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Internal Thoughts: Rejection Therapy: Why "No" Is good for you.


After 20 hours of travel I finally landed in Bangkok. I must have looked like a pathetic lost dog to the clerks as I asked three of them in English, “CAN I MAKE THIS SMALLER?!” pointing to the 1000 Bhat in my hand.  Each one looked at me with pity and started spouting off in Thai pointing in another direction. I backed away from the counter feeling like a complete and udder failure. Embarrassed, I walked away not getting what I needed.

I went to the next café. This time, I tried a variety of charades and broken English with the few general Thai words I knew from 10 years ago. The clerk looked at me and smiled with bright white teeth, “Of course you can. What denominations would you like?”  Again, feeling embarrassed because of my pathetic use of the Thai language, I replied sheepishly, “100s please.”

The Therapy of No.

I remember first hearing about this years ago from a photographer talking about how he approaches complete strangers on the street and asks them for their portrait. He would force himself to take 10 portraits in 1 hour, virtually setting himself up for rejection. In this process he found a peculiar phenomenon; people said Yes!

Since hearing about this personal challenge, I have tried the last few years doing this exact thing when I travel. Here are a few things I have learned.

1. Rejection is proof I am trying.

When I let fear rule the way I go about my everyday life, I miss out on all the benefits that come with trying new things.

2. Rejection lets me refine my personal process.

Maybe I shouldn’t pop out of a bush and ask a person if I can take their photo. Though surprising people is a fun activity, a better approach might be to smile real big, look them in eyes, and point at your camera.

What I am saying is learn from your mistakes, we become better because of trial and error. And you can’t err without trial.

3. I want rejection to be a part of my life.

What if you never learned how to ride a bike or learn how to swim? What if you never asked that girl out on a date? What if you never pursued the job you currently have? I think life would be completely different without rejection, don’t you?

24 hours later, that 1000 bhat is long gone. It got me out of the airport and on my way to Cambodia to visit friends for the New Year. I met travelers from Germany, Japan, England, Korea, Canada, France, and Israel all on their own journey. The one thing I am confident of is that each person I met has experienced rejection on their travels and been a better person for it.

Have you always wanted to travel? Take better pictures? Juggle?

Go out and take a chance.

Feel the sting of rejection and let me know how it turned out. You might be surprised!

Ryan Unger