Through my life, rejection had always been a problem for me. I would get scared to ask for little favours, approach people and do things in public out of my comfort zone. And I feel that’s pretty common to many others too, right?
We live in a world that teaches us to keep to ourselves, maintain a good a reputation, and make sure we’re not taken as a joke. “Just do the same as everybody. Fit in, and you’ll be fine”, they said. Actually that’s a lie, nobody has ever said that to me, but that’s kind of what is implied when you go out in public:
“Wow that kid asked a dumb question and people are giggling cause he/she doesn’t know something simple. Next time better only ask smart questions or figure it out myself.
“Also, I heard some kids went to the principal’s office and got a scolding last week. Gotta be aware of everything I say if I ever see him, or better, just walk away when you see him coming.”
You know? These small little things add up over the course of our lives and it snowballs to a really big thing. And yep, that thing is called complete fear.
Even at 6 years old I was already feelings these effects. I struggled to ask my aunt whether I could use her Playstation, or just generally ask for anything. As a result of this habit from young I turned out exactly the same way as you could expect. Basically just scared of everything. The most scary thing about it was that I was completely unaware of how damaging it was and how much it affected my daily life. Like sure, sometimes you notice it on the surface level when you say “nah I don’t feel like asking her, probably will say no and it’s a waste of my time”, but do we ever go deeper and think “hey, what did I just do? It would be totally awesome if she said yes, and not a big deal if she said no. I had this problem last week too, and yesterday as well. Come to think of it, it happens everywhere! Why do I back out? This thing is actually huge and it’s controls so many of my daily actions”. It may seem like it’s not bothering you, but that just cause you’re in a comfortable position. Just imagine going up and talking to any stranger you see. I know, you can feel it again because it doesn’t go away. It’s gonna hide for while and pop up when you’re in discomfort. It’s alright, I wasn’t aware of it either.
Not until I discovered Jia Jiang’s project.
So it’s another day in my plain life, clicking on random YouTube videos half-asleep when i stumbled on this TEDx talk with this dude Jia Jiang. He explains he’s got the exact problem, but instead of ignoring it and suffering like I am, he goes and tackles it head on like a real man. The video is called “What I learned from 100 days of rejection” (go check it out!) and he does what the title implies. For one hundred days, he would seek to get rejected. I thought he was crazy. A good type of crazy though, because I saw the things he was doing. It was slightly tricky at the start, but he was doing some fun things and had really interesting stories and experiences to tell everyone just by doing something unique which changed his life. And as horrible as it sounded, I wanted to take this challenge too, out of curiosity and excitement. I figured doing this would add a small upgrade in the “interesting” scale of my day.
Okay I wasn’t as extreme as Jia Jiang, I only did around 28 days (around a month) with many days break in between, but nevertheless that didn’t take away the experience at all. I didn’t know what to do or where to start, so I just copied some of his ideas at first.
Day 1 - The very start. The challenge was simple: offer a free cookie to somebody you see in school. Anyone. As easy at it was, the anxiety levels crept up again. Just a little bit. I was scanning the canteen, looking for the least intimidating face to start a conversation with. After a lot of looking I approached some primary kids who I thought wouldn’t harm me and politely muttered “Hey, would you like a free cookie?”, “No thanks I’m good” was the reply. Oh no, I have to find another one now. After 2 more rejection I finally found two students who accepted it. Quite relieved, but they seemed happy enough so I did too and it made my day. One of the many more to come.
Day 3 - After 2 days of work, my mother introduced a new idea for the third day to me: “Why don’t you try it with the principal, dear?”. Fantastic idea mum I’ll buy a coffin while at it. The plan was to ask him about whether I could join the Parents Association Meeting at 750am on that day, which only parents and teachers were allowed in, of course. I also had to come up with a “why” for my action. In Jia Jiang’s video, he mentioned it was crucial to find out the people’s reasons for rejecting you, and to find out why. In many situations, Jia Jiang got rejected himself, not because the people thought he was plain stupid, but the situation just made it so they couldn’t do it. For example, when he wanted to plant a flower in his neighbor’s back yard, the neighbour said no. Upon asking why, the neighbour claimed a dog would always go to his yard and dig up all the flowers, so it had nothing to do with Jia Jiang. What happened next was that the neighbour recommended Jia Jiang to visit a lady who loved flowers next door, and the lady was so joyed to let him plant his flower. Back to my case, I wanted learn more about how adults communicated and the real world since I was already a Sixth Form student. It’s wasn’t completely true at the time, I did it for the sake of doing so, but at least it made me seem somewhat interested in it. Another thing to add, there was no chance of me going to the meeting anyway because I had classes to go to at that time. On the third morning my mother dropped me off specially at the Admin block and I came extra early to see him. I went upstairs to find Mr Temple’s room still empty, so I walked back down and waited for him to arrive. I could already feel the nerves and my heart beating much faster than before. 10 minutes later I walked back up and caught him in the corridor. After introducing myself I asked the question “Is it possible if I could I join for the PA (Parent’s Association) meeting later?” He made a confused face and said “Um.. that’s actually not something we get asked around here a lot. What is the reason for this?”, to which I gave my planned answer. He seemed slightly shocked. “I’m not quite sure whether the parents will be alright with this. i think I’ll need to check with them and get back to you”. Amazing! He actually didn’t straight up say no. In fact, he tried to cooperate with me which made me surprised too. Unfortunately this is where the fun ended because I had to tell him I was only doing this for a project. I explained my fear and why I chose to do this, to which made him smile. Mr Temple said he was pretty impressed with it and wished me luck in the future. Alrighty sir thank you too. I went out the door. I survived!
