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.
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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