The Helping Hand of Rejection

by Lanie Hymowitz ’22

Source: Public Domain

Published Nov. 10, 2020

Reject. For me, it conjures up the image of a teddy bear at a toy factory, tossed into the waste bin for eternity simply for having mismatched eyes and torn seams. It is a reject, never to be used. The idea of rejection is seen as something so heartbreaking and shameful that no child should be exposed to it. 

But in high school, rejection looms from all areas of your life: socially, romantically, or academically. While schools largely can’t intervene in the first two types, administrators may have a role in the level of academic rejection a student may experience. This is ultimately based on how competitive the academic environment may be. With college applications around the corner, high schoolers are too old to be coddled with participation trophies. But are they too young to experience so much rejection all at once?

Simply put, no. High schoolers are not too young for rejection; in fact, they need it. Biologically, rejection helps us improve. In the times of cavemen, when a plan failed, the pain of failure pushed us to devise new ideas at a faster rate in order to stay alive. The problem at hand is how we as high schoolers view ourselves after rejection: like the teddy bear in the factory. 

Say you get rejected from the lacrosse team freshman year. For many Montgomery students, this could be the end of their lacrosse career. After all, it only counts if you’re in a club for 4 years straight, right? For many of us, this is what we’ve been led to believe. In reality, rejection in these cases can help us become even more dedicated to our interests. 

Rejection, as we all unfortunately know, stings, even worse than physical pain in some cases. We are more likely to strongly remember emotional pain over injuries, which is why our caveman instincts tell us that we must avoid rejection at all costs. The different strategies we use to dodge rejection are what guide us in our “survival”. If getting onto the lacrosse team was your highest priority, you would continue to practice enough to make it onto the team next year, successfully avoiding rejection. But if you find that rejection was a sign that lacrosse isn’t for you, you’re inclined to explore new hobbies you may not have considered before. 

Either way, each situation demonstrates that rejection is not the opposite of validity. Your interests are valid because you are using your strengths to improve in a field of interest, even if you are new to it or find it difficult. It’s important to always remember that we are people, capable of endlessly rebounding, and not a malformed pile of fluff. 

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