Day 4 - It’s time to go for a real meeting. The aim today was similar: ask Mrs Clayton whether you can join in the teachers’ meeting. If I could do day 3, day 4 wouldn’t be problem at all. I had the same motive in mind in case they asked why I wanted to be in the meeting. I went into Mrs Clayton’s office in the 6th form and asked the same question, just for the teachers’ meeting. She wasn’t surprised, but sure enough, she wanted a reason. After telling her, she said she wasn’t so sure, since the meeting between teachers was very big. Instead, she told me to go for a meeting of only 1 department because it would be smaller, so I did. I went up to Ms Issur of Maths the same day and asked again. After telling my reason, she lit up. “Wow I think that’s a great idea! I’ll go check with my other teachers to find a day, probably Wednesday. But it should be totally fine and we’ll be happy to have you.” So there you have it, not only did I not get rejected, my teacher thought very well of it, too. I guess what I can take from this is that people are open to do things if you have good enough intentions. I eventually did go to a maths department meeting later on and I did learn some things adults do in meetings.
Day 5 to 28 - I had a really fun time completing the rest of the project! I managed to do so many activities. Here are a list and notes of what I did:
Having a staring contest with someone
Asking people to rate my looks
These people were really kind, giving around 4-10. The person giving me 10 was unfortunately quite done and wanted to just get out of the situation, but on the bright side, people were generally quite nice, not changing their value when I asked for lower numbers like 2,1 etc.
I was also in a shopping centre during this time. Some people did reject me, but when asking why, I could see they were in a rush or on the phone or something like that, so it’s completely understandable.
I also approached a lady but before I could even finish my sentence she ran away. I managed to catch up with her and ask again but I was totally shut down. She seemed super afraid, closing up and shaking her head, and tried to walk away again. I promise that only happened once.
Asking people to rate their looks, intelligence and how hard working they think they are.
Giving free hugs
This was super hard to do because I get weird with physical contact with strangers and this is the opposite of my normal behavior, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. I didn’t get rejected by everyone!
Asking for rm30
Some people didn’t have the money or just didn’t want to give it
I met Amanda from year 11 who was so kind to do so, I was really impressed! I thanked her a lot, but I immediately gave the money back to her brother Mark.
Exchanging compliments with people
Reading out puns to people
Taking a selfie with somebody
Getting people to put on sunglasses
This was also particularly weird to do because I don’t really have a good reason to do this. People were thinking I was trying to sell them my sunglasses, but I had to explain this was all for fun, which is a shame cause selling it would be more enjoyable.
Asking for some free coupons for sports day from the Parents Association
Day 16 - Now this day right here is my favourite one. The goal here was to ask my physics teacher (ms jones) for a game of pool in the 6th form. It was a Monday morning, the Monday after sports day. Many of us 6th formers didn’t attend sports day. We didn’t expect there to be so little of us participating for sports day, and neither did Mrs Clayton. She was pretty furious with our attendance (or lack of), and held a talk that morning regarding our attitude towards sports day. She said it was embarrassing and didn’t portray a good image of the 6th form. As a result, she ended up BANNING THE POOL TABLE. Brilliant, so that’s my plan down the drain. If Mrs Clayton wanted to send a message, I think she did a pretty good job because I learnt my lesson. So boys and girls, here’s the moral of the story: firstly, go for sports day. Secondly, I learnt here that it’s possible to get rejected in any shape or form, even by a pool table.
So there you have it, my highlights throughout this journey. I’d have to say it’s a scary experience but definitely very enjoyable and I have no regrets doing any of it. I learned here that it is possible for me to fight the demons in my head, and the outcomes aren’t always so bad. It’s a relief and a confidence booster to know I have the ability to ask the strangest things to people I know and not die (seriously it feels like it sometimes). Does this mean I don’t have the fear anymore and I’ve turned into superman? Unfortunately not. I’m still me as always, and that means I can still feel intense threat whenever I think of doing something like this. What I can be happy about is that most of the stuff is just my mind at war and that if I really try hard enough, I can win the battle. I really encourage everyone reading this to try something like this just to test yourself, and maybe you could get an even better experience than me.
If I were to leave this journey to one sentence, I’d choose:
You’ll worry less about what people think of you when you realise how seldom they do. -David Wallace