What do you do with “No”?

“Apply out-of-state.” About 4 years ago, I was on the phone with a friend who spoke those words of advice to me. I was hesitant and simultaneously eager to do just that. I had never really been out of the state for a considerable period of time, and had definitely not been farther away from my family than an hour at any given time. I was sheltered, and I longed to get out of Texas, but I was also scared.

This friend of mine is someone whom I greatly admire. I almost told him the last time we spoke on the phone that those words of his changed a lot about my life…but I didn’t. I know that he respects me and believes that I’m a very intelligent person, but it just didn’t feel like the right time to share it.

I recently was invited to blog for a website, and I chose to make my first one about diversity and cultural competence. He had previously mentioned that he wanted to read my dissertation when I was finished, so I decided to share my draft of the blog post with him before it went live. He provided valuable feedback, even though we are in two different fields, and I was SO grateful for it. I did communicate that to him.

I feel like his words 4 years ago gave me that much-needed push in a direction that I was already facing. When I was accepted to my current school in Chicago, I met a professor whom I chose to interview for one of my later assignments. In that interview, he was encouraging me to apply to this really competitive practicum site because he thought it aligned well with my interests. While I believe in myself, I had reservations about actually making the cut. He spoke some words that I often repeat to my clients AND to myself:

The worst they can say is, “no.”

Granted, I know there are MUCH worse things that people can say to me, but when it comes to seeking out professional opportunities, they usually don’t say anything worse than “no.” Anyway, I took his advice, and I was accepted at that specific site.

If I hadn’t been accepted, I would have been upset, but I also would have had the opportunity to work at a different site. His words have really resonated with me in profound ways, and continue to give me an extra bit of encouragement when I doubt myself. Recent situations where that phrase worked in my favor were the Mensa Scholarship I recently received, the opportunity to write for that blog ^^, doing a presentation on cultural competence for my site, getting food stamps, and sending another application to a top site after initially being rejected.

There are way more times that I’ve been told “no” than I can count. In those moments, I chose to seek an alternative answer by finding other opportunities…or asking at another time. I only applied to two schools out-of-state, because I was nervous and afraid of being told “no.” Since taking that step and getting accepted, I have learned that being told “no,” is more of a motivating factor for me. I don’t like hearing it, especially when I feel like my ideas are good ones, but it has made me more creative and assertive when it comes to having others hear me out. So, I’m grateful to both of those men for giving me those words of advice, even though they probably don’t realize how profoundly they impacted me.


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