Are You Secretly Destroyed By Rejection?
We don’t like to talk about disappointment. Here’s to normalizing it.
Do you ever feel disappointed?
I mean, of course you do. You live in the world, you have hopes that things will go one way and then they go another, and then there it is! But personally, disappointment is an emotion that I usually try to smother with shame; it’s certainly not a feeling that I want to admit to anyone I’m feeling. Because if you’re disappointed, it also means you were WRONG about something — and being wrong about things isn’t culturally acceptable in the modern Western world.
If you’re a creative person, rejection is part of the deal: art is subjective, and not everyone is going to like the thing you make. You might apply for fellowships, submit your work for publication, interview for coveted jobs, ask to be considered for residencies, or publish things you worked hard on, hoping for positive reception. You might pay an application fee to show the organization that you’re serious about wanting the thing that you want. And then you might get an email subject lined “Your Application” — which is a universally bad sign. The email will thank you for your application, and it will tell you that there were an overwhelming amount of talented applicants and that the decision was very difficult. Then it will say “unfortunately,” and you won’t finish reading it.
I acknowledge that this is not a universal experience, and that not everyone applies for things for which they can be rejected via email. But existing in the world means that sometimes you’re rejected. There are plenty of real-life, non-form-written versions of an “unfortunately” email.
I don’t know what you do when you get one of these emails. Here is my emotional trajectory when I get one:
- “Well, of course. It was always a long shot anyway. At least now I know, and I tried.”
- “Wow, I am SO MATURE about this. Doot Doot Doot, time to move on to the next task. Look at how nobly I am moving on to the next thing!”
- “Why am I crying?! I mean, am I actually *disappointed*?! What did I THINK was going to happen??? Did I honestly think I had a chance at this thing?!”