Getting over the fear of rejection by taking it head on

Last week, we talked about getting rejected from your dream school. Now that you have become closely acquainted with your floor (or couch, or corner of your bed, or a bench in a park) and felt the pain, let’s take a moment to reflect on rejection.

In his TED talk, author Jia Jiang discusses his relationship with rejection. Jiang shares a traumatizing childhood memory which instilled in him a deep-seeded fear of rejection that followed him through starting his own company in his 30s.

When an investor pulled out, Jiang was so stung by the rejection that he wanted to quit then and there. When he took to the internet for help, he got plenty of hits featuring scientific explanations of the pain of rejection (a technique even I opted for in last week’s post!) and authors urging readers to not take rejection personally.

Well, that advice didn’t help Jiang. The possibility of rejection was not only terrifying, but also immobilizing.

I worked as a waitress to pay my way through college. I was good at my job and prided myself on multitasking effectively. Not only could I carry two plates in one arm by balancing one on my palm and the other on my forearm, but I could also fill up my mental queue with a systematic process for working the floor.

Another thing I prided myself on was that in my entire two years as a waitress, I never dropped a single plate of food. I felt proud of never having dirtied the restaurant floor, but I was also terrified of dropping a plate. You know how this story ends.

One night, after a series of rude customer interactions, I lost my edge and shattered a plate. I burst into tears in front of the full restaurant on a Friday night. It was embarrassing, of course. But I also felt a huge sense of relief wash over me: I was not invincible.

I had dropped my first plate, and now the fear of breaking one was behind me.

Jiang took my plate-breaking experience (many) steps further. Stumbling upon a website on rejection therapy during his Google search, he decided to embark on 100 days of getting rejected, hoping to desensitize himself to the fear.

Watch the TED talk to hear Jiang’s story and what he learned from the experience. (And go drop some plates.)

 

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