Well, maybe I'm not good enough... [On Rejection]
I've learned something recently.
I don't take rejection well. I understand that most sentient beings don't, but I've learned that I really don't take rejection well. I just... don't.
Typically, I only allow myself to pursue opportunities that I believe I have a high likely hood of getting. This doesn't mean that I'm confident, it means that I don't try for much. (I would like to note that this is not at all a practical approach to development, but it's what I'm working with for now, okay?) Recently, I took a chance and threw my name into an applicant pool for something that seemed cool, but that I wasn't really sure about. I was initially pretty ambivalent towards the opportunity, but throughout the process I got really into the idea and started to feel really good about my chances, like to the point where it felt like a sure thing. I began to plan around the scheduling of this opportunity, and make (mental) plans for things I'd do and conversations I'd have with other people involved. My thinking is NEVER this future focused, so it was a new experience in many ways.
Then came the rejection. It wasn't even a "maybe" or a "you're great but". It was an out of the blue, no context, no explanation hard NO. I don't externalize, I implode. It was no longer about the opportunity. It was personal. Rejection is a sign that I'm a bad person.
"Why didn't they pick me?"
"What does this say about me?"
"Who did they pick?"
"Are they better than me?"
"Of course they're better than me, I'm the worst."
"What did I do / say / not do / not say that cost me this opportunity?"
"How can I change?"
"Does this mean that no one likes me?"
"Do I now have to avoid everyone I know at xyz?"
"I'm the worst."
"I'm not worth it."
"They clearly hate me."
"Why did I even try?"
"I should just give up on everything."
And so on... and so on... Down and down.
I now know that in that moment, I was re-experiencing every rejection I'd ever experienced in my life, big or small, and that the sum of those experiences signaled to my anxious mind that I was worthless. I also now know that these feelings were valid and real but that that doesn't make them legit (see: true or based at all in any kind of reality). These are all good and fair things, but if I'm honest, it still kind of bothers me. I'll likely never know how that decision was made, or even who made it and I know that it's an awful idea to try and to make sense of my own feelings and self worth in response to someone else's actions. But isn't that kinda what we're taught to do?
A million people have said that low self-esteem cycles back around to pride. The thinking is the same, but instead of "I'm the best I deserve this" it becomes a game of "i'm annoyed that this didn't work out because I think I deserve/know/could do/should be treated better." I don't disagree with any of that. It makes sense to me, but that's not entirely how I experience it. Being insecure in the first place and then (seemingly) having those insecurities confirmed and tested in such a deep way is HARD. Like, just going "ooh, let me check my pride here" doesn't make the hurt go away. It doesn't calm the not-enoughs.
I probably should explicitly mention that this story has no solution. No happy ending. No 'and then I felt okay' moment. Feeling like everyday disappointments, disagreements, and rejections are assaults on my character is slowly killing me. I'm always on edge, it makes trying harder, it makes trusting harder, it takes a lot of the beauty out of failure. But I'm not going to stop trying. Baby steps. Right?