How To Overcome The Fears of Rejection: a response for a high school student who is applying to college

Prologue: 

Ever since I wrote a detailed post about “How to Get Into UC Berkeley” I’ve received hundreds of e-mails from students requesting I proofread their personal statements: I always try take the time to help! I’ve met many wonderful students in the process & I’ve even met a few in real life!

A few days ago, I received a different type of letter. This student had an inquiry about the fears of rejection & how to accept rejection. It couldn’t come at a better time (b/c I’m going through a failed project at the moment) & thought it would be best to write my response through a post.

Letter from The Wonderful Student in Florence: 

katheryn.rejection

Kathryn – this blogpost is for you! Alright, let’s start this thing!

Dear Kathryn,

Thank you for writing your e-mail. I was going to reply back in e-mail form, but I thought it would be better to write a response via a blogpost so you always had a link you could return to as a reference. In addition, giving you a half-ass swift e-mail answer wouldn’t do anyone justice.

I’m going to try to make this as detailed as possible because you, your friends, and anyone who is reading this post is worth the time! I may go on tangents, but to make it easy, I’m going to break it down into three parts: treating this as important as any graded paper back at UC Berkeley.

Part 1: “Those Who Hesitate, Don’t Get Their Break” 

Regardless of what you remember from this blogpost, if there is anything to takeaway about the fear of rejection, it’s the quote above. “Those who hesitate, don’t get their break.”

Funny enough, the original quote I used to say during speeches was, “those who hesitate, masturbate.” But, I had to reconstruct its wordplay, when in 2009 my speech was cut short by an offended supervising attendee at one of my high school talks: the word, “masturbate,” was used to get high school students awake, engaged, and laughing to my talk. [Using the word “masturbate,” still works as an attention grabber to this day, however, supervisors who invite me to talk don’t like that word. And, I want to be taken seriously. So, reconstructed the quote.  Oh well].

The idea behind the mantra is, if you don’t TRY, if you don’t GIVE YOUR BEST SHOT, you will never know if you were ever good enough to be the right fit for the opportunity in the first place.

For example, do you or your friends have mad crushes on people at your school? You see the person walking by and you’re like,

DAMNNNNN why they so fine with that walk,

DAMNNNNNNNN why they so fine with that hair,

DAMNNNNNNNNNN why they so fine with the way they talk about Shakespeare… I like them so much, I WANT TO HOLD THEIR HAND & READ POEMS TOGETHER! 

and…

If you don’t say “well… hello there *wink*” (haha)

If you don’t fan your hair in slow motion (BAY WATCH STYLE)

If you don’t even ASK them if they want to go out..

If you don’t even ATTEMPT to start a conversation…

How the hell will they know you are mad crushing on them? How the heck will they have an inkling you exist? How the hell will you BOTH know if you have intellectual & physical chemistry? THEY WON’T KNOW IF YOU DO NOTHING.

An opportunity is exactly like that attractive mad crush you have in your life. If you don’t apply, if you don’t ask, if you don’t inquire… then how will you know if you two are the right fit?

Kathryn, you said, ” I’m still afraid of getting rejected from the universities I will apply to…” This is a real fear to have, however, it shouldn’t deter you from applying because you will never know if you’ll get ACCEPTED if you don’t apply.

“Those who hesitate, don’t get their break” means don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from going after what you want.

Part 2: Focus On The Journey 

We tend to focus our thoughts on the two inevitable outcomes of any decision we make: these two outcomes being i) rejection and ii) acceptance. In other words, i) loss or ii) reward. Focusing on these two outcomes is what I call the “distorted dream” thought process.

Again, we’ll use your crush as examples:

i) A distorted dream of reward is a vision where you’re kissing your crush, dating your crush, and maybe even marrying your crush (who knows how far your mind may wander).

ii) A distorted dream of loss is a vision where your crush turns you down, which is then followed by your peers scoffing at your futile attempts to “get with” your crush. This then turns you into the laughing stock of your school and pretty soon, you have no choice but to transfer to another institution altogether.

Though distorted dream scenarios are fun to think about, it’s a waste of time. Instead, you should be dreaming about the journey to these outcomes. Or, to be more concise, you should be day dreaming about the journey you need to take, because focusing on “what you need to do & what you will do” will help deter you from fearing the outcome itself.

Kathryn, let me explain this through college applications. Thinking about the journey means you’re focusing on when and how you’re going to study for the tests you need to pass for the application. Thinking about the journey means you’re thinking about your favorite pencils you must sharpen and even the outfit you’ll wear when writing out your personal statements.

Focusing on the journey means you’re daydreaming about the actions you’re going to take to complete the task.

For example, I’ve learned that when making YouTube videos I shouldn’t be talking and/or daydreaming about how viral the video will become. Instead, I should be thinking about the exact edits I need to make on the video, the shots still missing from the video, and even the type of emails I’ll be sending blogs when the video gets published. Doing all of this not only distracts me from thinking about the outcome, it also leads to a better quality video because I’m worrying about the things that actually matter: my actions.

