Or you could just squeeze them into some hot water and detox the crap out of your body. But we’re not talking about actual lemons today. Today, I want to talk about setbacks.
We all experience them, all the time. Some are so minor they are almost negligible, like spilling coffee on your shirt and being late to work (weekly occurrences in my life… how bout you?). Some are so huge we don’t think we’ll ever recover.
I’m going to start with a personal story.
Yesterday I interviewed for a Dietetics & Integrative Medicine fellowship position within my department that I really wanted. I entered the interview with a relatively high level of confidence, but when I came out I felt very different. I knew I didn’t do my best and I had that deep gut feeling that it wasn’t going to end in my favor. I called my mom and told her about the interview with tear-filled eyes (hi mom, I know you’re reading). I was ready to accept that I didn’t get the position, but I hoped for the best.
I decided to do the one last thing in my control and send a thank you email to the interviewers. When I logged into my email I was shocked to see that I already had an email from them that had arrived in my inbox just 30 minutes after my interview was over. It was their notification that I had not been selected for the position. The sobs began immediately.
I spent the rest of the evening crying to my parents and my friends and feeling very down on myself. I overanalyzed everything about the interview including my responses and the interviewers’ reactions, and then I entered in to some dangerous, self-destructive territory. I began to question my worth, my intelligence and every aspect of my education and career path. Then I paused for a second. I asked myself this: if I was already preparing to accept defeat before receiving this email, then why was I so distraught over receiving the actual news of defeat?
I think the answer is twofold. The first and more obvious part is due to the image that I had in my head of the interviewers just sitting in the room after I left and simultaneously shaking their heads no. “We regret to inform you that as soon as you walked out of the room we all agreed that you are not good enough.” Now I’m sure this isn’t what happened, but I mean, they didn’t even wait an hour before making the decision, so clearly it was a no brainer; that’s not an easy thought to digest.
The second part is a little deeper. Despite my acknowledgement of my poor performance in the interview and my “readiness” to accept defeat, there was inevitably a small part of me that wanted it to work out in my favor anyway. I wanted to check my email a few days later and receive the news that I got chosen, and then all of my doubt would be wiped away and I would feel re-validated as a person and a student. While this outcome certainly would have been great, I realized very quickly to appreciate that it didn’t turn out as I’d hoped.
The reason for this is because the situation I just described is a mirror of most related situations I’ve experienced. I got accepted to every college I applied to, got offered almost every job I pursued, and had my CHOICE of three dietetic internships; an almost unheard of opportunity considering the placement rate is only 49% nationwide. Okay Michelle stop bragging about how awesome you are, you might be thinking. I promise I’m not telling you these things to brag. Rather, I want to make a point and I promise you will see it soon.
I am very fortunate for all of these successes. Don’t get me wrong, they were not handed to me on a silver platter; I had to work very hard to get where I am today. However, I never really had to suffer. What I mean, more specifically, is that I almost never dealt with rejection.
Of course I’ve experienced setbacks in my life. Like I said, we all do, all the time. But the feeling that I had last night after not being chosen for a position I applied for is a feeling unfamiliar to me. As much as it stung initially, I became very aware of one thing: setbacks are SO important in life, because they give you an opportunity to grow and learn.
I will not let this disappointment bring me down. I will appreciate the work that I put in and acknowledge the areas that I am still weak. I will work even harder to gain the experiences that I am seeking and learn even more than I thought possible. Most of all, I won’t expect to be a changed human overnight. I will take it step by step and realize that there ARE going to be more setbacks as I progress through the end of my education and beginning of my career. I will work to accept each of these setbacks with as much grace as possible and treat them as blessings rather than curses.
I’m using my own personal, current example, but this is an important message and lesson for anyone and everyone because NEWSFLASH: SETBACKS HAPPEN ALL. THE. TIME. Especially in the health and fitness world. Maybe you had a “bad” eating day, or maybe you got sick or injured and can’t work out, or maybe you gained a few pounds during the holidays… and maybe you only have yourself to blame, or perhaps it was completely out of your control.
Whatever it may be, it feels humiliating, disappointing, and discouraging when we find ourselves in these positions. You deserve to let yourself feel whatever you feel. You deserve to be upset or be angry. Those emotions are not invalid. But instead of sinking deeper and deeper in to the pool of self-pity, why not stand up, take a step back and realize what a blessing it is to fail? What a blessing it is to feel defeated. Because now, you have an opportunity to get EVEN BETTER. Without failure, we can get complacent.
Appreciate your successes and address your shortfalls. Vow to bring yourself up even higher than you were before. Understand that there will be countless setbacks in the future and accept each one as another opportunity to learn, each one as a reminder that you can always get better.
You know all the sayings: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, “Fall down 7 times, get up 8”, “Don’t wait for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain”, etc. They are cliché, but the message behind them is exactly what I’m trying to say. I haven’t always been the best example of this in my own life, I will admit to that. But I’m done with self-pity and complacency. It gets me nowhere. I choose to make those lemons into lemonade, to get back on my feet, to dance in the rain.
Won’t you join me?