I Tried Rejection Therapy Because TikTok Told Me To
It didn’t get easier, but it definitely got more embarrassing.
In high school, I was the queen of making bold — and questionable — decisions. My favorite pastime was DMing minor celebrities on Instagram (think The Voice contestants who didn’t make it past the battle rounds). And anytime I felt the least bit horny, I messaged “sext me, b*tch” to my most recent Tinder match. It was easy to feel fearless at 18, a time before I was introduced to loss, heartbreak, and the grief that comes with growing up.
Now, at 22 years old, I’ve never felt less brave. I moved to New York City, I have a banging new job, and I dyed my hair dark, which is how you know I’m entering my villain era. And yet, I feel nervous any time I even think about approaching a guy.
So when rejection therapy TikTok videos took over my FYP, I was intrigued. Essentially a form of exposure therapy, this technique has you seek out rejection so you become desensitized to it. One creator asked a mattress company if she can take a nap in their store, another walked right up to a stranger and asked them to grab a beer. Someone else asked a barista if she could go behind the bar and make her own drink, and after getting turned down, she felt so embarrassed that she swore she’d never return to that Starbucks again. My immediate thought after watching? My Starbucks is way too important to me to ever threaten our relationship like that.
With #rejectiontherapy tracking over 63 million views on TikTok, creators who document themselves giving it a go are reporting sense of accomplishment after their task is completed. And many — mattress company queen included — ended their video having made a new friend.
This concept was popularized by entrepreneur and speaker Jia Jiang in 2012. His “100 Days of Rejection Therapy” journey went viral on YouTube, and he now offers coaching to help others overcome their fear of rejection, too. “If you’re afraid of rejection, you often let the fear of rejection dictate what you would do next,” Jiang tells Elite Daily. “You reject yourself way more than other people do.”
I figured it was it was time I take a leap and prioritize my self-esteem over an iced chai oat latte. So I set out to participate in rejection therapy for 14 days, with one new task every day — each dedicated to helping me become comfortable approaching guys I’d like to smooch in real life.
My 14 Days Of Rejection Therapy
Day 1: Ask a stranger on the street to take my BeReal — meaning they’d have to take a selfie too. I procrastinated this outing to no end, and it was 20 little snacks and two winged eyeliner tutorials later before I was even able to walk out the door.
Once I made it out into the field, I wasn’t doing much better. Over an hour of wandering the streets, I let cute guys pass me by as I thought “That one would have been perfect. Why didn’t you ask him, Mia?” Feeling defeated, I sat down on a bench and questioned all of my life decisions, until a beaming opportunity approached me in the form of a smiling man.
“Excuse me, will you take my BeReal?” I asked. Believe it or not, he said yes. Walking away, I instantly felt relieved, like a huge weight had been lifted. That is, until I had to start all over again the next day.
Days 2-7: It didn’t get easier, and it definitely got more embarrassing. I asked a boy on the street if he would tie my shoe (he said yes), I asked a passerby if I could walk his dog (he said no), and I asked a man if he would walk me to work (he said yes, but then I quickly said nevermind because I was creeped out that he said yes). I asked bartenders for free refills (and got turned down every time), sent questionable Hinge messages (“Want to build my TV console for me?”), and put myself out there more and more.
But it was on Day 7 that I decided to commit a cardinal sin amongst New Yorkers: speak to someone on the subway. As a 20-something guy sat down next to me on my morning commute, I ignored all my natural instincts and asked “What are you listening to?” He gave a response that I didn’t even register, and I quickly replied with “Can I listen with you?”
He turned down the offer, and I was so mortified that I got off at the next (and wrong) stop. According to Jiang, this reaction isn’t uncommon. “It’s very natural for people to run away,” Jiang explains. “Rejection is painful, and avoiding pain is built into our biology.”
Days 8-14: I decided to stop running away. I asked someone in a coffee shop if I could try their drink and stayed to finish mine even after they said no. I asked a guy to hold my spot in a long line for a famous NYC croissant, and when he declined, I took Jiang’s advice and asked, “Why not?” And on Day 14, I approached a cutie in a bar and put myself out there for real. After a brief convo I asked for his number, to which he replied, “Let’s keep it spontaneous.” It was such a blatant rejection that I couldn’t help but laugh, and I spent the rest of the night dancing with my friends and feeling proud that I asked.
My Final Thoughts
I don’t know if rejection will ever be painless — or perhaps, it would take a lot longer than 14 days to figure that out. But I learned that for me, there is one thing always more painful than rejection: regret. The missed opportunities and what ifs always hurt more than any outcome of asking someone to tie my shoe or take my photo.
“You can make a choice after you get rejected,” Jiang says. “You can keep going, or you can quit. Let that choice define you, rather than the rejection itself.” For me, the nos still hurt every time. But there was something empowering about being able to acknowledge that sting — and then, just move on.