Rejection hurts. After you've gotten over it, you search for ways to improve so you won't make the same mistake twice.
I’m opening an envelope with my name on it and I’m thinking, “What is this?” I read the letterhead. Ah, it’s that thing that I sent in for that contest. Charming. Another rejection letter.
I remember the days when teachers would give you a sticker for completion. “Good job!” they’d say, “Excellent work!” Those were the bygone days when homework took at most half an hour and life was okay, even if we played outside until darkness fell, like a blanket and watched TV afterwards. Farewell, childhood.
Alas, we’ve grownup. We no longer get stickers. We’re graded on the quality of our work, rather than how long it took us, and the closest thing to a sticker is that letter that looks like an isosceles triangle. We’ve found out what overdraft protection is because of the necessity of keeping out finances in order.
So I’m starting at this letter that’ll probably open with the words, “We’re sorry to inform you that we’ve received many excellent submissions this year…” No, you’re not bloody sorry to inform me. For you, it’s business as usual. The letter isn’t even personalized with my name. It’s addressed to “Applicant”. In that one capitalized world it’s supposed to summarize me and at least 5,000 other applicants. So much for being unique.
I go to the second page. It’s an evaluation of my word. I feel scared. In that one page, there’s going to be a summary of the reasons why I didn’t get selected, the reasons why my application was below par, the reasons why mine was not up to standard and the reasons why mine was good, but just not good enough. Reasons summarized all in one short, 11 by 8.5 sheet of printer paper.
I read the letter. It’s surprisingly nice. Polite, even. It tells me the good parts of my application. The theme. The idea. The presentation. “Yes,” I think, “I did well on those parts.” Then, I read further. The questions that my application raised. Here we go. The flaws of my application. The reasons why I wasn’t good enough. The reasons why I was not up to standard. The reasons why I wasn’t selected. Instead of feeling hurt, I feel somewhat glad. I found out why I wasn’t selected, instead of having to guess why. I feel empowered by that knowledge. I feel that I have the means to do something. Something good. Something I like.
It’s not every day that people receive feedback on why they weren’t selected for this program, that contest or that job. I wish people did. People who can figure out why on their own are the people who go ahead in life, because they synthesize ideas and change. However, when we do, it’s imperative that we follow it. Somewhat like what Lord Chesterfield said in a letter to his son, because we have the knowledge of how to improve, our sense of shame and regret must be greater than anybody’s when we don’t receive what we have worked for.