Featured Illustration: Vero Romero
“Thank you for submitting to ‘X’. After careful consideration, it was not chosen for publication. This does not reflect the quality of our work.”
“Thank you for applying for our research position, but we cannot offer you a position at the moment.”
More often than I would have liked, I had to read these words. And growing up, all these words had an impact on my self-esteem. Not because those words are downright hurtful words, but because I have been taught that every feat reflects on my self-worth. The words on these rejection or congratulatory letters have been interpreted as the value of my self-worth. Every time I would get a congratulatory letter, my relatives would congratulate me and praise me for being an amazing kid. The congratulatory letter would be the topic of conversation for days. But every time I would receive a rejection letter, the topic was never to be brought up again and ensued with disappointment.
One of the things I have learned from this is I have more rejections than acceptance letters. It took me a while to realise that none of those rejection letters reflected my worth. Yet, I have been taught from a young age to celebrate successes but never failures. This has proven more harmful than beneficial. Oftentimes, when I would face rejection, I felt clueless as to how to navigate from thereon. Something that exists in our culture is the celebration of turning points but never the downs, which led to my tipping point.
I remember feeling hopeless after getting a rejection letter from a dream job. I felt like the world was ending.
Now, according to the culture and norms, this meant one thing — I wasn’t good enough. There were only two possibilities from there: it meant I could either live with the thought that I was a failure and my effort meant nothing, or that I keep trying until I get somewhere. Had I given up after that rejection letter and not kept trying, I probably wouldn’t have been here. Most importantly, it wouldn’t have opened all these doors of possibilities that I could have never thought of.
It took me hundreds, if not thousands, of rejections to value each congratulatory letter. Because all those rejections shaped me to become the best version of myself. It opened more doors of opportunities. One thing led to another. Looking back, I realise how foolish I have been sulking over some worthless rejections now that I am in a much better place. You might not get your dream job, dream career, or your dream school, and it’s completely fine. We often forget that these things might not work out the way we want to, but we have to have that mindset for growth.
Every failure is a milestone for me. I see it as a learning window and scope for more growth. This means I have more doors of possibilities — something bigger than I could fathom. In a culture where success is celebrated, it’s important to celebrate the failures, too. After all, these failures are what shape us and push us to be better versions of ourselves. Next time you get a rejection letter and it feels like the end of the world, get yourself a chocolate cake and celebrate. Failures are frequent. They’re a part and parcel of our lives, and sometimes a little celebration of rejection is necessary to take a breather and ask yourself: what’s next and how can I do better?