Dealing with Failure

Everybody fails from time to time, although most people are reluctant to admit it. Instead, they try to hide their flaws and imperfections, trying to maintain an image they want others to have of them. But “there’s a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can’t help people knowing about you.” (from an interview with Diane Arbus, in: .diane arbus., p. 2) In brief: It is impossible to completely control what people think of you anyway; so you may just as easily be yourself (which might make it easier for like-minded people to recognize you, too).

But I digress. Today, I received notice that my application to a junior scientist program had been declined. I had put much effort in the application; my boss had written a wonderful recommendation; I had tried to outline my motivation well; in brief, I had thought I really had a good chance to be admitted at least to the next step of the selection procedure. But apparently, the committee had a different opinion.

Normally, I would have been depressed, would have devalued myself, doubted my ability as a scientist, and taken the whole thing somewhat personally. I tried a different approach today. In order for a program to be successful, its requirements have to match the applicants’ characteristics. The fact that someone is not admitted does not speak against this person’s abilities, or even his/her value as a person, but simply reflects that the committee was not convinced about the match between person and program. Nothing more and nothing less.

I therefore tried to interpret the result in this light:

  • The program aimed at people with a postdoc experience of 2–4 years; I have about one and a half. So that may be a formal reason.
  • I have too few publications yet. That may be a point; but not being admitted to the program leaves me with more time to write, thus to acquire the competencies I still lack.
  • Decisions by committees are somewhat subjective (as is always the case when humans decide on something); so maybe I just did not conform to what they had thought of. Perhaps, I can apply again in a few years—maybe a different committee will make different decisions. (Personally, I would appreciate a second attempt as a sign of motivation, commitment, and sincere interest.)

Although the rejection still hurts a little, I do not feel as bad as I usually would. I have refused to feel helpless; I have rather accepted the notice as a piece of information, as an opportunity to reflect on my areas of self-improvement. And then to act! 🙂

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2 Responses to Dealing with Failure

  1. Rejection can sometimes be a gift.

  2. spaetervogel says:

    Wow! What a great, encouraging text, and what a great attitude! Thanks for sharing! If I should ever again experience a similar situation of rejection (and this is going to happen for sure), please remind me of reading this text before chosing depression!

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