The title sounds negative, but this is actually intended to be a positive post. Trust me.

A lot of people are afraid of rejection. A lot of people are really afraid of it. It’s understandable, because it can have some bad effects. It can cause embarrassment. It can hurt one’s self-confidence. But really, it’s not that bad, and it shouldn’t stop you from trying something.

One of my most effective methods in calming my nerves is the “What’s the worst that could happen?” exercise. I used it all the time in school before exams. If I was nervous, I would think about the worst possible outcome, and then consider how it really wasn’t that bad. With an exam, the worst thing that could happen would be that I would fail it. And that turns out to not be so bad, because it has very little effect in the long run. After some quick math, I could figure out if failing it would mean failing the course. The possibility of failing the course makes it a little worse, but still, it’s not so bad. It just means I’d have to take one more course the next semester if I needed the credits. So even when it comes to failure, think about it: Will you really care about that one failure next year? Will you even remember it in five years?

If you don’t try something because you’re afraid of being rejected, then you’ve already failed, because if you don’t try to do something, in most cases it’s never going to happen. You’ve done the rejection yourself. You won’t get what you could have tried for, which in the end is the same as trying for it and not getting it. But just by trying, you’ve increased your chances of success from zero or near-zero to at least a small chance. If I had not applied to Google because I thought I would be rejected, I would not be working there now. With the number of applications I had good reason to assume I wouldn’t get the position, but I also knew that by simply applying, I was increasing my ability to get hired. “You never know until you try” really applies in these situations, and in many cases, at least for me, not knowing is worse than being rejected. It’s worse, because you’ll always be able to wonder if you made a mistake by not trying. You could have had what you wanted, but you gave up on it. When you’re rejected, at least you know that the answer is “no,” and you can focus on trying for the next thing. The simple relief of knowing that it’s over may overpower any negative feelings caused by the rejection.

So if you’ve wanted to know if you can do something, my advice (follow at your own risk), is to go for it. No matter what the outcome, you’ll probably sleep better than you would if you just lie there and wonder.

4 thoughts on “Rejection”

  1. Supplemental reading:

    A quote from Steve Jobs:
    “…almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

    And a cartoon about regrets, which can apply in the sense of (not) regretting that you tried. Even if you fail.

  2. Wysz! I’m so glad I read this post when I did. I remember when you were all snark, all the time. Awwwww, I miss you and your cynical shell with the secret softie filling.

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