I was turned down for a job today.

This is nothing new. I’ve been turned down for jobs before. Hell, I’ve done the job hunt thing on a near-annual basis, which pretty much inevitably results in at least one application rejection per cycle. I’ve had so many that I’ve dealt with such rejections at nearly every step of the process.

There weren’t even a lot of stakes for this job. I wasn’t looking (and was even actively not looking) when it fell into my lap. I didn’t even need the job (which changed the entire feel of the interviews even more than I anticipated).

Would it have been a neat place to work and a good growth opportunity? Sure. Will not getting it put me in some kind of bind? Nope. I’m in probably the most financially secure position I’ve been in my entire adult life, and that was even one of the reasons I considered not pursuing the opportunity to begin with (not to mention giving me a lot of leverage when choosing to pursue it).

Hell, after not hearing anything for a couple of weeks (that was anticipated/understood), I was actually starting to kick around the idea of turning it down, because I was tired of being in limbo and just wanted to keep doing my thing, where I had no shortage of work. This bit was probably helped by the fact that a mutual connection reached out to me about a month ago and inadvertantly let it slip that “it didn’t work out” between me and the opportunity. So I knew it was very likely coming. I’d even had a fair bit of time to process through the possibility.

And yet… 

…when I got the typical response of “they really loved you, but decided to go with a different candidate,” it hurt. “Stung” was the word I used from the outset. Because that’s about what it felt like.

And more than that, it put me into a funk for the entire rest of the afternoon and into the evening. I lost all motivation to do…basically anything. I couldn’t even work up the gumption to write this until after medication, a bike ride, and couple of hours in bed playing a puzzle game. Even now, I don’t really feel like doing this, but I know I process better when I do…and it’s still taking me going back to that puzzled game to “recenter” as I write this.

I know what I’d tell me if this were one of the groups I’m a member of – you’re mourning the lost opportunity and potential and that’s okay. And it is okay…

…except it’s not grief. Yeah, it was a lost opportunity and lost potential, but my disappointment about that is about the level of missing the grand prize on a carnival game, or this:

Harrison Ford as Han Solo giving a “hmm, oh well” reaction as he turns back to hotwiring the door

Instead, it was the being rejected itself that got to me.

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria 

I still need to write about this as its own thing, but I not-yet-officially have ADD/ADHD – brought to totally dysfunctional levels by the fallout from the pandemic (for better or worse). Apparently with it (and potentially with Autism, so that’s fun, too) comes something called rejection sensitive dysphoria.

You know that whole “I’m a perfectionist” thing some people will use as a response to that “what’s your biggest flaw” BS interview question? That’s one I used to genuinely use (I am – or at least used to be – a perfectionist to a fault), and apparently it’s a symptom of RSD.

Now, being a perfectionist by itself isn’t necessarily indicative of RSD (though I’d venture to guess that perfectionism is indicative of something bigger going on in the vast majority of cases), but when coupled with other things like “people pleasing to avoid criticism” and “tend to assume no one likes you” and “getting overwhelmed by feeling someone is upset with you or doesn’t like you” and “have strong emotional reactions to criticism (like crying),” well…

Check, check, check, and…oh yeah, check.

Suddenly a lot of things make sense.

That perfectionism was a learned response from the intersection of the high sensitivity of RSD and an emotionally abusive childhood. I had no words available to describe the level of pain I experienced (RSD wasn’t even a known thing at that time), plus getting told I’m just “thin-skinned,” meant the only real coping mechanism I had was to do everything I could to not give people reasons to criticise me – to be perfect.

I’ve always felt that I wasn’t allowed to be anything less than perfect. To this day, that’s something I still fight with. It’s honestly one of the reasons I love weight lifting and test-driven development so much – they reframe “failure” to something not just not-negative (there’s no moral judgement to their messages of failure, it’s a purely mechanical “nope”), but actually positive. In both, growth and improvement happen most at the point of failure, be it at muscle failure – when no amount of determination will help you lift that barbell even a fraction of an inch – or at red tests identifying missing pieces that need added.

Now What? 

Honestly? Fuck if I know, at least on the ADD/ADHD/RSD front. Just knowing and having the words/framework goes a super long way for me in understanding and accepting certain things, and I’ve already been going down this road of shedding that perfectionism and people-pleasing stuff, and otherwise unknowingly creating healthier coping mechanisms. I learned some time ago that my life is much more enjoyable and with much less stress if I just do my thing and if people like it, great.

For the work thing, it seems The Universe Has Spoken and freelancing/doing my own thing is my career path, too. I mean…I am coming up on my second anniversary of being freelance, putting it in the upper echelons of my work tenures with any one arrangement, it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, and this experience has shown me that I still want my work arrangement to be like this and I still want to keep doing what I’m doing – even if that means I need to be more mindful about structuring my day better.