The musical, A Chorus Line, begins with a song “God I hope I get it” the crowd of hungry actors and actresses sing. Desperation and longing saturate every note in that song. The audience feels everything on the line for these performers. God, I hope I get it! Haven’t we all been there? To want something or someone with everything we have? Sweaty palms and shaking hands approach the situation. The adrenaline of anticipation and insecurity veils everything…. until we pierce through it. “Do you want to go out with me?” “Oh… gosh! I really like you… but just as a friend, ya know” BOOM! Ego destroyed! Cue the internal lash out “I knew I was ugly and gross and I’m weird and my thighs ARE too fat! That was so STUPID!! I should’ve left well-enough alone. I’m such a dumb bitch.” We’ve all been there.
Rejection is a part of life– a pretty big one. We will be rejected over and over again. I’m not sure why stigma clouds it. Why shame shrouds effort. I think rejection is a good thing– how it toughens us, makes us resilient, and redirects us when chasing things that aren’t right for us. I don’t enjoy it, but just because a feeling or outcome is unpleasant, that doesn’t make it unfruitful. Part of my fortitude grew from being rejected. I learned to measure my persistence in the number of doors slammed in my face. Grace is a virtue I developed through understanding that other’s reactions have nothing to do with me, and that everyone deserves softness. Patience came when the answer arrived long after I wanted.
To shoot your shot– whether that is a relationship or a job or an activity– is an exposing experience. It requires tremendous bravery. To try at anything is really badass. So, If you’re feeling bad about rejection, please enjoy a list of things that have rejected me, Marisa McGrath:
- Boston College
- That one bar when I was underage and tried to get in
- A man who didn’t have a job
- A Competitive Dance Team
- A man who def spray tanned
- Plenty of college clubs
- A gay man
- Being an RA in college
- A man who didn’t know what an alarm clock was, and went onto talk to/ date my friend the same week as my birthday
- Countless jobs (I applied for 215 jobs, went on 43 interviews, 34 in person, and traveled over 8000 miles before I got a full-time job after college).
- My fifth-grade play
- My sixth-grade play
- This social media influencer who I thought wanted to be my friend, but when I wasn’t interested in purchasing her services, she friend-ghosted me
- Every group of “cool kids” or “in crowd” ever
- My first crush ever, who told me in front of our entire first-grade class that I was the ugliest girl in the world
- A therapist who broke up with me mid-session because I’ve “been through a lot”
- Did I mention jobs?
To feel better about yourself after rejection, here are some thoughts:
- Filet Mignon isn’t everyone’s flavor, but that doesn’t decrease its value. If someone is craving a Big Mac, you can’t make them want Filet Mignon. It’s not what they want. That doesn’t objectively make Filet Mignon worse than a Big Mac, tho.
- You can’t miss your boat. If you didn’t get something or someone, it’s not your boat. What’s meant for you is still coming for you.
- It’s better to hear a “no” than be haunted by a “what if”
- Sometimes, the “no” is actually sparing you from an agonizing path. Sometimes “no” is the universe aligning you for something better later on.
- If someone is in search of tin, they aren’t going to recognize gold. That doesn’t mean the gold isn’t gold. It just means you put your value in the wrong appraiser’s eyes.
- Most people respect the hell out of people who try. It’s a really good judge of character. Those who mock people for shooting their shot are typically lame. I’d rather be the one trying than the one mocking any day of the week. At least the try-er has the possibility of being happy.
Rejection has very little (if anything) to do with you. Rejection is about the other person/ group/ situation– their perceptions, issues, emotional vantage point. You can’t control any of that. But you can show up. You can advocate for yourself by putting yourself in the realm of opportunity and then give yourself the grace to accept whatever the outcome is. Don’t beat yourself up. You have no reason to. Be a graceful loser. I am an excellent loser. I’ve had a lot of practice. But when you react with kindness and compassion, when you still treat people with friendliness and respect even when they can’t give you what you want, you benefit. You build a reputation. Sometimes, another opportunity presents itself instead. The outcome isn’t a reflection of you, but your reaction is.
I’ve advanced in life one face-fall at a time. There’s nothing cool about effort. The vulnerability is unglamorous, but it speaks volumes. Vulnerability says “I’m not perfect, AND I want to be seen. I am brave enough to try and connect. I am brave enough to be seen without the gimmicks and the games”. I try too hard. I try too hard at pretty much everything all the time. I used to be embarrassed about that– to be an anatomy of all feelings and no finesse, all push and no chill. But this is me. I am not longer in the business of apologizing for how loudly I live.
What I know is that you have to keep your heart big and pure and good. You can’t internalize how other people screw with it, which is hard. Here’s the thing: when love or success or whatever you’re craving comes, you want to catch it with both hands. I know this because I allowed my heart to shrink a little. I allowed the game playing to make me a game player, and I didn’t really care that my behaviors negatively impacted other people. Smallness became a habit, how I maintained myself and stunted feelings. And then I met someone who wasn’t playing games. Who was and is all there. I treated her like everyone else because everyone else had treated me that way. How other people treat me is not a reflection of my worth, but how I treat other people is absolutely a reflection of my character. I didn’t want to be just another person who optionizes others, who strings them along because they want to be connected but only at a safe distance, a person who is all attention and no substance. No, to be a person of quality, I had to come home to who I’ve been all along: a mushy and consistent whole-hearted goof who fails and is bogged down her own baggage, but she still wants to try. She is intent on transcending the weight of what’s been for the lightness of what is right now. I’m glad I went back.
Mocking the bright, sunny, and cheerful is a trait of the jaded and given up. Don’t buy into it. Enthusiasm is gold. We can spend this life pissed and disillusioned from everything that’s jipped us, but life deals everyone a raw deck. How are you playing your hand? Do you feel lucky to be at the table? Because I do. I know my people because they have skinned knees from falling down. They shoot their shots because this is one life, and you better make it one hell of a ride. They look as foolish as I do because this isn’t about looks — only feelings and connection. My people get their asses kicked and do it anyway. And those are the only people for me: not the cool ones, the trendy ones, the influencers and austere. No, my people are the try-ers, the feeler, the failures and the shakers.
God, I hope you get it! Whatever it is. But if you don’t get it, I hope you try and try again anyway. Things are going to work out for you, but only if you work. Only if you shoot your shot over and over again, understanding that not every one is going to make it in the basket. The right ones will get through. Life isn’t about the points you score, it’s how you play the game, and I’d rather miss every shot than ride the bench any day.