I have never handled rejection well. Not that anyone really does, but I feel like I am particularly bad at it. Part of my problem is that for much of my life (read: elementary and middle school) I was such a nerd that I mostly got everything I applied for or wanted in terms of school. (Note that I'm not saying anything about socially here. Social rejection is a whole 'nother beast that I'm not even touching here.) Therefore, when it came time to try for things that I was not as likely to get, I had mixed results.
Swimming was one place where I learned what it felt like to not meet my own expectations. I was always a solid swimmer, but (for the most part) not spectacular. I sure loved it, and I worked hard, but I wasn't a great competitor. People often told me to visualize my races...so I would, and I would visualize myself winning, and then end up crying in the locker room. I never quite got a grasp on how to manage my expectations so as to be satisfied with whatever result came.
In high school, I also tried for a few things that I failed to achieve. I was nominated for Homecoming court and who's who positions multiple times, and never won. I auditioned for an acting part in a history production and was only chosen to be an extra. And the real trial by fire through which I learned about rejection came in the form of 2004's Youth Legislature.
I had been involved in Youth Legislature for several years at that point and decided to run for office (Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives, to be exact). I put together a speech, made posters, solicited an introductory speaker who would speak highly of me, and came as far out of my shell to shake hands and schmooze as I could. My speech went well, I had a lot of fun...
...and then I lost.
I lost because my opponent went to a school who, in addition to its sister all-girls school, brought the largest delegation to Youth Leg. I lost because he was popular. To add insult to injury, the victor himself did the politician thing and came to shake my hand after results were out and said, "You really should have won. Your speech was so much better than mine." I was SO ANGRY. I was hurt, and disappointed in myself, and angry. I probably sucked it up and gave him some sort of superficial polite answer, but inside I was seething.
But the outcome of all of this is that I did not die. In fact, I sucked it up again and asked him for a nomination to an officer position, with which he obliged me. I didn't love it, but it was a step, and I certainly did like it. I'm pretty sure the experience even manifested itself in a college admissions essay or two.
A similar thing happened the same year with the aforementioned history acting gig. I ended up getting to fill in at several different posts and had a blast doing them all. I realized I probably would have been bored doing the same spiel every night and had more fun with it in the long run.
Yet even though the outcomes of those ostensible failures were positive, I still struggle with convincing myself to take the leap and try for things that are not guaranteed. I've had a few job rejections during and since college, and I always struggle with not letting them affect my self-worth. It is so much less scary to take the safe roads and stay where I know I am successful.
I ought to realize, though, that staying in that place will probably keep me from being as successful as I could be. Who knows but that the next place, the place that seems so uncomfortable from my current vantage point, might just be exactly the place where I am called to be? If I never leap, how will I ever know?
I am reminded of the verse in Esther where Mordecai tells her, "[... I]f you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" And Esther responds beautifully. She first goes to the Lord in fasting and then takes a leap, follows her uncle's terrifying instructions to a T, and says, "if I perish, I perish."
You know what? My risks won't even lead me to perish. The risks I have been called to take in my life have been so un-scary in light of what Esther was called to do. Why, then, is it so hard for me to adopt her "if I perish, I perish" attitude? Why, when I know the beauty and transformation that can come from leaping, am I so afraid to take the first step? If I come to my "for such a time as this," will I know it? Will I respond? Will I perish? Is it now?