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Rejection, Anxiety, and Growing From It

Posted by Alexandra Van Rijn on

Written by Teagan Pringle 

Rejection is a gruesome and painful experience that consistently occurs throughout a person's life. Whether it be in relation to chasing your dreams, a romantic pursuit, job hunting, pursuing personal projects, or even applying or auditioning-rejection and the feeling of inadequacy that comes along with it hurts. 

Rejection is actually a component of the human brain from our evolutionary past as it was initially related to survival.

This caused the wiring in our brain to register the idea of rejection as it does physical pain, and the same ares of the brain are activated. It is also easier for us as humans to relive and re-experience social pain easier than physical pain, making rejection that much more agonizing. 

Recently I watched the Ted Talk by Jia Jang, titled “100 Days of Rejection”. This video was created around the concept of spending 100 days of completing tasks that he believed would initiate a rejection, teaching him to desensitize from it as well as learn about how to create opportunities from rejection. Some tasks he actually did not get rejected from that he anticipated he would included being a greeter at Starbucks, as well as the ask for Olympic Symbol Doughnuts. Other tasks ranged from asking a girl for dinner, exchange secrets with strangers, or even challenge a CEO to a staring contest. Jang said, “My rejection therapy taught me that “the worst they can say is no” is actually not true. In fact, the worst they can say is “you didn’t even ask.” It implies I said “no” to myself before others could reject me. If I have a good reason, it is my duty to step out of my own comfort zone to ask, no matter how difficult and impossible the request is.” Although some of the rejection concepts seem completely frivolous, they show how much we have been taught to be contained within a comfort zone, but how impactful it can be to actually step out of it. 

The childhood environments and experiences that I was exposed to did not allow me to make mistakes, and made me fearful of rejection and run from potential threats. I also have a terrible time participating in the act of rejection, and hurting another individual is one of the hardest things to do in my books.

Even now, at the age of 22, I’m still trying to openly embrace rejection and the bouts of knowledge and understanding it can provide from the world around me. 

However, battling a mental illness on-top of my already high functioning nature and willingness to only pursue injuries that will not lead me to rejection make this task slightly more challenging. In certain areas of our lives if we believe we will fail we try less, or if we feel we have exceedingly tried without success and only rejection, this may also lead us to quit taking risks. My personal struggles, and who I am as an individual despite my mental illness requires the constant desire to control in any given situation, and the idea of having elements out of my control terrifies me, even though it is something that may eventually be better for me as a person in the long run. My illness also places an abundance of thoughts of inadequacy and self-doubt upon myself, so to be rejected on top of all that… not exactly something that everyone wants to pursue. 

J.K Rowling is a female to be admired in the fictional writing scene, and even more as an individual aspiring social, moral and political inspiration. She admitted that Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishing houses. Here is what she said about failure in her Harvard Commencement Speech in 2011, “Failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.”


With all of this being said, I challenge you, and myself to embrace the fear of rejection that has been instilled within ourselves.

Take the situations as they come and do not let idea of rejection stop you from pursing or encountering opportunities that you may not experience otherwise. If you do get rejected, embrace it, do not let yourself be defined by it but learn from it. Rejection further expands our horizon on empathy and understanding towards other people, and motivates us to do and always be better. Rejection may not only open our eyes, but also open us towards the idea of patience  as we realize that better things may be yet to come, and it allows us re-evaluate ourselves. Most importantly, rejection reminds us  simply that we’re human, and that in order to make the most out of our time and our lives, it is important to take risks and opportunities. If those risks and opportunities result in rejection? Grow, learn, and keep trying. You deserve to live a life filled with wonder, adventure, and love- don’t let the idea of rejection hold you back from that. 

It took my mental illness to open my eyes to the world around me and I now intend to take as much as I possibly can from it, even if it means being rejected 101 times, and I encourage you to do the same. 




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