‘Trying is Winning’ Responding to Jameela Jamil

I recently stumbled across a tweet by Jameela Jamil in which she included a video of herself expressing how trying things is, in itself, winning. We have a culture today as students that you do not win unless you are:

  •  ‘The Best’
  • Studying at Oxford
  • Awarded that Youtube play button
  • Getting verified on all your social media platforms
  • Having 1 million followers
  • Meeting your goal weight
  • Getting published
  •  Being on some Reality Show

This list can go on and on indefinitely, but this view itself is wrong!


My mum - my inspiration and my best friend - always taught me to just go for stuff. When I hit eleven I began to feel that it was time to find myself, and so we shopped! This preteen period, as for a lot of people, is always one of the wackiest times of our lives. I wore neon tights, black lipstick, cut my hair, and experimented. This is often a time for trying things out and for finding who you are. The truth is, who you are does not always come easy. Today you would most definitely not find me wearing neon tights. Of course, the product of this experimentation is a lot of backlash because at this age there is an enormous pressure to appear and act like ‘everyone else’. For example, I was verbally bullied in my tweens by a couple of girls, I was called ‘weird’, ‘a slut’, ‘uptight’ and all manner of things which contradicted each other and who I felt like on the inside. Most girls at this point would have opted for jeans, biker jacket, and converse - the ‘2012 trend’ - but I had the support behind me to push it further.


During that year I started my own YouTube channel where I posted music videos for songs I had written, makeup tutorials, what’s in my school bag videos, hauls and much more. As you can imagine being a young teenager in an English state school with a Youtube channel is not an easy feat. I was mercilessly teased and branded weird, boys found my house to jeer, I was laughed at when I came off my bus, in classrooms and in my own village. If only my school had a clear policy on bullying, somewhere to report the bullying and get support like at UCL– perhaps being “different” would not have been so hard. The overriding opinion that all of this bullying I experienced at school was ‘just banter’ or even justified because after all I WAS weird after all. This opinion often makes me feel like I should forget the past, but I think it’s important to remember. Today, my YouTube channel which two years ago became a StudyTube channel has 6950 subscribers, more than 700000 views and I have earned nearly £1000 in the last few months from ad revenue and sponsorships. Who's laughing now?


I also began performing live during this difficult time. Often, I had learned the song the night before, or written it that day, and I went on stage without fear and dared to have fun. This did not help the way I was treated because of course my voice broke publicly on many occasions, I would trip, accidentally flash the hall, mess up the routine, play the wrong chord or get the words wrong. I don’t think any of these moments took away from my performance success. I could define how well I did up there by how many notes I got right or how many times I didn’t trip, but I feel more successful knowing that despite messing up I decided to sign up again for the next concert or the next show. Through my perseverance, I ended up getting the lead in the school musical for the final year - one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I in no way believe that I would have gotten that role had I been perfect every time prior. I think it is demonstration of personal improvement which makes a bigger impact.


Trying is not just consistent success. Last year I applied for Cambridge University and put my heart and soul into it. I placed all my bets on getting a place and made myself purposefully vulnerable by sharing my goal with everyone in my life in order to push me further towards it. The day I was rejected I felt heartbreak for the first time. I cried all day, I felt like my life no longer had purpose and like I no longer knew who I was or who I was supposed to be. I had placed my validation in the hands of an enormous institution naively. It has taken many months, but now I am at UCL I can truly say with no doubt that London is where I am truly meant to be. And yet, I do not regret applying to Cambridge. I no longer think of myself as a failure, I think of myself as incredibly brave and a much better person for having had a go.


I want to continue to try things which are beyond my reach. You learn constantly, but only when you push yourself beyond your own expectations and the perceptions others have of you do you grow. You should go for things not for succeeding but for learning and personal development whilst you continue on your journey to where you are supposed to end up.


Do the contest to learn about competing and about the subject. Apply to oxford to push you to read more and write better. Go for the job to practise interviews and improve your CV so when the right one comes around you’re ready. Start a YouTube channel to build a supportive audience and your editing skills. Post on instagram to look back on your growth. Be healthy to live longer. Write stories because it is what you’re aching to do. Dance because it feels right. Sing because you’ll get better. Make mistakes because it’s embarrassing, because it makes you vulnerable and because it is exciting.


There are many quotes about trying and failing, and that is because when you aim for things, you are going to fall short sometimes. You have to be in the race to win. If you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. You only truly fail if you do not try.