“I didn’t get the job,” I sobbed to my partner last summer on the couch, devastated. “No one is ever going to hire me!”
Reading these words now, they seem dramatic. But at the time, I fully believed them. I believed I would never get a job, and I would never be able to get the experience necessary to move forward in my field.
I felt, succinctly, hopeless.
Over a couple of months, I got rejected from another job, then another. But, somewhere in the middle of the cycle of rejection I found myself realizing something — I was becoming less afraid of rejection. The more it happened, the more I could understand it as, simply, a potential outcome of a situation. I stopped telling myself stories about why I was rejected. I also stopped framing these rejections as serious indications of my fundamental worth (“I’m not good enough,” “I’m not smart enough,” “I’m a failure”) and instead simplified the story: I either get the job, or I don’t.
This did something pretty incredible: shedding the fear of failure made me emboldened to apply to more jobs. I had never realized how intensely my own fear of failure was gripping and limiting me; I was doing everything in my power not to get rejected, and this actually meant that I was limiting myself to apply to “safe” jobs—jobs I was certain that I had a shot at getting. But now, I felt like I could take risks. I applied to jobs I was sure I had no chance at, but felt fundamentally excited about. Through these application processes, I was able to gain insight and understanding into the more specific aspects of the job I was interested in, and eventually came to the conclusion that I wanted to pursue a job that allows others to self-express and heal.
These rejections also encouraged me to become more creative with how I was gaining experience: if I can’t get this experience through a company or organization, how else can I get it?
Because I was interested in self-expression and the healing impact it has, I started writing and submitting my pieces to different websites. I started building a portfolio of my own work, and gaining a deeper understanding of and passion for the impact of self-expression. In my free time, I started volunteering with organizations that work with different groups of people to help them express themselves through art and writing. These experiences were not exactly the job that I had imagined myself jumping into after college; they were smaller, more careful steps. Steps that allowed me to be reflexive along the way: do I like this experience? What do I like about it? Not like about it? How can I use this knowledge in choosing my next steps?
Letting go of the fear of failure has opened up so much opportunity for exploration. I have had a windy, nonlinear career path so far—but I am truly appreciating and learning so much every step along the way, and am excited to see where this path is leading me.