By Ravy Sophearoth
“Dear Applicant, we are sorry that you are not selected.”
Well, this was a very popular sentence I always received after I applied for a volunteer, internship, job or exchange program; and because of this REJECTION, I was always afraid to try again; it took away my confidence and made me feel like I am just a loser.
But that was me in the past 2 years.
I remember I always cried seeing those “Sorry”s in emails. It was like a nightmare receiving them. Imagine waiting for the response for weeks, sometimes, even months. Then all you get is ‘we are sorry’? SORRY, Are you kidding me??? Back then, I usually stared at those emails and wondered WHY DO THEY NEED TO SAY SORRY WHEN THEY BROKE MY HEART SO BAD. SORRY IS NOT SORRY.
After some time passed and I reflected on the rejections, I realized that it was not other people who were the problem, but me. It is not because there were a lot of candidates applying for the program. It is not because people were cruel for not selecting me. It is not because I was ugly, but because I was not ready or there was another opportunity that fit me better. I deserved something else better.
Do you believe that rejection is a chance for us to reflect on our lives?
If you don’t, I am a living proof of that.
Six months ago, my school announced the annual program for a journalism internship abroad. One of the top places to go to is Germany. I was so excited because it was one of my goals to do an internship in Europe. I thought it would be such a great opportunity. So, I tried to write a good cover letter and prepared the best CV I could. Luckily, I was shortlisted. I went to the interview stage, but… I was not selected in the end. Damned, again. My dream was gone. My Europe plan was buried in the dust of rejection.
I can clearly imagine what the younger me would say:
Dear committees, I really want to go to Germany. I really want to see the Berlin Wall. I want to fly for hours, travel thousands of miles to Europe for a taste of a better life; I already told my parents that I will make them proud. I gave my mom hope that her daughter would make it to Europe because none of our family members has been there before. Why do you take away my dream?
However, after this rejection, I didn’t feel mad at other people at all. Instead, I asked myself, why did I fail? What do I really want in life? Is the Europe trip really important for me? If I could not make it now, why don’t I try another way or try something else? (Actually, I had a backup plan. Months before I applied for the internship abroad program at school, I had been selected as an intern at a local leading research institute.) Even though, I lost this opportunity, I have another; so I can just focus on what I am doing now.
A month after I failed to get the internship, I applied to be an evening English teacher for children at a community school. These kids are being raised in poor families and living in the dumping ground neighborhood in Steung Meanchey. Even though they are poor, these kids have rich hearts; they are so innocent, playful, and lovable. You know, these young people tried to save money together (about 200-300 riels = $0.1 every day for a month) in order to buy small cakes and make a surprise birthday for me (although they have no idea when my birthday is). They are grateful for what I teach them and wanted me to be happy.
Spending my summer evenings with them was like cleaning my polluted mind. I realized I didn’t need to go to Germany and see the Berlin Wall. I could just stay in Cambodia and try to look at what hid behind the poverty wall and help some young people in need. I didn’t need to travel thousands of miles for a better life; just teaching in a small school in my own country could also help improve many lives.
Instead of complaining, I am really thankful to those committees who failed me and selected the right person. To be very honest, my purpose of getting the internship was to travel to Europe, but not really about journalistic learning or training. Also, my friend who was selected for the program is the one who really enjoys what she is doing in journalism. I am good, but compared to her, she is better.
You would think that these are just excuses for me to cover up the shame of the rejections I got. But I don’t think so. After getting rejected, rather than complaining about the result, I asked myself why did I fail and try to identify my weaknesses. Then I looked at those who were successful over me to see their strengths. Knowing my own shortcomings, I kept improving myself so that I would not get rejected by the same reasons. That’s how I coped with my rejection and it actually worked. Eventually, I got selected for an exchange program abroad.
Sure, no one wants to be rejected; neither do I. Nonetheless, we cannot control it. When we get rejected, we tend to start blaming other people and feeling ashamed of ourselves. We get mad at those who don’t choose us or those who are selected over us. We complain about the number of applications. We sometimes push ourselves into depression as well, calling ourselves dumb losers instead of taking a few moments to reflect on why we didn’t make it.
What if we just take some time to think about what we can do to improve ourselves or what we can do to move past the rejection?
Hey you, if you happen to get rejected, please remember that you are not dumb and you are not a loser. You just need a little bit more time to make yourself better or to find those who can truly see your best. You just need some time to enhance your skills and adjust your weakness; and maybe you deserve something else that’s better for you.
If you just got rejected or haven’t succeeded what you want to achieve yet, I think this song would help. Enjoy!
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.