Does U.Va. prepare us for rejection?

Not really, but here are some healthy ways I’ve learned to handle it

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Emma Keller is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Emma Klein | Cavalier Daily

Rejection. Disappointment. Failure. These things are the bane of the typical University student’s existence — they are our kryptonite. 

But how did we get to this point where a “D” on a paper or a rejection from an organization is enough to make us feel out of place or unworthy of being here? As I think back to my time in high school and the things I focused on — grades, extracurriculars and applications — I understand. 

Obsessing over the temporary is how many of us got accepted at the University. Most of us come here having been the top of our graduating class or the leaders of various clubs and organizations. So rejection was not very common in our high-school careers — until we arrived at the University. Here, where nearly everyone was their high school’s star and everything from majors to clubs requires an application, rejection and disappointment become much more prevalent. 

Usually, our first instinct when we receive news we do not like is to call a friend and spew every single bad thing that has happened in the past month at them. While this may temporarily relieve some of your stress, it could also leave you feeling worse about your situation than before. 

I know everyone loves a good vent session, but it is important to remember that ranting is not always a productive way to handle your disappointment. 

This semester more than ever before, I have felt the need to push and push myself until I felt like I met others’ expectations. That “D” on a paper I mentioned earlier, that rejection from an organization, that sense of feeling out of place here — that was me. Those were the disappointments I let define me. 

It took a really good friend who noticed the negative changes in my mood and behavior to call attention to the unhealthy ways I was handling my own rejection and disappointment. I was taking out my frustrations with not being able to meet my goals on my eating habits and my sleep schedule. 

But even now, when I think about how I was letting my personal health and wellbeing suffer to meet my own high standards, I wonder how many of my peers — how many of you — are doing the exact same thing and just writing it off as part of the “typical college experience.” 

The mindset we cultivate here that frames free time with a “you could be doing more” lens and allows us to feel guilty about taking a break is rarely discussed or opposed in classrooms, clubs or any other social situations we find ourselves in. Yet the pressure we are placed under — or place ourselves under — to succeed in everything is evident everywhere. 

In order to cope with the University’s pressure cooker, we have taken to venting and ranting. It is in our conversations, filled with comparing how much homework we have. It is in our relationships, where valuable time is taken up complaining about our obligations. It is in our heads when we set unrealistic goals for ourselves. This is not a sustainable way to live, and it is certainly not a lifestyle that promotes learning and growing from our rejections, something that is arguably more important than the rejection itself. 

Here are some helpful tidbits that I’ve learned along the way that I hope will help you rant productively.

Take some time to cool off

Whether it’s watching a movie, journaling or even making yourself a cup of tea, step away for a second, or a few days, to gain a less in-the-moment perspective on the situation.

Don’t trade negative energy

Ranting with someone who will share in your complaining and give the negativity you are letting go right back to you will drain you even more rather than help you get over your disappointments.

Choose someone you trust 

If you need to rant, do it with someone who will listen, not interject with their own experiences or advice when it is not helpful or necessary.

Rant in private

Your rants should stay between you and the person you trust to rant to, which means staying off social media.

Try not to let ranting become part of your everyday life

Everyone needs a good vent or two every once in a while, but constantly complaining will leave you and your friends exhausted.

Validate what you are feeling

Acknowledge your rejection or disappointment and your emotions without blaming yourself or disregarding your feelings as “overreacting.” Show yourself some compassion. Your emotions are valid no matter what the little critic inside your head says.

While the University’s competitive culture may not prepare you to healthily handle rejection, I hope this short list of practical ways to circumvent toxic ranting will be of some use to you. Above all else, the most crucial component of handling rejection is to not let it define you. If you put your value in things that are temporary like your grades or your 10 surface-level CIO involvements, you will never find success no matter how hard you work. If I could leave you with just one lesson — one I am still trying to learn — about dealing with rejection, it would be that a rejection does not make you a failure. 

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