I Was Rejected, and I'm Okay

The world is full of dirty words, but two words will always spark fear – rejection and failure.

The overachiever in me recoils at both, fearing the possibility of facing either.  

And yet, I did.

I was rejected and failed in the thing I’ve always been good at – achieving. I was valedictorian of my high school, went to the college I wanted to, stacked up a nice GPA, and involved myself in extracurricular activities with leadership positions. As I’ve said in countless essays, I thrive with challenge. Without it, I fall into a dull, monotonous rut. And in the process of chasing challenge, I’ve rarely come up short. Hard work and determination have granted me access to the places I’ve wanted to go, but this time, it wasn’t enough.

When I went through the application process for a competitive summer program, it never really occurred to me that I wouldn’t be accepted. I was highly qualified and held excellent references, and a member of the selection committee had even given me a recommendation for an internship. My essays were well-written, and I thought I nailed my interview. Though I told myself to reign in my expectations, I knew I was getting in.

And then the email came.

To save time, the subject line of the email told me my fate before I even had the opportunity to read the rejection letter, but I still did, reading it over and over as if the contents would magically change. I was rejected. I failed. The mixture of shock and grief stopped me in my tracks.

My family was supportive when I told them, and though I told my roommate, I couldn’t work up the nerve to tell my friends. Even with a tearstained face, I couldn’t force the words from my tongue. I didn’t want to acknowledge my rejection, something I quickly internalized as a personal failure. I know they would have supported me, but my pride held me back. I refused to text my friends who also applied because I was afraid of comparing my defeat to their victory, but really, that behavior should have made me ashamed, not a rejection letter.

I don’t want to be the sore loser, the unsupportive friend, or the person so paralyzed by failure that they can’t move forward.

One little rejection made me reconsider every success I’ve had in college. I second-guessed myself. I wondered if not participating in this program would derail my entire future. And by doing all of this, I let myself down.

I’m not going to do that anymore. Instead, I’m moving forward. I’m still going to deliver the thank you letters I wrote the interview panel thanking them for the opportunity, and I’m going to keep applying, even if it means I’ll be rejected. I’ll be sincere when I congratulate those who were accepted. Part of self-love is loving yourself even when you feel defeated and recognizing failure as a part of your story.

Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Therefore, I’m moving on to new opportunities. For years, I’ve endorsed self-love and empowerment, and it’s time to take my own advice. I’ll approach these doors even if they get slammed back in my face.

I was rejected, but I’m okay. I’m still smart. I’m still capable. I’m still going to kick ass.