I don't deal well with failure or rejection. Even relatively minor failures can result in a week of crying and watching BBC dramas over whisky and ice cream. After watching this TED video of Alain de Botton, I think I understand this a lot better.
I take my failures very personally, because, as is the American way, I firmly believe that we all have the opportunity to do anything and be anything. If I have the opportunity to reach the top, and I don't, that has to be my own fault. It must be some terrible, innate problem with me - I am a loser.
Alain de Botton points out that just because we don't have a caste system, and we can rise up out of the gutter as it were, doesn't mean we're all equals to our peers in terms of resources or luck. Two kids might go to the same school, but one has her way paved with financial support in college or free rent while the other has to go immediately to putting bread on the table. They have equal rights, and they can both succeed or fail, but one does have a distinct advantage - it's ridiculous to judge one's own relative success as if that weren't the case.
Additionally, there's a huge amount of chance involved - it's not just in how you get your start. In any endeavor, you can get the luck of the draw or be dealt a bad hand. What's more, you can't tell by looking at a person, or by their level of success (however you measure it), whether they actually got there by good or bad choices or by good or bad luck.
This is helping me a great deal. I can accept losing, if I can find a way to separate it from the related idea that it means I'm a loser, damned to always be a loser. As Alain says, "It would be insane to call Hamlet a loser. He is not a loser, though he has lost."
And from there, to Michael Jackson...
You can't win, the world keeps moving and you're standing far behind People keep saying things will get better just to ease your state of mind So you lean back, and you smoke that smoke and you drink your glass of wine So you can't win, child You can't break even And you can't get out of the game
You can't win, no way, if your story stays the same You ain't winning, no, but it's nice to see you, I'm awfully glad you came Better cool it 'cause it ain't about losing and the world has got no shame You can't win, Child You can't break even You can't get out of the game
You can't win, you can't break even, ain't the way it's supposed to be You'll be spendin' your little bit of money while someone else rides for free Learn your lesson, refuel your mind before some turkey blows out your flame You can't win, child, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the game