Fear Of Failure

Written by Aileen Zhou

Perfect grades, straight As, semester after semester. High school was different. It was easier, and while you worked hard, you did well. You knew it was what was expected of you, those perfect report cards. Of course they were monitored, and any deviance would have resulted in some kind of punishment. You didn’t want that and you wanted to do well, not for others, but for yourself, and it was as if something in your blood and gut drove you to those late 2am nights and demanded perfection. You needed to get into a good university, you needed to or you’ll be a failure, a disgrace to the family. But you also wanted to, you want to have a comfortable life in the future, who doesn’t? But in reality, you needed to put some meaning in your being, you needed to brand yourself with a bigger name, you needed to feel like you’re worth something, to prove to those around you that you’re not useless. You needed validation for your existence. So you stressed and you worried and you beat yourself up. Still, you toil through and you sacrifice your health for those perfect, straight As. God, you hated that you cared so much. You couldn’t shake off the intense, electrifying fear of failure. 

It still keeps you up at night, it gives you panic attacks, it makes you depressed, and it makes you cry. You feel like you’re never good enough or smart enough and it makes you angry. You’re frustrated that your classmate can score perfect scores on their calculus exam while you struggled so hard for that 90. Knowledge just comes so easily for them! You think perhaps if you were born with higher intelligence you wouldn’t be so hard on yourself, and you’d have an easier time. Still, you struggle to compete because the world is fast-paced and you’ll be left behind if you don’t.  A trip outside your room is a distraction, a good distraction, but oh it still looms overhead, the dreadful thing. Perhaps less time spent on books and notes will increase your chances for failure. You feel guilty. You can’t enjoy yourself. I mean, there’s still that project! What about that exam? When was it again? You don’t want to disappoint, because it tastes bitter and feels like all the blood is being squeezed, hard, from your heart. Every exam is an exercise, where your heart beats are panicked and your eyes dash wildly from one question to the next and your brain zooms from one thought to the next. No mistakes are allowed, they can’t be afforded. Exiting an exam feels like liberation from prison; your cheeks are hot, you’re lightheaded. Then, you wait, hoping you didn’t fail. You anxiously ask your friends what they got on certain questions, either calming your nerves or making you hate yourself for some dumb mistake, or a part you didn’t understand, or some information you forgot. You have to do well, or else you won’t succeed. Hey, you, how do you live with this fear?