In 2012, 30-year-old Jia Jiang went to a stranger and asked if he could borrow $100. “No” was the response of a surprised man sitting in a hotel lobby. He wanted to know why he was being asked, but Jiang did not explain; He just said thank you then left. It was Jiang’s first day of rejection therapy, a concept created by Canadian entrepreneur Jason Comeli that challenged people to approach strangers with awkward requests to build their resilience against rejection.
Jiang’s fear of rejection centered on the memory of being left at school as a young boy. A teacher had invited classmates to compliment each other, but they all fell silent when Jiang’s turn came. This stifled his confidence for decades. By his 30s, he was working as a senior marketing manager, but his dream of developing a mobile app was stalled for fear of his pitches being rejected.
When Jiang searched online for help, she only found fake-inspirational advice. Then he discovered Comely’s website, rejectiontherapy.com. Comley explained on the site that he wanted to “break the tyranny of social anxiety” by designing a “real-life game” with only one rule: “You have to be rejected by another person, at least once, every day.” should.” He created 30 daily challenges where rejection was the goal. Players had to ask a stranger for a free ride, or ask for a discount when buying something. They will succeed by being denied – and hopefully face the pain of failure.
Jiang liked the idea so much that he took it 70 steps forward, creating 100 challenges for himself. “When I started out, my goal was to say, ‘Okay, I’ll get rejected and learn to be tougher from rejection,'” he says. The questions they asked were simple but strange, like requesting a free night’s stay at a hotel or asking for a selfie with a stranger.
Jiang now works full time and helps others overcome the same panic he faced. When I talk with him on Zoom he’s sitting in his California home in front of a green screen, which he uses as a backdrop when coaching clients around the world. “The fear of rejection really holds many of us behind,” he says. “Even in our DNA it’s something we want to avoid.” Jiang is calm, confident and charismatic – a transformation from the awkward appearance in the first YouTube video posted a decade ago.
But why is it that we fear social rejection to such an extent? Social psychologist Naomi Eisenberger designed a study with her UCLA colleague Matthew Lieberman. “We really started with the question: What happens in the brain when people feel socially excluded?” she says. “We brought people into fMRI scanners and asked them to go through a game in which they were excluded.” The virtual game, Cyberball, involved subjects tossing a ball back and forth with two other participants. Except the other players didn’t really exist – they were avatars programmed to prevent the ball from being thrown at the subject at a certain point in the game.
This allowed Eisenberger to track what happened in the brain when subjects were included and then excluded from a social activity, and he made an interesting discovery. The areas of the brain that were activated when a person felt were the same areas that were active during physical pain. “From this initial study we thought, ‘Well, maybe there’s a reason people talk about being rejected as feeling hurt. Maybe we use physical to describe these experiences of social pain. -Have a good reason to use words that hurt.”
Eisenberger says this borrowing of the pain system is probably a result of our reliance on caregivers during our childhood stage. “As a mammalian species, we are born immature. We need to make sure we stay close to a caregiver to get proper food, protection, and warmth,” she explains. “If being close to a caregiver is so important, then feeling upset, pained and distressed if we are separated can be really adaptive.”
Over time this protective system may have expanded its duties and is now triggered whenever we feel that our relationships with friends, family or social groups are at risk. “There was something beautiful about it,” Eisenberger says, reflecting on the discovery. “It shows how important our social connections are; To ensure that we stay connected to others, we are actually using the primitive system, as this pain system.
When I describe this rejection-therapy challenge to clinical psychologist Michael Stein, he says he likes the idea: “It’s fantastic. It’s what I would recommend for people with social anxiety.” Stein has specialized in treating anxiety disorders using exposure therapy for more than 14 years, helping clients with Anxiety Solutions, her private practice in Denver, Colorado. She says it’s the most research-backed available One of the treatments is and actively uses a variety of methods to cope with anxiety.
“Short-term avoidance of anxiety leads to long-term maintenance of anxiety,” Stein tells me. “Everything you do may work in the moment when you feel anxious to try to make yourself feel better, but it can actually guarantee more anxiety the next time you’re in a similar situation.” gives.” Exposure therapy does just the opposite: it forces you to feel uncomfortable. But the goal isn’t to feel less anxious — instead you’re learning to tolerate the emotion, at least initially.
Stein recommends targeting the type of rejection you’re worried about, and practicing exposure at a pace you can handle. When things get tough, remind yourself of the benefits that outweigh the worry.
on day three jiang One walked into Krispy Kreme and asked for a special donut in the shape of Olympic rings. He wasn’t expecting anything soon, but this time things were different. Jackie, the worker behind Till, paused confused, then began sketching a design. Fifteen minutes later he fulfilled the request and gave it to Jiang for free. Jiang shared the conversation online and it was featured on the front page of Reddit, garnering millions of views. “That’s what really got me all the press and notoriety,” he says. “Later, I wrote a book and gave a TED talk, and now I talk a lot – but all that important knowledge accumulated in those 100 days.”
For more than three months, Jiang played football in a stranger’s backyard, sat Santa on his lap, and began a lifelong ambition: teaching a class on a college campus. It was then that he fully discovered the benefits of risking rejection. “When I finished teaching that class I went out crying,” he says during his TED talk. “I saw that I could fulfill my life’s dream just by asking.”
By day 30, Jiang had increased her resilience to rejection and gained confidence in herself and others, as did many who said yes to her strange requests. “We often expect the worst,” he says. “In fact almost everyone is nicer and less confrontational than we think.” Jiang used this newfound self-esteem to become the entrepreneur he had always wanted to be. In 2016 Comley called them and they took a joint decision that Social Rejection Domain should join hands with them.
“Jiang was the clear heir”, Comley told me. “He expressed his interest in buying rejection therapy years ago and I think it was time. However, I cried the day I sold it.” Comley returned to school and now works to help the homeless, while Jiang started Rejection Therapy Consulting to run his business, and launched his mobile app in 2018. The TikTok hashtag #RejectionTherapy has garnered over 23 million views.
Jiang’s advice to others? Rejection is inevitable so don’t avoid it and don’t take it personally. “We feel like every rejection is like an indictment of who we are, and every acceptance feels like an affirmation of our worthiness,” he says. “It. It’s just an opinion.”
Even after a decade has passed, Jiang occasionally puts himself in a vulnerable position to keep his tolerance high. He knows that his resilience to rejection doesn’t come naturally, but he believes it’s worth pursuing. “I found this thing to be more like an exercise,” he says. “You have to keep doing it to be able to maintain that muscle.”