After weeks of ogling from afar, everything seemed like it went well when you finally met in person. You dressed to the nines. You felt like you made a connection. You radiated confidence, proved you were educated on all the relevant topics and you laughed at all the right moments. But they still haven’t called you back. You wait a day, then two, then a week. Still nothing. You start to wonder if maybe you didn’t come off as great as you thought you did.
Even worse, maybe they’ve found someone else. You think about nudging them with something along the lines of “I was wondering if you thought any more about last Saturday,” but eventually decide against it. You don’t want to look too desperate. And when they finally do reply, it’s with the words you’ve always been dreading. So you pull out that pint of ice cream and bawl in front of last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, trying hard not to question your self-worth. You just weren’t good enough for them. You didn’t get the job.
I’ve played out this scene so many times that, if I lived in the Harry Potter universe, it would be probably be my Boggart. In fact, I used to be so terrified of rejection that for the majority of my first year at McMaster, I kept my head low, and I refused to apply for anything and everything. Consequently, while my friends volunteered in Peru or earned money from either part-time jobs or their co-op term, I spent much of my summer in a slump. Only one good thing came out of it, and it wasn’t the abysmal grade I received from sacrificing my June and July to the godless art of physics: it was my determination to make the following summer fruitful.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that you simply cannot escape some kind of application for most of the things you encounter over the span of your university career. If you need a summer job, you have to apply. If you want to become a Welcome Week rep or a CA in residence, you have to apply. If you’re looking for a research position in a professor’s lab, you have to apply. Whether it’s a co-op job, an internship or even a higher-level entry program, your fate is inevitable. One way or another, you’ll have to apply.
Taking the initiative to apply for new opportunities can be daunting. For someone who lacks confidence or struggles with social anxiety, the mere thought can be incredibly off-putting, if not insurmountable. After all, what’s the point of going to the trouble of applying for something, if you aren’t likely to get the position anyway? Why waste your efforts, when they can probably be better spent elsewhere? Why set yourself up for what can only be imminent disappointment?
I’ve been ignored a handful of times, and I’ve been rejected far more than I care to admit. I’ve had interviews where I tripped on my words, only for them to untangle once I left the room with my reputation unsalvageable. I once had an interviewer laugh at me because I was so unprepared, and there have been times where I didn’t end up with the position even when I felt that my interview had gone better than I could have ever hoped for.
I can say with the utmost certainty that I detest applications with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, and yet I still continue to put myself through it at the expense of my own comfort. While that might just mean I have masochistic tendencies, the more I face my old fear of rejection, the more it becomes clear to me that getting rejected isn’t my Boggart at all: my Boggart is never knowing whether I would or wouldn’t be rejected because I couldn’t find it in myself to try.
The worst thing we can do to ourselves is to let our own self-doubts dictate what we believe we’re capable of. Just because you might not get a job doesn’t mean you won’t ever get a job, and just because you weren’t considered good enough for one position doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, period. You are. If there’s something you’re interested in, you have to try. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself, and if you don’t, something else will come along. Whether it’s in the context of other people or your career, while rejection is an inevitable part of life that everyone has to deal with at one point or another, it’s not the end of the world. Armageddon is. And when it arrives, I know I’d like to have something to show for it.
Photo Credit: Flazingo