brains work against us most of the time.
I’m here to tell you that rejection is actually the greatest invention ever made.
But first, I need to tell you a story.
The Legend of Mr. Rejection
In his novel, “Rejection Proof," Jia Jiang explains how he suffered from a crippling fear of rejection which led to him falling under a deep depression. Here’s a man who, for all intents and purposes, was living the American Dream: a well paying job, a loving wife and kids, a nice suburban house and car. Yet, he’d always wanted to venture into new entrepreneurial experiences but couldn’t because of his crippling fear of rejection from investors.
So he sought what psychologists call “extreme exposure therapy”.
He spent the next 100 days trying to rid his fear of rejection by going out every single day and doing something that could potentially get a rejection from other people. For example, he dressed up in a chicken costume and went door to door for 6 hours straight trying to sell chicken broth. As you can imagine, no one bought the broth. One of the “customers” demanded Jiang to leave the premise or he was going to call the authorities for harassment (clearly he was a vegetarian or something).
You’d think this would turn him off to the challenge altogether, but by the end of that day, he felt more alive and less depressed than he had in months.
On another day, he went to a Krispy Kreme and asked the workers there to make him a Olympics logo donut. He did this while asking if he could have them make it for him, for free.
Most people expect to see this man get straight up laughed out of the store or at least a polite but stern, no. Instead, the manager was so intrigued by such a request (Jia almost asked for as if he desperately needed that Olympic colored donut to live), she had her staff make him the donut. Then the manager had the staff turn that order into the “special of the day”.
What the hell just happened? This isn’t how this is supposed to work, is it? However, it turns out that rejection is a much harder thing to come across than you’d think. Out of the 100 days of going out to get rejected, he actually succeeded in his endeavor over 10 times. Even if he got rejected that same day, he would still find someone who wouldn’t reject him.
After 100 days of rejection, Jia had completely lost his anxiety of approaching his fears in life and soon started reaching out to investors for his business. You might have actually heard of him from his Ted Talk where he discusses his 100 days of rejection. His story is the cornerstone of learning to let the fear of rejection subside and embracing rejection like a friend.
Rejection = Kakarrhaphiophobia
The idea of failure and rejection typically go hand in hand. It’s this mindset that’s been put in our brains since we were little kids to pressure us into doing better in school and in turn, better in life. It’s this fear of rejection that causes us to fail, which then causes us to fear rejection even more. A self-inflicting catch-22 in essence.
I’ve had social anxiety creeping into my life since I was in middle school. Perhaps it grew as I was taught in elementary school by my parents to not try to make friends and instead focus on school work (they were, and still are, quite conservative). This anxiety led to me not socializing with anyone during my first two years of college.
I decided to become more social and confront my fear of rejection by making small talk with people, both students and professors. But what happened next was not what I want expecting: I got told to “fuck off” by the first group of people I’d approached on campus.
I felt like a complete loser and a failure at that point. The thought that kept creeping from that point on was, “What’s the point? I’ll just get rejected and become a laughingstock”.
That is, until I learned about the power of shifting mentalities.
Me and My Mentality
I learned from a good friend of mine about the concept of “shifting mentalities.” This concept of changing what you make of any situation was a mind blowing revelation in all aspects of my journey to becoming more social.
Change your perception of rejection and in turn you will be able to conquer anything.
The concept sounded very cheesy when I first heard of it and frankly I believed it was just silly self-help nonsense that desperate people hear about and try to do. But I realized, I was definitely desperate in my quest to be more social. So I thought I’d give it a try.
I shifted my mentality about rejection meaning failure and instead thought of rejection as a way to filter out who I wanted to be friends with. If you don’t like me in my introduction, you don’t deserve me in my best moments. This became a way for me to mentally skip conversations that would be pointless with people who didn’t like me and I’d never like anyways. Afterwards, I noticed something interesting: I started gaining better friends who liked me for me and my rejections started to become more of a nuance that occurred when approaching, instead of the end all be all.
So for anyone afraid to take that approach to do something that could potentially get you rejected or have you fail in your pursuit, try changing your mentality of the event's outcome. There are quite a bit of different shifts you could make, so I’ll just give you the three most important ones:
SHIFT #1 – Rejection doesn’t mean you’re a loser, it means you have to work on something that’s impeding on your success.
SHIFT #2 – Rejection from social situations is just a way to filter out people who you’ll like and people you won’t like.
SHIFT #3 – My personal favorite. Don’t go into any situation relying on an outcome. Instead, offer value without any reciprocation in mind. Simply put, don’t be outcome dependent.
Give these shifts in mindset a try and notice just how differently you start to approach things in life. You’ll start to appreciate rejections as they come and even welcome it at times (trust me, you will).
Let go of your ego
Your ego is the number one thing causing this mentality to occur. People are so scared to damage their egos that they accept their lives and even pretend to enjoy what they’re doing. If you really believe that you’re enjoying what you’re doing in life, then by all means, more power to you, my friend.
Otherwise, if somewhere in the back of your head, you feel like you want to do more and are too scared to take the leap, then try going on a 30 day rejection challenge or do something to deflate your ego rather than feed into it by doing a 30 day selfless challenge (do one selfless act or give someone value without expecting something in return). You might just discover something new about yourself that you haven’t before: That you’re actually a boss.
You’ll soon learn that rejection is there to help you become an improved version of you. Rejection is your friend, embrace it.