The Power of Rejection

Paul Sullivan
  • Paul Sullivan
  • December 7, 2019

The Power of Rejection

One hungover Sunday morning, Marianne Power decided that her life could not continue as it was. She had been a successful writer and penned pieces on everything from mascara to Roger Moore, and yet she wasn’t happy. Some of the things she wanted most in life–like a regular column, a relationship, and a house–eluded her, and she watched idly as her friends seemed to succeed where she hadn’t. That’s when Power decided the best thing to do was to throw herself into the line of fire and get rejected.

A Whole Lot of “No”

Taking cues from a self-help game called Rejection Therapy, Power spent a month pushing herself to do things she would dream of but never actually try. “We live in fear of rejection and it stops us from going after lots of things that we want in life,” Power explains. That’s why she took up this challenge. “You have to go out every day and be rejected by somebody.”

And so her journey began, becoming a part of all aspects of her life. At a cafe, she would ask for a free cup of coffee. Unsurprisingly, the answer was no. She asked if she could butt in line at a post office. Of course, no one let her. Most daring of all, she tried to be kind. “I would smile to strangers on the street. And in London they pretty much arrest you for that.”

But for all the rejections, acceptance came in surprising places. Once, at a local jazz club, she saw musicians playing and ventured closer to the stage. Between two songs, Power asked if she could play one musician’s double-bass. She expected a solid “no,” but to her surprise (and horror), the bassist said yes. Marianne had never played the double-bass in her life. While she fumbled with the unwieldy instrument on stage, the musician smiled graciously and offered to give her a lesson on how to play.

The musician was but one of many who took Power at her word, and changed her life for the better. “If you get through enough no’s, you’ll eventually get to a yes,” she explains. 

The Wisdom of Rejection

Of course, she did more than simply whimsical things. Power also made daring choices she would not have thought of otherwise. She sent out job applications to newspapers far and wide. Power was rejected by all of them–except one. Now, she lives the journalist dream: writing a column she feels passionate about.

Looking back, Power says she never got used to rejection; a “no” always hurt. “It was really awful. A painful experience. But it was rewarding.” Power believes that something in the nature of taking risks seems counter to our instincts. “We’re hardwired to want to be accepted by the group,” she says, and that means that our fear of rejection prevents us from doing what really matters or what would really connect us to people. “Most people are actually lovely, and only too welcoming of an excuse to interact, but often we put up the walls and think that nobody would want us to approach them.” Are you brave enough to get rejected?