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Rejection (latentflip.com)
94 points by semanticist on Aug 20, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments

My feeling is like that of astrojams', though I wouldn't like to say what particular part of your upbringing or culture leads you to have such a (to me) weird desire to praise the mundane and unremarkable.

By your own observation, Alex succumbed to social pressure to overcome his fear of heights. He topped off the event with some damage-limiting self-deprecation. All of that's normal. It wasn't especially brave or ingenious or anything. Maybe now he's made the jump he'll be less worried about it next time. Maybe he won't.

Frankly, if you'd gone over and congratulated him, you'd either have embarrassed him (because his dive was so terrible that some well-meaning weirdo felt the need to encourage him) or weirded him out (because seriously, who goes around complimenting strangers?). In the meantime, you're lying (it's not like his dive was actually impressive) and fostering an environment where people get praised for every meagre personal triumph. Please don't do that.

I've responded to astrojams' comment already, but I'd guess his fear/concern about his first jump from the 1 meter diving board is about on a par with my fear of diving from the 3 meter board (something I've yet to do).

If, when I eventually do dive from the 3 meter and join the queue to go again, someone turns round and gives me a high-five, I don't think I would be particularly weirded out or embarrassed. And I don't think it would stop me from seeking my full potential in the future because my meagre personal triumph had been rewarded in some small way.

But hey, maybe I am just weird and sheltered. shrugs

I too have missed opportunities to encourage people when they needed it. I'm more forthright now, quicker to laud others for trying, but I still wince when I think of those instances.

The post is well written and the analogy seems appropriate btw. Rejection Therapy has a post on the secret fear hacks of high divers and the golden rule is to never balk: http://rejectiontherapy.com/fear-hacks-of-world-class-high-d...

Alex never balked either. Good for him. Great blog post too.

Thanks! That link will definitely help me as I move up to the 3 meter board (which scares the crap out of me!).

I dove for 9 years, through college, and the trick I always found is to just do it as much as you can. The more time you spend at 3 meter (or 10 meter) the less fear you have. As an example, went to a practice about a year ago after not diving for 3 years and it took me a lot of time bouncing the board to get comfortable throwing dives again.

Spending time higher up also makes coming down to a lower height that much better. Train on 10M for a full day and then come back down to 3M and it seems like nothing. Was a good strategy to break your fear. One of my coaches (from Hungary) her father was her coach and used to dangle her and the other new recruits from the platform at a young age to break their fears. Not a strategy I would use with my kids, but worked for her (a 1988 Olympian.)

>(a 1988 Olympian.)

In that case the strategy worked really well. You should seriously consider it for your kids :-)

Dangling kids over things did not go as well for Michael Jackson. This may not be the best idea...

'Tough love' is a normal part of any physical training (Military , sport, you name it). It prepares pupils for the tougher things they are going to encounter in the real world.

As for Michael Jackson, I don't think it was any different than a lot of guys who throw babies up in the air and catch them on their way down. Gives me a mini heart attack every time I see one.

Babies love that stuff though.

Whilst I appreciate the encouraging words, this is an incredibly cheesy and highly unrealistic analogy.

Again, I get the authors point however the delivery is terrible. The kids post-dive reaction is unrealistic, the kids pre-dive fear is unrealistic. I accept it's just an analogy but the story bothers me.

Maybe it's people like me the author is targeting.

Your opinions are valid, though I would like to point out that I (for instance) felt the pre-dive fear was not at all unrealistic, and so it may be that our opinions are divided based on our personalities / life-experience.

But never the less, if that is his pre-dive emotion, who are you to discount his fear? other than perhaps someone with the benefit of hindsight? (I pressume you to be older than 16).

I like it, and you're welcome to your opinion (obviously), just thought I'd share my opinion of yours.

Granted, everyone thinks differently.

The subject is a 16 year old male.

Pre-dive his fear would primarily be the height and significant impact on landing. They are primal fears that significantly override one of rejection.

Post-dive, how likely is it that a 16 year old would surface and shout 'I failed'? Realistically, they may think like that but they wouldn't vocalise it. They would sheepishly swim off to a corner out of sight.

Hi, author here. Clearly a lot of this post is my analysis of what was going on in the boys head, which I can only hypothesise about from my own experiences, but the events in the story are pretty much as they happened yesterday, rather than a created analogy. And his first words were certainly "I failed!".

Thanks for everyone's comments. Appreciated!

Completely believable to me and a very astute set of observations.

I've been there. I know exactly the difference you describe between justifiable fear (the unknown physical consequences of diving off a board for the first time) vs. the far more powerful irrational fears (mind reading that everybody is looking at you and laughing at how awkward you appear, especially the cute girl over there that you are quite attracted to, and how disappointed she's going to be if you mess up the dive; maximising the importance of your dive performance in your mind because you believe she wants somebody perfect, whereas for all you know she thinks it's cute, etc.).

I especially enjoyed your conclusion - it's one I reached before, myself. Socially awkward people who eventually develop out of their behaviour have a great gift - they can recognize and empathize with other socially awkward people far better than the natural extroverts and, through their words of encouragement and empathy, share the gift of self-confidence.

