LWBW: Failure? Rejection? Disappointment? Moose, you got this!

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

– Michael Jordan

TL;DR: I know this is a long message, but please do read it and visit https://www.matheycollege.live/embrace-the-fail. This page features non-success stories from people in our community whom you trust and admire.

You’re in the thick of the academic year, Moose. Maybe your Princeton experience thus far has met or exceeded all of your expectations. If so, that’s great, and I would definitely put you in the category of #blessed. For most students, the college journey is filled with plenty of twists and turns. Today, I want to focus on those occasions when you encounter disappointment. I raise this topic now because I have been listening to you, and I know you’re facing decisions on a variety of important matters ranging from grades, RCA selection, bicker, to job/internship offers. There is the very real possibility that you did not get exactly what you were hoping for. This got me thinking about useful strategies for managing disappointment or taming self-criticism that may result from not getting what you want.

I’m here to remind you that failure is an option. It is 100% normal to not achieve a goal or milestone you set for yourself. You will inevitably be deterred or disappointed at some point. I invite you to consider all the ways in which you can learn from the experience. You’ll be glad you did. The next time you face some kind of failure or rejection, you will be stronger and more capable of managing your feelings and bouncing back.

Please read on for tips on how to practice good coping skills. Remember, if you are too tough on yourself, you run the risk of reinforcing feelings of inadequacy and eroding self-confidence. Allow me to highlight the many ways in which you can avoid this trap, Moose!

Speak differently to yourself. When you can respond to life’s challenges with caring and acceptance, you will find yourself more content, confident, and capable of dealing with life’s curve balls. Here are a few examples:

Instead of thinking...

Try thinking...

I give up.

I can try a different strategy.

This is terrible.

I'm having a tough time, but it's normal to struggle in this way. I can still accept myself and be patient and strong.

This is too hard.

It's going to take more time to figure this out.

I made a mistake.

Mistakes help me learn. Sometimes, mistakes lead to innovation or new opportunities.

I can't make this better.

There's always room for improvement.

Unravel your inner critic.

Identify and challenge unhelpful assumptions. If you judge yourself to be not smart enough, unlikable, uncool, or whatever, take a moment to examine the validity of his statement. Is it a fact or an opinion? Remember: Just because you see yourself a certain way doesn't mean you’re right. You can rewrite the script by creating more helpful responses to life’s setbacks. With regards to bicker: instead of saying, “I am [fill in disparaging adjective here] for not getting into that club,” you can say, “Good people don’t get into the club of their choice. I am a good person, and it just didn’t work out with that particular club.”

Expect slip-ups and get right back on track.

Remember that the top performers in any field -- whether it is athletics, the business world, the arts, or academics -- all face rejection. Instead of nurturing disappointment, these high achievers immediately get back on track. So, give yourself credit for what you are doing right. For those instances when you fall short, learn what you can, and then give it another go in ways that make sense to you. It’s worth it.

Self-compassion is an antidote to self-criticism.

Self-criticism can become a reflexive habit, and many people don’t even notice how often they engage in it. Ask, “How helpful is it to speak so harshly to myself? Would I speak this way to a dear friend?”

And finally:

  • Keep in mind that you’ve overcome other life challenges, and you can get through this one too.

  • Remember to take care of yourselves and each other, and make time to relax and decompress. If you need help and aren’t sure where to turn, please reach out to me, and I will help you make the right connection.

  • Be reminded that you are not alone! We are here for you!

Thinking of you,

Dr. Cepin