I have always been afraid of rejection, or rather fear of failure; of putting myself out there. This is not uncommon, particularly in people that are used to getting good grades in high school and university. In the academic world you know that if you work hard, if you study, you will get good grades. All it takes to “succeed” in academia is to put in the time and tick the right boxes. That is not the case in the real world.
Good grades are not enough.
When I decided that I wanted to start pursuing a career in media and journalism, I thought that I couldn’t write for magazines if I wasn’t hired by them. But I also thought that no magazine would hire me if I didn’t have a portfolio to show. And I had not worked in creating one because I always put coursework as a priority. I realized then that having good grades was not enough when applying for work experiences; good grades and club involvements are great but they don’t make you stand out.
I wanted to be a writer and yet I had nothing to prove that I was good at writing.
When I first told my partner that I wanted to be a writer, I said that that it is my dream job, but I didn’t think I would be able to actually do it because it was too hard an industry to get into. His response shocked me, although it was very simple. He asked me why, he asked what was stopping me from writing.
It was fear, of rejection, of failure.
I realized it was fear. Fear of people not liking my work if it wasn’t approved by a big publisher or newspaper. Fear of coming up with bad ideas because I had no teacher or mentor to give me the “go”. I was afraid of being rejected, of failing. By not putting myself out there, I was protecting myself from being rejected, but I was also keeping myself from success.
So I started pitching articles. I started small, sending short pieces to university magazines and newspapers. Everything started from there. By having a portfolio of published work I was able to apply to positions in those university publications. My portfolio spoke for itself. It spoke of my talent and dedication a hundred times more than just my desire did.
I made a Linkedin account and started reaching people and applying for positions. I didn’t wait for a publication to offer me work the same way that I used to wait for a good grade to be given to me. I asked for work, I pitched ideas.
I have started to write my first novel because I enjoy doing it, regardless of whether I will someday be paid for it. I have started reaching out to people on social media that I admire, and some of them have written back to me. Each message is worth it because if people don’t know you, they won’t give you opportunities.
I rejected myself before others could do it.
I followed and read The Tempest for four years before I dared to apply for its fellowship. For four years I didn’t think I was good enough or professional enough to write for a platform such as this one. I rejected myself before others could do it. I finally put together the courage to apply this year, and it is one of the best things I have ever done. I could have joined earlier had I not been so afraid to put myself out there.
I am still very much working on overcoming my fear of failure and pushing myself to do the things that I want to do, not just the ones I think I have a chance of being accepted to do. I’m learning to not let guilt or self-doubt keep me from pursuing what I want to do. I’m learning not to wait for others to offer me the opportunities I want because they won’t.
You will only get what you want if you fight for it.