The value of rejection

Christina Greer Ph.D. | 8/29/2019, 2:46 p.m.
I was recently talking to a friend who did not receive a job she applied for. I then spoke to ...
Dr. Christina Greer

I was recently talking to a friend who did not receive a job she applied for. I then spoke to a former student about not getting into a graduate program of interest to her. There are some weeks where it feels like rejection is swirling around us. However, when those times come, as they inevitably do, I think it is best to stop and take stock of the value of rejection in all aspects of our lives. We must honestly ask ourselves particular questions. Were we rejected for striving for something just out of our reach or were we rejected for striving for something that was unrealistic? Is it time to reevaluate our goals, skills and current station in life? Who in our lives can assist us with attaining our goals? Who in our lives is best suited to help sooth the wounds of rejection?

A mentor of mine once told me, “If you’re not getting rejected, then you aren’t aiming high enough.” I always think of those sage words when an article does not get accepted or a fellowship application is rejected. What I find as important as the actual rejection is sharing those experiences with others. So many people think they are the only ones who did not “clear the bar” in a particular circumstance. However, if we are all more open and honest, we will find that almost everyone in our lives is processing how to move through varying forms of rejection. Whenever I tell my students I get rejected from things all of the time, they do not believe me. Seeing me in front of the classroom having completed several degrees gives many of them an illusion of invincibility.

May years ago I applied for a prestigious fellowship at a particular institution. Several of my friends had been in residence there and successfully completed book projects during their tenure. In my estimation, the fellowship description fit my scholarship “perfectly,” so you can imagine my surprise and disappointment when I was rejected. Instead of sulking in silence, I shared the news with my colleagues only to find out they had each applied for the fellowship no fewer than three times before they received it. Rejection was a part of their fellowship process and they steadily moved forward toward their goal, even when there seemed to be more negative responses than positives at times.

Now, there is a fine line between healthy rejection and abuse. If you find yourself in situations where the rejection is personality based and bad for your psyche and self esteem, then I would strongly recommend speaking to a trained professional and/or finding ways to remove yourself from that particular situation.

Rejection is a part of life, so let’s live.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” the co-host of the new podcast FAQ-NYC, and the host of The Aftermath and The Counter on Ozy.com.