Maybe you live in a world where everyone cheers you on, where everyone is on your side and no one wants to rain on your parade. If so, then I’d love to visit your universe because, in reality, where good exists so does the bad. And if you grew up being told all your life that everything you did was great, that you could do no wrong, then your first sign of rejection probably turned your world upside down.
While it’s fine to get a trophy just for participating, the blow of a loss, rejection, a letdown, and, yes, failure can be just as much of a prize. It might not sound logical at first but understanding how to take a hit is just as valuable, if not, more so than all the gooshy flattering words of affirmation one can spew on another.
Who doesn’t love positive words to affirm our value, self-worth, and give us meaning where we might otherwise feel void of purpose? Who doesn’t want to be reminded of our greatness, to be told we can do anything and everything? When in reality we might hate exercise, for example, so becoming an Olympic athlete might be out of the question.
You might watch the movie Rudy enough times to be inspired by the courage of a “five-foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’” walk-on football player at the University of Notre Dame. You might also fill your motivational juice box with one of the Rocky movies and assume that if you remain persistent you might not only last until the final bell but win the belt. But, if you absolutely lack every possible skill, coordination, and athletic agility then the chances of graduating to the big leagues are slim.
Everyone loves an underdog story, especially Hollywood. But what happens when all the “yes” people in your life including your family and friends are stripped from your life? The only person you have to answer to and can count on is yourself. At the end of the day when it’s you and utter silence no one can tell you who you are and what you are capable of except for you. And if you don’t believe in you, then don’t expect someone else to. The only person capable of not only opening a door of opportunity but kicking it down is you. Failure is a part of life. Rejection happens to the most successful people. If you put yourself out there and the door slams in your face, you try the next and the next and the next.
The most important thing I learned in the world of higher education, having received not only certifications but bachelors and master’s degrees as well, is to not rely solely on peers, professors or anyone else who promises favors. I was once reminded of this from a professor during my undergrad years. He told the class that if you think your best friends and your professors will do you a favor upon graduation, you’re mistaken. Even while some educational institutions swear by their networking and job placement programs. Politics still exist in every institution, professional environment and also within your personal life or circles. You have hoops that people make you jump through. You’ve got personalities and egos that seem to clash for no reason. There will be people who won’t be willing to get to know you based upon dozens of silly reasons that may be totally out of your control.
In the 21st century people still judge and size up each other more than they’d like to admit, because its taboo to bring up the subject on gender, age, social status, or any other type of dismissed prejudices other than the obvious ethnic clash. People judge you based upon where you go to school. Opportunities open up easier for Ivy Leaguers than for city college graduates, regardless if both parties might be equally qualified. It’s a fact of life that humans discriminate who will be their friends, who they will help, who they’ll hire and who they’ll dismiss. And as much as the unemployment rate has gone down, it’s still an employers market; therefore, they can be choosy and have incredulous expectations of prospective hires.
Today, higher education is a piece of paper that hardly counts in the hiring process because the competition is steeper than ever. And yes, don’t be fooled, a college is still a business. And lets not forget how long it takes to actually pay off student loans. If in the professional world there’s a selection process. Our personal world is the same.
The Bottom Line:
While optimism has its place, so does the reality and necessity of failure. Because without failure one cannot fully value success the way one does after innumerable attempts. It’s nice to have cheerleaders in your life, but don’t rely on them or expect them to boost you up all the time. It’s nice to have connections or a network of contacts that might place one at a slight advantage above the rest. But don’t count on anyone pulling through for you. It’s great if they do, but don’t hold your breath. Sometimes people really only wish to help if they know that there is something in it for them. And in the end you only shoot yourself in the foot by allowing yourself to be your own worst enemy when, in truth, you need to be your own advocate.
Rejection is not a slap in your face but a tool that should motivate you and let you know that there is something better out there waiting for you. And it certainly ought not to damper your self-esteem or worth. In the end, expect absolutely no one else to motivate you, encourage, strengthen, and love you. What you seek from the outside needs to first come from you and you alone. Once you give to yourself what no one else can, you’ll be amazed at how you’re world might suddenly shift to become your biggest advocate.