Welcome to Mo’s Letter, a series of essays by Dr Mo on personal growth and professional success in a digital world. Today’s essay is about disappointment.
So here’s what’s gonna happen:
You’ll apply for that scholarship and send in your CV, certifications, and 3 references from people you barely speak to. The university programme you applied for will demand the same, which you’ll dutifully send.
The selection committee on both sides will look at your carefully crafted application, confer among themselves, and send you a polite letter thanking you for your interest. You’ll spot the tell-tale keyword (“regrettably”) and quickly close the email to minimize the sting of rejection.
Meanwhile, that other vacancy you applied for is perfect: they’re not asking for too many years of experience, you can do 90% of the duties and responsibilities, and you even have a higher degree than what they’re asking for. It’s in a company that’ll look good on your CV, they’re big enough to pay you enough, and you tick all the boxes.
But after careful consideration, they regret to inform you that you won’t be getting this job. Or the next one. In fact, your inbox over the coming weeks will be a wasteland of rejection emails by the time the job market is done with you. It will hurt each time.
Twitter has taught you to shoot your shot because good people get snapped up fast. You’ll slide into that DM with a killer line tailored specifically to a post they just made. They’ll “haha” and respond. You’ll go back and forth with them, eventually setting up a casual meet-up at that restaurant that serves nice burgers with chilli-cheese chips. The meal will be magical. The banter will be better. The Netflix movie at their place that weekend will remain unfinished, for scientific reasons.
Three movies later, the texts will dry up and the convos will stall and your video calls will go unanswered as they repeatedly remind you that they’re busy. You’ll read between the lines, of course, and remove yourself from their lives — perhaps swearing they’ll never find someone else like you, or that they’ll never find happiness. Well, they will, and they will. They’ll be happier without you, even.
And that’s ok.
A small part of anxiety stems from our fear of failure, rejection, and abandonment. A small part of depression stems from taking said failure, rejection, and abandonment too personally.
But the root cause of both of these states is the expectation that things have to go right. That because you applied for a job, they have to give it to you. That because you started a business, it has to work out. That because you like someone, they have to like you back.
Optimism, in a sense, is built into the human psyche — without it, we’d quickly lose our will to live. But failure and rejection are also built into the fabric of life, and as we apply for opportunities, send in our documents, and shoot our professional and romantic shots, we need to accept that we may not always get what we want — at least not right now.
And that’s ok.
Because better will come.
In my last post, I explained the concept of “affirmations” — how the things we tell ourselves can help or harm us down the line. Here’s why:
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Mohammed Shehu, Ph.D. writes on content and marketing for creators and brands. You can find him online @shehuphd everywhere.