Rejection teaches valuable lessons


Chelsie Park, Centerfold Editor

Failure and rejection are innate parts of life. We all have or will receive letters starting with something along the lines of “We regret to inform you that…” or project papers with a big fat F or D stamped onto them or the simple reply of “no.” When faced with rejection, we often shrink into ourselves and wallow in shame and regret. We try to cover up our failures and deny their existence by shoving them into a dark little corner in our brains reserved for such terrible experiences. It’s true that no one strives to get rejected, to lose or to fail. But many people underappreciate the value and importance of rejection: it offers opportunities to learn and improve. Humans are by nature imperfect, and rejection and failure are the golden tickets to improvement and a happier life.

Trial and error can be scary, especially in a society with an education system that prioritizes correct answers and puts students under immense pressure to get things right the first time. The importance placed on test scores impacts us in ways that hinders our understanding of the value in rejection. Cognitive Studies researcher Xiaodong Lin-Siegler of Columbia University acknowledged in her 2016 study, “Even Einstein Struggled: Effects of Learning About Great Scientists’ Struggles on High School Students’ Motivation to Learn Science,” that it’s difficult for teachers to let kids fail and teach them to learn from it. As a result, rejection and failure have become regarded as inherently negative experiences.

Additionally, Lin-Siegler’s study discovered that when high school students learned of the failures and difficulties of famous scientists such as Einstein and Marie Curie, their science grades improved while the grades of students who only learned about scientists’ successes dropped. This suggests that failure, or even just hearing about the failures of others, is a powerful tool for learning. When we see that even the most successful and distinguished people have encountered numerous failures, it’s clear that rejection and failure are not impediments to success; in fact, they are stepping stones to a more satisfying accomplishment. Failure is a normal part of learning and growing, and we need to embrace that.

Furthermore, seeing the value in failure and rejection as opportunities for learning and betterment reduces anxiety and sadness associated with the words and experiences themselves. By highlighting the values of rejection, its negative aspects are diminished. As a result, rejection becomes easier to face and deal with, and stress from past or future failures don’t have so much weight to them anymore. In turn, reduced stress leads to a happier and healthier life.

Rejection and failure don’t have to be devastating. By spinning them into positive experiences,  we can continually improve ourselves and our lives.