I remember it like it was yesterday. I was nine years old and it was our school lunch break. It was grey and cloudy and the tarmac was wet from earlier rain. I had nobody to play with because my best friend was off sick and my second best friend was in a music lesson, so I walked up to three girls in my class and asked if I could play with them. I remember one of them was eating Smiths crisps, (the ones with the little navy sachet of salt in them) and another was eating a box of raisins. They were nice girls, not mean girls, but they looked at me and said they’d have to think about it. They walked away a few feet and whispered for a minute, occasionally looking back at me. Then they returned. They had decided my fate. ‘No, we can’t play with you today,’ said the crisp eater. ‘Maybe tomorrow,’ said raisin girl. ‘Oh,’ said me. There was an awkward silence. I remember exactly how I felt as I walked away from them, looking down at my Clarks shoes and feeling conspicuously alone and embarrassed. I had been rejected. My eyes stung with tears. I don’t remember what I did for the rest of playtime – whether I hung, alone, on the climbing frame or if I hid in the toilets – but I know that my best friend came back to school the next day and playground life returned to usual. Still that lunch hour made its imprint. I have spent a lot of my life avoiding that moment when you ask someone to play with you and they say no. I always wait for other people to make the first move and even hesitate before asking good friends if they want to meet up, I always think they’ll say they’re too busy etc… I am always imagining/ pre-empting rejection. Anyway, I’m realising how stupid and pointless all this is. This January when I was doing my naked modelling I met a fantastically gorgeous woman called LaDawn. At the end of our naked modelling session she turned to me and said ‘I like you, shall we be friends?’. I loved it! So simple and confident and cool. Why on earth don’t we all say this, all the time? I was delighted. Then last week, exactly the same thing happened – I was at a party and chatted with a friend of a friend, who I’d met a couple of times before. Half way through our catch-up she stopped and said: ‘I think you’re great. Shall we be friends and hang out and have fun?’ She made my day! So anyway this week I’ve been on a mission to make new friends. I’ve had mixed success. I emailed six different people I admire – work contacts/friends of friends – and asked them for coffee. Two didn’t reply. That stung. I felt embarrassed and like a fool. One said, sorry she’s really busy at the moment. That also stung. I felt like I’d been brushed off. I imagined her thinking that I was a weird loser who has to ask strangers out for coffee because she has no real friends… But then three said yes they’d love to. Hurrah! I met one of them this week. She’s a work contact whose writing I love but who I’ve never met before. She is the kind of person who I would have thought would be too good to hang out with the likes of me – too busy, cool, successful etc – and so I was amazed that she got back to me. Not only that but she said she’d been reading my blog and loved it. We met for coffee on Wednesday and got on like a house on fire. Half way through the conversation I did a LaDawn on her – I said ‘I think you’re great, would you like to be friends?’ It was embarrassing and awkward. I felt absolutely open to rejection. For a second there was a funny silence. I think she was taken aback by the question but then she smiled: ‘Yes, I’d like that!’ And so that’s it. I have a new friend. So this weekend here’s a challenge: if there’s somebody you like/admire/fancy tell them that you like them. Even if you don’t get the response you’d like there’s something very cool about having the guts to just lay your cards on the table. xx PS – one of the suggested rejection therapy challenges is to ask people you don’t know to be friends with you on Facebook. I’ve been doing that for the last month with writers I like, cool bloggers and friends of friends. I’d say more than half have said yes. I’ve been a bit too embarrassed to make any further contact after that – to acknowledge the elephant in the room which is that ‘I don’t actually know you at all but here’s why I made a friend request on Facebook…’ but it’s quite a fun game. Although maybe it’s a bit weird and stalker-y. I don’t know. Anyway… here’s to making a bit of a fool of yourself and being rejected and not being rejected..
Sign up for sporadic updates from self-help land and life in general, including details on upcoming talks and events. Promise not to bombard you.