The Art of Self-Affirmation
The Senior Compass Series
I have been rejected from every possible thing you can think of.
Clubs, grad school, countless internships and jobs. You name it and the odds that I received some variation of “we’re sorry to inform you” are high.
I wish I could tell you that it has become easier to hear “no” over and over again. It has not. That feeling of inadequacy still manages to creep in every single time. But if I have learned anything while at Georgetown, it is that rejection is far too common — both on the Hilltop and in the real world — and what is more important is how you move forward.
One of the most valuable lessons I have taken away from my African American studies classes is the idea of self-affirmation. When you are told that you are not good enough, or not competitive enough, or just not enough, it is up to you recognize that you are and to prove to yourself that you are.
Our lives after Georgetown will contain a plethora of barriers, each one attempting to bring us down. But I will tell you what my mom has told me in those moments when I have felt that I am not enough: “Mijo, you are going to fall sometimes. But you will also brush the dirt from your knees and pick yourself back up.” She has been right. Whether it is because moms know best or because it is simply a part of life, I have continued persisting.
When I was rejected from Georgetown Law’s Early Assurance Program, I was devastated. As I read and reread the email containing the all too familiar phrase, “I regret to inform you,” I sat in disbelief. Why was I not enough? For me, that rejection was personal. It hurt not just because of what I had shared in my application, or because I felt like I had disappointed everyone who supported me, but even more so because my own “home” told me that at that time, I did not surpass that “highly competitive” threshold.
Come senior fall, I chose not to apply to Georgetown Law — or any law school, for that matter. After consulting with my mentors, I came to the conclusion that the next time I applied, I would make sure I was unforgettable. Being who I am, that is, partially stubborn and partially petty, I kept the rejection email to help me remember the way I felt on May 6, 2016.
Time has helped heal this wound. The invisible scar inspires me to keep pushing because I know that I am worth it. Rejection allows for self-reflection; it allows you to authenticate yourself. Your struggles are just as important as your transcendence.
Somehow, along the way, Georgetown teaches us that we should only bask in our triumphs. But the reality is that most of us readily know what it’s like to be rejected — whether through Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society, an investment bank or a fellowship. We are constantly fed others’ accomplishments, conditioned to compare ourselves to others, taught to feel like we are inadequate, like we are failures as Hoyas.
We all know the rejections will continue. That feeling of inferiority will find its way through a crevice. That is life. But you are your own metric of success.
Do not compare yourself to others.
Fall down, get some scrapes and stand up again.
Become empowered by those rejections.
Rejections have made me who I am. I would not be graduating from this institution if they had not. If I had listened to the cacophony of “noes,” I would still be at home, wondering “what if.”
In coming to Georgetown, we all took a risk. We all were vulnerable. We hoped that it would truly be the paradise presented during Georgetown Admissions Ambassador Program Weekend. It is not, and that is okay, because no place is perfect. As much heartbreak as Georgetown has given me, it has also given me unparalleled joy. I hope it has done the same for you.
To my family, my friends, my mentors, to those who have told me “yes” and those who told me “sorry,” thank you. Thank you for allowing me to recognize myself, to narrate my own story without shame. I would not be who I am or where I am otherwise.
As we depart, as each of us embarks on our own unique journey laden with rejections, remember these iconic words:
“I’m a survivor / I’m not gon’ give up / I’m not gon’ stop / I’m gon’ work harder.”
Alexander Alonso is a senior in the College. This is the third installment in The Senior Compass Series, which appears every Wednesday.