I’ll be honest: I didn’t bicker because I was terrified of being hosed. As I wrote in an article , I felt rejected by every group I auditioned for and every person I spoke to. I tried out for groups and spent hours waiting for pickups that never happened. I applied for ideal internships, only to receive emails beginning with “thank you for your application” — the classic rejection opener. The idea of having my personality put up for judgment was daunting. I couldn’t put myself through it again. But more than anything, I was scared that I would treat a potential rejection the way I had gone through previous experiences this year: by blaming everything on myself.
Bad grade? I didn’t study enough, even though I studied for three hours a day and the exam material had nothing to do with what was covered in lecture.
Rejected from an eating club? My personality stinks, even though I have friends who would attest to the contrary.
Broken up with? I said the wrong things, even when I was being open and honest.
I do this all the time, even though I claim to have relatively healthy self-confidence. When I look at myself on a good day, I don’t search for faults. I see an attractive, funny, smart young woman who enjoys life. But when I look at whatever goes wrong in my life, I see only faults. I see an ugly, stupid failure who ruins everything she touches — even when that’s just not true.
I wish I were the only one who felt this way. The fact is, however, that such negative attitudes are fairly pervasive. I see so many students — primarily female ones — blaming everything on themselves, when in reality, sometimes others can take the blame. Professors can make mistakes, interviewers don’t always see your worth, and partners may come into your life at the wrong time.
Yet we still castigate ourselves when we’ve done nothing wrong. It’s normal to be upset in these situations, but beating yourself up about it won’t solve any problems. It takes, rather, acceptance of that which we cannot control in order to let go of any resentment we hold toward ourselves.
It’s normal to be bummed when your dream internship rejects you, but it’s not your fault that they couldn’t appreciate your stellar resume. It’s normal to be heartbroken after a breakup, but it’s not your fault that it wasn’t the right time. Moreover, beating yourself up over these things won’t solve any problems. In fact, it will just create new ones, and leave you worse off.
The rejections won’t stop — that is, unfortunately, the way Princeton works — but you can stop rejecting yourself. Think of bicker, when so many of us have our personalities judged through a series of short encounters that hardly speak to our personalities. I didn’t bicker simply because I was too afraid of being rejected again. There is a definite “culture of rejection” here. We’re so used to being rejected for our personalities, voices, skills, etc. that we begin to think it’s all our fault. Sure, there’s always room for improvement — but, in some cases, it’s sheer luck or timing that creates unfortunate circumstances. I’ve learned over the past year that hating myself for things I can’t control only creates more problems. Sometimes, you just have to realize that it’s not you; it’s them.
Leora Eisenberg is a sophomore from Eagan, Minn. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.