Advice, Lifestyle

Rejection doesn’t define you

In the past two months, I have been rejected twice.

I want to clarify that I’m not talking about being rejected romantically. That’s not something in which I have expertise. Another part of the spectrum is something I’ve faced a lot: rejection from classes, jobs, internships, etc.

How do I deal with it, you ask?

My first tip is to make sure you never deny any of your feelings. When I was rejected from a dance company I auditioned for, I refused to talk to any of my friends because the idea that someone had judged me for my work and then turned me away felt so embarrassing. It made me rethink all the jubilant feelings I’d ever felt from dance. 

But if it hurts, it’ll only help if you acknowledge that pain. In fact, it’s good — because it means you care and that you’re willing to try again. Sharing how you’re feeling with others is a good breath of relief, and that burden will lift itself off your shoulders.

But while you’re allowed — and even encouraged — to wallow in self-pity, it’s important to let go of those negative feelings eventually. Pent-up frustration will only prevent you from trying again. Not only that, but it’ll feed into your personal life and affect things that have nothing to do with that rejection.

job application form
An employment application form. Michelle shares advice for dealing with rejection in the academic and professional worlds. COURTESY OF FLAMINGO PHOTOS VIA CREATIVE COMMONS

Let it go because if you don’t, it’ll only make you angrier. And not only that, you’ll likely be hyper-aware of every single mistake you’ve ever made. 

My advice for that is simply this: stop thinking.

When I was turned down from the dance company, I scrutinized myself and my technique like crazy. I would film myself dancing and criticize every foot that wasn’t pointed, every kick that didn’t go as high as I expected. I took it too personally, and it made me wonder if whoever had told me I was a great dancer was, in fact, just a great liar. 

Because this rejection had to mean something, right? It had to mean I wasn’t qualified to do what I loved and I sucked at it. I felt like there was no hope for me because even if I went back and auditioned again, I’d still leave with that same hollow disappointment in my stomach.

No. You shouldn’t think like that. You can’t afford to think like that.

Not everything is about your mistakes. Maybe you weren’t fit for the position because your style was different or they thought you were meant to flourish somewhere else. If they don’t give you a definite reason for your rejection, it’s not worth the time to obsess over all the ways you messed up.

Because that’s just it: it’s not always you. 

While I don’t necessarily believe in fate or destiny, there have been times where I realized that if I’d gotten accepted into a class or a company, I wouldn’t have been as happy as I am now. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, and you were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Some things just work out the way they’re supposed to. 

Trust the process. I don’t believe in a higher power of sorts, but I do believe in following your instinct. So if your gut is telling you there’s more to come, then put your trust in that. It’s powerful, and it’ll help guide you to great things.

But as we all know, mistakes make us stronger. We learn from experience. So while a rejection will hurt, especially if you care deeply, it’ll only serve to help you in the future. Take the lessons you’ve learned and apply them to that interview. Even if you still don’t get what you’re striving for, you’re that much closer to finally being in a place where you’re happy. 

I’m not an expert on this kind of thing, but as someone who’s been rejected from a dance company and an advanced writing workshop — the two things I’ve been told I excel at — I’ve been in those painful shoes, and you are anything but alone.

But we all need to climb that mountain, don’t we? It’s all the more meaningful if you’ve fought your way through all the obstacles placed before you to get where you are. I’d wager that that feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day after you’ve finally yelled “I told you so!” at the top of your lungs makes it all the more worth it.

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