This writer purposely got rejected every day for a month. Here's what she learned
For London-based writer, Marianne Power, one rejection wasn't enough. She was looking for it over and over, every day for a month.
She went to her local cafe and asked for a free beverage. She was shot down.
She smiled and said hello to passing strangers in the street. Also, shot down.
She asked her phone company for a discount on her bill. Nope.
There was a point to all this. Power was trying out a self-help approach called rejection therapy. (She didn't get it from a book. Rejection Therapy is actually a self-help card game, which gamifies the lessons it's supposed to teach.)
"The idea is that we live in fear of rejection and it stops us from going after lots of things that we want in life. So rejection therapy is all about becoming desensitised to rejection. You have to go out every day and be rejected by somebody."
Power said while the pang of getting turned down never disappeared, she quickly started to see the upside of the experience.
You just move on to the next thing. And then when you get a win, that really neutralizes the 'no,' that went before.-Marianne Power
It was forcing her to step out of her comfort zone, try things she would normally avoid and be less discouraged by negative responses.
But she also discovered that often the negative response wasn't forthcoming.
Instead, she found going out on a limb could serve up a reward; like getting to try out a sport she'd always wanted to play.
"Every time I walked past a basketball court I'd think, 'I'd love to have a go at that,'" Power said. "I never did basketball at school."
So, one day, when she passed a bunch of teenage boys shooting hoops at her neighbourhood basketball court, she readied herself for rejection and made her move.
"I walked up to them and said, 'You know, I know this sounds ridiculous, but do you mind if I have a go at trying to get the ball in the hoop?'"
They'd flat-out ignore her, she thought.
"And they didn't. God bless them. They spent 20 minutes giving me a lesson on how to shoot a hoop."
Power says it was a month positive encounters — beyond the many rejections.
She had a professional bass player give her an impromptu music lesson; she had a group of strangers invite her into their night of food and conversation at a restaurant; she had a cute guy return her interest when she — after hours of deliberating — finally approached him in a cafe.
Power said the lasting lesson is that getting turned down is painful, but there's no point dwelling on it and letting fear hold you back.
"You just move on to the next thing. And then when you get a win, that really neutralizes the 'no,' that went before."
A year of lessons
Rejection therapy was only one of a dozen self-help approaches Power tested out over the course of fourteen months for her book, Help Me!: One Woman's Quest to Find Out If Self-Help Really Can Change Your Life.
A long-time self-help reader, Power said she wanted to dig down to see how reading self-help books impact her life.
Often, she found, self-help books can be useful: they offer new ways to think about life's challenges.
But, she said, a quest for constant self-improvement can also be damaging.
There's also a lot to be said to just accepting that life is up and down and there are good days and bad days.-Marianne Power
"It's great to try and address some of the things that aren't working for you. And it's great to take stock and think about how you can change. But one of the things I found with self-help is that it can create a very high benchmark for life. And in my case that often made me feel like a failure."
Power advises a less-is-more approach when it comes to self-help.
"If you find a book that resonates with you, read it, reread it, implement some of the advice."
But, she said, be wary of reading too much self help and becoming overly fixated on self improvement.
"I think there's also a lot to be said to just accepting that life is up and down and there are good days and bad days. And to go easy on yourself."