As part of a service year through AmeriCorps (A.K.A. the domestic Peace Corps), for the past 8 months, I've spent my working hours with middle and high school youth at the Boys & Girls Club in San Clemente, helping them figure out the daunting question of what comes next after high school. Rejection therapy is my current poison of choice for these 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th grade students. Most all of my projects at the Club have some kind of poison-laden, destructive quality - destruction that leads to fulfillment and truer-to-self creation, that is. My goal is to help these teens destroy barriers that keep them from being and becoming who they are meant to be.
So what is rejection therapy? The expression and concept were developed by a man named Jason Comely, but they have been further popularized by Jia Jiang of www.fearbuster.com. Rejection therapy is about facing your fears; by actively seeking rejection and experiencing it over and over, you become desensitized to its negative, often crippling effects, says Jia. He went through 100 days of rejection therapy, contriving a new way to get rejected every day for 100 days. One of his rejections included asking a stranger if he could play soccer in his backyard. Another involved his challenging a CEO to a stare-off. And still another involved his requesting a Krispy Kreme employee to create a donut display colored and shaped like the Olympic Games logo.
In the case of rejection therapy, I'm trying to break down our Club members' fears. I'm attempting to empower the youth to question the deceitful voices in their minds that tell them they aren't smart enough, strong enough, pretty enough, privileged enough - voices of comparison and undercutting that soon amount to nothing but feelings of "should've" and "wish I'd" later in life.
I've challenged my fifteen teens to do seven days of their own rejection therapy. Upon first brainstorm, the kids wrote down possible rejection activities such as grade boosts from teachers, selfies with strangers, and confessions to their crushes. After some time, the plot thickened. The activity that seemed to carry the most promise for a good laugh, should the teens' request be granted, involved two teens asking a cop to handcuff them and deposit them at the Club, complete with an elaborate tale of their criminal acts.
"Wait," you say... "'Request granted?' I thought this project was about getting rejected..." And it is. If you get a lot of rejections, great! Assignment completed. But what happens if you get a lot of yes's?
In fact, Jia Jiang got more yes's than he expected. When he asked a stranger if he could play soccer in his backyard, the man said yes. And Jia was also able to secure that Krispy Kreme donut display, free of charge. Who knows which CEO or store manager down the street could be a co-conspirator in this joyful and spontaneous life you lead? You'll never know until you ask.
Therapy starts this Wednesday. Even if my teens only complete one day, and one of them reaps one little kernel of knowledge out of the experience, I'll be content. I'm learning to savor the small successes in my job.
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