Reality is stranger than fiction. I didn't find the story unbelievable--I'm far more conservative on trusting the psychoanalysis than the events--perhaps I've just had exposure to more "weird people" than the above commenter. If you had written the kid had let out a shrill scream of rage I wouldn't think you were lying from that alone, people are weird and have weird reactions to seemingly trivial things. What never ceases to amuse me is the array of reactions others have when meeting (relatively) famous people they are fans of.

The fear of rejection isn't much less primal than the fear of heights. Same parts of the brain, different evolutionary reasons.

You are right that nobody shouts out "I failed", but it's not unusual to hear something defensive like a sheepish "I'm not very good at diving" or "I messed that up". It basically means the same thing -- they are preparing to be rejected by the tribe by reducing their social status (and increasing the relative status of the people they are speaking to.)

I imagine it as more of an attempt to engage with the bystanders, maybe to try and tell them that he can do better. "Ugh! I failed", he says, trying to smile in the direction of the onlooking girls. A quick attempt at a chuckle to make light of the situation and he swims away.

OTOH it does sound like the kid in question was a lot younger than 16, especially considering his reaction and the fact that he was at the pool with his mother.

Are you saying you can't imagine yourself with those fears? That's fair enough. To claim, however, that no 16 year old male could behave that way seems absurd. I myself provide a counterexample; perhaps I am not real to you :) (My social anxiety - described so well by this post - extended well into adulthood and even now in my late 20s I still suffer from occasional social anxiety.)

I agree with you with regards the post-dive, but pre-dive, speaking from experience I can imagine my 16-year-old self going through that exact thought process (had I not already been jumping from any number of high objects for fun by that age already), rightly or wrongly.

I feel you man. I didn't really know how to articulate my feelings, but it all feels cheesy and false. It's like social conditioning. It's not real life. It's what your high school english teacher would want you to say about the event, not what you really felt.

As a side note, I would have said "Come on bro dive off that board like a BOSS... the chicks will dig it!" My kids are gonna get tough love.

:) it is entirely possible that this feels like what a high school english pupil would write about the event, as this is possibly the first piece of "creative writing" I've done since high school. Although, while creative, it's largely based in what happened/how I felt about the incident during and reflecting on it afterwards.

I'd have loved to have shouted something like that, but I've my own social awkwardness to deal with too!

Great read. and well writ. I feel that it perfectly sums up what a lot of people go though, myself included. If only we all had the guts to go and congratulate people when they attempt something, and urge them to keep trying. Instead of the oft scathing "constructive criticism" we tend to give, if we even bother doing more than just silent acknowledgement.

Excellent story. This resonates with me very strongly.

Social freedom is an amazing trait to have, which you can (I certainly did and continue to) learn.

Some of my friends think I am crazy. I think I am socially free.

How your inner monologue runs when in social situations, or even walking to the shops for milk, greatly affects how you act.

As a hetro man, a classic example is nervousness in approaching a girl on the street you see walk by to find out if you like each other enough for a date or more. Thoughts like "your not allowed to (talk/stop/interrupt/greet) her on the street" and other limiting beliefs that prevent you from taking risks and grabbing life with such amazing force, all because of social conditioning and worrying about what other people will think of you, sucks.

Changing how you think, and instead becoming excited at the chance you could be bringing an amazing person into your life is much better.

When you realize that thought process exists and work to change it, in my experience, amazing adventure happens.

This applies to every aspect of life, from how you treat others, family, relationships, and work.

Changes to how you think let you not only take opportunities, but make them.

Responded over here: http://kerr.io/rejection-done-right/

I think you grew up sheltered and have expectations that are not in line with reality.

Perhaps I did, it's hard for me to say, but I'd estimate my views on reality are pretty well average for a white, not-rich, not-poor, twenty-something in Scotland.

My intention wasn't to question why everyone didn't woop and holler at his "mundane achievement". The point, if any, I was trying to make was more that I, Alex, and perhaps others, can hold ourselves back from doing things we want to do for fear of failure and rejection. And that learning to get over that fear could be beneficial.

Indeed, if I had any idea that this post was going to end up on Hacker News, rather than just as an unread scrawl on my blog, written over coffee on a Monday morning, perhaps I wouldn't have had the guts to write it at all.

The closing thought about the high-five was less a question to the world, and more a thought to myself that had I been the one diving off the board, worrying about being rejected (consciously or subconsciously), that it would have been pretty awesome to 16-year old me if some random dude had given me a high-five.

It's entirely possible though that poor writing and or structure didn't do a good job of conveying my points. Next time I'll spend a bit more time planning :)

Ignoring the metaphor for a while, if I'm 16 years old and a smiling guy comes up at me after a dive to tell me that I did a good job, I'm not sure if I'd feel so encouraged. At 12, maybe. At 22, sure. But at 16 years old? No way. Get away from me, old man.

You might have a point, though I hope there a few more years in me yet before I hit true old man status (I am 25).

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