Reframing Rejection: Shefa Ahsan turns Rejections into Motivation

Photo Credit: Alex Choi

Photo Credit: Alex Choi

By Hafeezat Bishi

You spent hours crafting the perfect application for your dream school or a job you’d absolutely die for, only to receive that soul-crushing email. Our applicant pool was strong, and unfortunately, we have decided not to proceed with your application at this time. The grueling anticipation for a response, only to be let down, is devastating. 

Shefa Ahsan, a 2019 film alumna, was at work during her junior year of high school when she opened an email from her top choice, Barnard College.

“Barnard College in New York: it was my dream college,” Ahsan said. “It was exactly what I wanted, I dedicated my last two years of high school to it, I had posters on my wall, and I pretty much fan-girled about it for a whole two years.”

The email was a rejection.

Rejection from your top school calls for a bit of tear-shedding and a trip to the store for your favorite pint of ice cream. But for Ahsan, her view of rejection is molded by her religious background as a Muslim. Part of the faith is relying on God’s plan, and “whatever is meant to be, will be.”

“I vividly remember looking at it and smiling and being content with it,” Ahsan said. “But I think a lot of that had to do with trust in God, and trust that there is a reason for this.” 

When Ahsan received her first full-time job rejection halfway into her senior year, she shared it on her Instagram story with the caption: “My first full-time job rejection! Excited to collect these until the right opportunity hits iA.” iA stands for “InshaAllah,” which translates to “God willing.” As soon as the post went up, the response she received was shocking.  

“I got so many different responses like, ‘oh this is such a good mindset, this is so cool,’ and I was so confused because I was like ‘what do you mean this is such a good mindset?’” said Ahsan. “I just figured that everyone thought this way.” 

From interactions with her followers, Ahsan realized that so many soon-to-be college grads took rejection as a reflection of their worth and personal abilities. This moved her to start the Instagram page, Reframing Rejection

Reframing Rejection serves as a community for followers to share their rejections and open a positive discussion about changing their outlook on rejection. 

Rabia Ugucu, a 2019 management information systems alumna, has found the page to be comforting. It has been a way for her to make peace with rejections that she has received and will face in the future. 

“Until I came to college, I was unfamiliar with getting rejected often. I think RR really takes the stigma away from rejection and brings me comfort knowing we are all on this boat,” Ugucu said. 

Rejection is just one of those nasty, inevitable things we have to deal with––whether it be from a new job, a school, or a person whom we had feelings for. When rejection knocks your expectations and goals out of reach, there is hurt no matter how much that “yes” meant to you. 

Photo credit: Shefa Ahsan

Photo credit: Shefa Ahsan

The good news is: we don’t have to face the disappointment alone. It isn’t as simple as seeing an Instagram post and suddenly your fear of rejection is magically cured. The visibility of other rejections allows you to examine your obstacles and celebrate the process. Reframing Rejection provides a space for camaraderie in this bumpy and frustrating journey of “nos.”  

Amanda Lien, a 2018 journalism alumna, is featured on the page. Through sharing her rejection, she hopes to be an inspiration for others who may come across it. 

“I’ve always hoped that transparently sharing my life––the good, the bad, and ugly––will inspire others to also be transparent and confident in living the lives they have chosen. I think rejection is something people never want to talk about openly, which is so silly since it’s something everyone experiences in spades! So when I heard about Reframing Rejection, I wanted to share my rejection story as a way to support to project and its mission,” Lien said. 

Although Ahsan is already comfortable with rejection, she has been affected by the page and its work. 

“Building this sort of community online and having this platform, just keeps me motivated, it deepens the comfortability I have around rejection,” Ahsan said. 

As a community grows from this page, people who interact with the posts and share their experiences allow themselves to be vulnerable with the rejections they receive. They’re allowing themselves to recognize the hurt and the effect it has on them, but learning to move forward from it. 

When you relearn how to view rejection, you stop looking at it as something that’s wrong with you, but as this happened to me because it wasn’t right for me. Ahsan carries this mindset every day, allowing her to become the rejector instead of the one rejected. What a power move.

“I had two positions I could’ve taken for a job, but I actually ended up really thinking about it and saying no to them. I think that is a huge thing because a lot of times, I think, we just end up settling for whatever comes to us,” Ahsan adds.

As Ahsan hopes to expand the page, you can look forward to content like testimonials and discussions on the limbo of being in between rejections.

“The goal is to reach as many people as possible,” she said.“There’s a lot of stigma around posting rejections because it seems like you’re not capable or you’re not competent enough. But when you see it posted out there, it’s like ‘oh, I’m not the only one.’”

And hey! Shefa has some good news:

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