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Why Skiing Taught Me How Important Failure Is

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

Over winter break, I went skiing for the first time. Most people have their first skiing experiences at young ages, but not me. It was pretty embarrassing arriving at the ski slopes and seeing a ton of little kids who seemed like pros, and here I was at 19 years old about to ski for the first time with no prior experience.

My biggest fear going into skiing was falling. I was terrified of the pain of falling and the embarrassment. I was so scared that my first 20 minutes on the bunny slope were spent moving at snail speed, meanwhile, my friends were speeding down the slopes.

Going down the initial bunny slope hill, my heart was racing, my was adrenaline high and then I fell. It wasn’t on my butt like I thought it would be, or on my face, thank God. I fell over on my side in the slowest way possible, and after I hit the snow, I laughed.

Yeah, you read that right. After 20 minutes of anticipation and fear of falling, I laughed. And to my surprise, the fall didn’t even hurt.

After I fell for the first time, I was able to ski more confidently because I was no longer scared of falling. If anything, I relied on falling to stop myself because I hadn’t learned how to stop with the skis.

Once I got over the embarrassment of falling, a new monster arose: I realized I was absolutely terrible at skiing.

I mean it made sense, my first time skiing and all, but it was mortifying falling on the bunny slopes while a six-year-old zoomed past me on a snowboard. I became so self-conscious about my skiing position and how I looked. I hated the fact that I looked like an absolute beginner.

But when I wasn’t anxious about how stupid I looked, I was actually having a blast. The wind rushing on my face and the feeling of adrenaline felt incredible, and I skiied down the slope with a big smile on my face. I felt on top of the world.

Of course, that feeling only lasted a good minute or so before I fell, but even falling became fun.

After my friends and I finished skiing and I took off my chunky ski boots, I felt upset with myself. I noticed that I wasn’t able to have the full skiing experience because I kept stopping myself mentally. If I wasn’t so concerned with how stupid I looked and just went for it 100%, I could have had even more fun, and more importantly, I could have gotten better at skiing.

This skiing adventure made me notice a pattern in my mentality. I don’t like doing things I’m not good at. I know, it sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Throughout my life I’ve been so anxious to do things I’m not good at or might not know how to do, because I’m afraid of how stupid I’ll look, but what I’ve realized is that everyone starts by looking stupid.

Shaun White, a snowboarding legend, started with falling on the slopes. Eileen Gu, 2022 Winter Olympic champion, had to fall thousands of times before she got to where she is.

I’ve engrained such a fear of failure in my head, and that’s dangerous because failure is a part of everything we do. We need to fail in order to get better, and if we live in fear of failure, we will just stay at the same level.

Yes, hard work and dedication makes a good athlete, but what really matters is how an athlete deals with failure.

If I had spent the time I was thinking about how stupid I looked on trying to get better and have fun, I would have had a completely different experience.

So the next time I go skiing, instead of focusing on my anxieties, I’m going to just try to have fun. If I look stupid, then good, it means I’m doing something right.

Junior at Penn State.