Focusing on the journey gets your mind thinking about what’s really important, which is everything before the outcome. Remember, the outcome will arrive regardless and its often times out of your control. Therefore, spending your time on what you can control is a better use of your time: appreciating the steps you can and will take to make the outcome a reality.

Part 3: How To Accept Rejection  

Kathryn, “accepting rejection” is the second part of your question and I’m going to premise it with three words. Never accept rejection. I’ll explain in a second, but first please understand that no matter what you do, you will get rejected once or twice or hundreds of times in your life. Yes, it’s unbelievable! It’s upsetting! It’s frightening!

But, if you’re a normal human being, rejection is going to happen if you like it or not: it can stem from getting a bad grade all the way to your crush turning you down.

[I get rejected all the time! Crushes pushing me away, YouTube videos not going viral, getting your heartbroken when your EX breaks up with you, getting fired from jobs… the list continues. It’s just a part of life]. 

It’s okay because, (as this post has been aggressive about), by understanding to not “hesitate” and to also ‘focus on the journey,” you are teaching yourself to never let the fear of rejection get in your way of success: do not let the fear of rejection sidestep you from pursuing what you want (don’t hesitate), and don’t allow the fear of rejection distract you from what needs to be done (focusing on the journey).If you keep these two things in mind, you’re less likely to fear rejection and more likely to see the entire situation as a great learning experience for future success.

Now, let’s get to accepting rejection…

Don’t Accept Rejection

This is going to sound a little off, however, when I say you shouldn’t accept rejection, I’m not saying NO doesn’t mean NO. Also, I’m not saying you shouldn’t admit defeat: it’s perfectly fine to humble yourself and take that loss. What I am saying is you shouldn’t accept rejection as the “be all, end all” of any situation.

Rejection is a time to take a step back and re-evaluate the strengths and weaknesses you have to make a better plan for a better outcome in the future.

For example, if you get rejected from YOUR dream school, you should re-evaluate if the school is actually a good match for what you want to do in your life. And, if it is, what are you willing to do to have a better outcome in the future? If it is truly your #1 choice, are you willing to work hard at another place so you’re qualified enough to transfer to the school? Are you willing to talk to administrators and counselors to figure out what you can do for next time? Because, believe it or not, many things in life are not just one-time opportunities. You’ll have many chances to TRY again. NOT accepting rejection means you’re willing to work even harder to improve on your strengths so you can become better next time.

We’ll use your crush as an example. If your crush denies you, don’t think it’s the end of the world or think no one out there will ever love you. Instead, you should re-evaluate if you and this person are actually meant to be together: many times, there is nothing wrong with you (or them), there is just something fragile with you two being together. So, if you accept rejection by allowing your crush to halt you from living your life because you feel as if you’re not good enough for them, then you’re leaving yourself blind from all the other attractive people (opportunities) – you could be a match for.

To go even further, if you also focused more on the journey of how you approached your crush, then you’ll have a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses you have in regards to your flirting skills. This way, the next time you have a crush, you can GO FOR IT with a better approach because now you know what works best for your personality. Everything is a learning process.

Ending Notes

Again, I want to clarify that getting rejected doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you: it could mean you’re not ready or not the right fit. So, it’s up to you to do what is necessary to be ready for next time.

For example, when I first graduated college, I got fired from every single job I got into: from Airbnb to Loopnet to a Political Media Company. It was horrible, and as I was applying for my next job, I realized that maybe my sets of skills don’t belong at those types of companies.

I had to re-evaluate what I liked to do, what I was good at, and what I wanted to do, which was (at the time) media consulting. This led me to take a step back and work at a coffee shop while partnering up with a really smart friend to create a media company. I changed the entire trajectory of my life. I found myself waking up at 4am in the morning to be a barista, and then after my shift, heading to my business partner’s place to work on media. (At least I had enough money to sleep on his couch).

It took a year before we got our first client, which led to more opportunities: a new career with wonderful experiences that helped lead me to where I am today: though you might get rejected, it’s okay! IT’S OKAY because if you take a step back, there is always another way to get where you want to go.

BUT, it hasn’t all been roses and peaches. In 2015, I was yet again in a position where I was essentially rejected from the career I had been building for the past 4 years: replaced and out of luck. I took a year to re-evaluate myself and now, I am at it again.

I’m not going to lie, starting over (AGAIN) is demoralizing. However, I can’t allow rejection or the fear of rejection get in my way from moving forward. I’m not afraid because I know this won’t be the last time I’ll get rejected. I’ll get rejected again, it happens when you take risks. It’s a part of life. But, I take each rejection as a learning opportunity to do better next time.

To conclude… maybe not today or tomorrow, but one day you’ll get rejected. But, I hope this post helps you understand to not be afraid of rejection! And, I hope this post helps you understand not to accept rejection in a way where you stop yourself from accomplishing anything. Because you got to keep going Kathryn! You’re worth it. And, regardless of the outcome, I know you’ll take a step back, you’ll re-evaluate, and then you’ll find a positive way to get where you need to go.

There are people out there who are willing to help you (I’m one of them).

Thanks for listening.
Some Random Living Room – San Francisco
4:16 PM

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