Fear of Rejection

Many of you have probably felt the fear of rejection. It seems to be an ordinary human emotion. I recently went through graduate school applications. Notably, I applied to the prestigious CIHR Training Program in Bioinformatics at UBC and SFU. With an admittance rate of ~5%, it seemed only normal to fear rejection, since it represented a real and probable outcome.

Knowing the odds were against me, I still applied, and in the end, I was rejected. Did I lose anything? Nope, and this is important to acknowledge. I believe that the fear of rejection stems from the fear of losing something, which I consider unfounded. An opportunity is nothing more than a potential gain; it represents nothing tangible. Hence, if you jump at an opportunity but fail, you aren't losing anything, since you've never gained something in the first place. Now, if you're afraid that your ego will be tarnished, what's it worth if it's going to prevent you from achieving something great?

I stress that one should never skip an opportunity out of fear of rejection, since you have nothing to lose. In fact, you can still acquire valuable feedback in the event of rejection. I've asked why I wasn't taken for the aforementioned scholarship program and I was told I wasn't as advanced as the other applicants in terms of computer skills, despite excellent academic standing otherwise. As a result, I started working hard on improving my programming1. So, if ever you hesitate to take an opportunity out of fear of failing, I can guarantee you that inaction is the only way you can fail.

Addendum: I must admit there is one situation that merits special consideration: to tell someone that you love them for the first time. It involves a fear of rejection, more so than usual. I think this can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that it isn't one's work or knowledge that will be rejected, all of which that can be improved upon. Rather, the rejection concern something more fundamental, namely the person's identity. It's much more difficult to accept the fact that something is wrong with you than with your work, knowledge, etc. Whether this will ever be easy, I don't know. What I do know is that one's courage will determine how readily they will take the risk.


  1. I did end up finding a supervisor. However, if it hadn't worked out, I would have focused on ameliorating my computer skills and eventually reapply the following year. Effectively, I would have bettered myself as a result of rejection. 

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Redesigning my Blog

After more than a year with the previous iteration, I finally redesigned my blog. I've been meaning to improve a few things, but eventually decided to overhaul the whole thing. No more sidebar. Bigger and better typography. Added personality. More thoughtful articles, hopefully.

As always, I seek as much feedback as I can get. Let me know what you don't like rather than what you like. I assume what you don't comment on is good as is. Send me a tweet using the link below or email me with the critique. Thank you in advance.

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“Have the Courage to Be Direct”

Diplomacy is a great virtue but so is clarity, and diplomacy without our clarity is just undiplomatic B.S. Have the courage to be direct.
Anthony K. Tjan

I entirely agree with the author’s argument. I find myself avoiding making points for the sake of diplomacy, since I don’t want to stir up conflict. I've always taken pride in being affable, and I often get the impression that being direct would make it difficult to maintain my reputation of being friendly. However, as the above article clearly demonstrates, this diplomatic approach tends to be unhelpful and hinders whatever is the task at hand.

While the blog post explores the impacts on business, the idea remains true for all other aspects that you might encounter. At school, at work, with family and friends, in a relationship. We should all strive to improve ourselves. Moreover, I believe being direct should be a duty in any interpersonal relationship, however professional or intimate, assuming you want the other person’s wellbeing.

There’s no denying this isn’t easy. As I mentioned, I find it particularly difficult given my diplomatic nature. While you might be unsure as to who would be receptive to feedback, you can make it clear to others that you actively seek it. In fact, you should solicit constructive criticism whenever the opportunity presents itself. Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, gives this very advice (at 21:02).

So, the take-home message is simply to be more direct. If ever you find yourself avoiding making a point in order to avoid conflict, does it really help others? Most likely, you’re either delaying the inevitable, or you’re preventing someone from becoming a better person, both of which are undesirable. Also, a good starting point is to seek out negative feedback and convincing others to do the same. Hopefully, this will lead to a world more open to criticism, a world actively trying to improve itself.

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