I recently submitted my application to the cantorial program at Hebrew Union College’s School of Sacred Music, and I’m now waiting to find out if I’ve been accepted. I only decided a year ago that I wanted to study to be a cantor, and in that year I moved to New York, sold my car, started a new job, and took weekly lessons with various tutors to improve my music and Hebrew skills. It’s been a long, exhausting year, but I love the work and the learning so much that I didn’t mind being constantly exhausted.

And aside from two or three minor meltdowns as the due date for the application approached, I haven’t been too stressed out about the process – in fact, the day of my audition and interview was wonderful. The first week following the audition and interview was also fine – I was relaxed and happy, feeling that I’d done the best I possibly could have under the circumstances, even given my awful head cold and an embarassing moment during the audition.

But I woke up yesterday morning with the absolute conviction that I wasn’t going to get in, and I’m trying to figure out why. So many people have told me that I have a very good chance, that my Hebrew is better than I think it is, that my background is perfect, that everyone has an embarassing moment story from their audition. Everyone at my shul seems to be completely confident that I’ll be accepted, as were many of the cantorial students I met.

I know I’m not alone in my experience. Too many of us lack confidence in our level of knowledge and our ability to communicate what we know. Multiple studies have shown that girls do not get the same reinforcement in school as boys, with the result that “women doubt their abilities more than men do,” and have to “establish competence to an extent that men never have to,” as this amazing article illustrates.

And I think this extends well beyond the traditional gender divide. Those of us who are queer are constantly getting told that we are not welcome, that our opinions and ideas are invalid, that our lives are wrong. Those of us who come from any minority perspective are made to feel that our beliefs are marginal. And these messages often come from the people and communities that should be our greatest sources of support.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have found a community which supports and encourages me, and I’m aware that my fears are rooted in years of negative messages from people who didn’t want my voice to be heard. But even with that knowledge, it’s very hard to make myself believe that I might have a chance, that every other applicant isn’t ten times more knowledgeable than I am, with more of a right to get what they want. It’s difficult, but I keep reminding myself that I’m allowed to want this.

So I’m still waiting, without any idea of when in the next few weeks I might hear something. And I’m trying to use the time productively. If I get in, I’ll be thrilled, I’ll feel confident and validated and excited to learn more. My goal is to make sure that I feel the same way even if I’m not accepted. My goal is to be so proud of myself for my accomplishments in the last year that rejection doesn’t feel like rejection. Marianne Williamson* wrote “We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” It’s difficult to remember, but I’m working on it.

* This quote is frequently mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela.