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WATCH: What The 'Mat Girl' Teaches Us About Rejection Therapy?

A woman lying on a yoga mat in the middle of a bustling sidewalk, asking a stranger to borrow their sunglasses, or attempting to take a nap in a mattress store? This seemingly absurd action is part of a growing trend known as rejection therapy.

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Ishika Thanvi
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Image: TikTok/ Narcity

A woman lying on a yoga mat in the middle of a bustling sidewalk, asking a stranger to borrow their sunglasses, or attempting to take a nap in a mattress store? You might have come across this reel on your Instagram recommendations. This seemingly absurd action is part of a growing trend known as rejection therapy. Designed to confront and alleviate social anxiety, these exercises often result in peculiar looks or outright rejection, making them prime material for TikTok, where over 54 million posts are tagged with the term.

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Why the Cringe? Understanding Rejection Therapy

Rejection therapy involves intentionally placing oneself in socially awkward situations to desensitize the fear of rejection. The objective is to break the cycle of social anxiety by getting accustomed to negative responses. Over time, the sting of rejection diminishes, allowing individuals to navigate social interactions with greater ease and confidence.

While some rejection attempts end up surprisingly well—such as a girl who jokingly applied to Harvard and was wait-listed—many result in outright rejection, often in painfully awkward ways. Yet, the essence of rejection therapy is that even when things go wrong, it's rarely as catastrophic as anticipated. Through repeated exposure, the fear of rejection can be significantly reduced.

But, Who Is The 'Mat Girl'? Here's What Happened 

A TikTok creator, @kerstravelstories, approached a woman lying on a yoga mat amidst foot traffic to inquire about her unusual activity. "It’s rejection therapy," she explained. Her goal was to get odd looks and potentially harsh responses, ultimately becoming less fearful of judgment. Inspired by Dr. Aziz Gazipura's book, Not Nice, she admitted the process was terrifying but necessary for overcoming social anxiety. Her attempt was met with supportive comments from viewers, commending her efforts to face her fears head-on.

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Is Rejection Therapy Effective?

Rachel Goldberg, LMFT, a psychotherapist, asserts that rejection therapy, while popularised on social media, has roots in legitimate therapeutic practices like exposure therapy. This technique helps individuals confront their fears in a controlled manner, reducing anxiety over time. Rejection therapy serves as a nuanced version aimed specifically at social anxiety and rejection sensitivity.

Exposure therapy typically involves gradual, safe exposure to feared stimuli with the guidance of a therapist. This method helps individuals understand and manage their fears. For those interested in trying rejection therapy independently, Goldberg suggests starting with manageable challenges. Asking a stranger to use their phone or complimenting someone’s shoes can be effective starting points.

Starting Small: Practical Steps for Rejection Therapy

Goldberg recommends practising rejection therapy regularly, possibly a few times a week, and processing the experiences through journaling or discussions with supportive friends. Tracking these interactions can help individuals compare anticipated fears with actual outcomes, fostering gradual progress.

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Are There Any Long-Term Benefits? 

The effectiveness of rejection therapy varies depending on individual anxiety levels. While some may see quick improvements, others might need more time and consistent practice. Rejection therapy, popularised by TikTok, offers a novel approach to overcoming social anxiety. By intentionally facing rejection, individuals can build resilience and self-confidence, ultimately freeing themselves from the fear of embarrassment. While the journey may be daunting, the potential rewards are profound, leading to a more fearless and fulfilling social life.

#TikTok Rejection therapy social anxiety
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