Recently my application to a prestigious scholarship was rejected, which provoked a range of emotions. My initial thoughts and feelings? Hurt. Disappointed. Might brb and silently cry in the bathroom. Then, bitterness and despair. Why was I audacious enough to believe I had a chance? Then, bored of self-pity fairly quickly, I became indignant. They obviously don’t know talent when they see it. This is clearly a mistake on their end. Then a barely audible voice mumbles something in my head. It asked me a question: “If you really thought they didn’t know what they were doing, why did you apply in the first place?”
So I objectively analyzed my application, my personal statement, and my experience and tried to figure out what I could’ve done differently. Did I really make a compelling enough case for why I wanted this particular scholarship? Was my GPA high enough (I graduated cum laude but got that D in calculus my freshman year…)? Was I clear enough with which masters program I wanted to pursue and what I would do with it once I graduated? Would I have chosen me if I were on the selection committee? It’s hard to know the answers. I’ll probably never know. And you know what? It’s not my right to know. Sometimes—lots of times—you just have to bow down to the things that are bigger than you and out of your control.
What I know is this: I was rejected. I failed. I thought I did my best, but maybe I could’ve done better. Can’t a person always do better?
All I can do now is the one thing within my control: stubbornly, relentlessly just keep showing up.
Because it comforts me, here’s a list of extremely impressive people talking about their experiences with failure and rejection:
- Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on stress, failure, and the drive to keep creating. “Your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential.”
- Joe Rogan’s interview with David Goggins, a retired Navy SEAL, ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete, and man who can do 4,030 pull-ups in 24 hours.
- The Rock’s Instagram post on the best thing that never happened to him.
- That time Nastia Liukin, five-time Olympic medalist in gymnastics, fell flat on her face during bars and what she learned from the experience.