The Acceptance of Failure

We all have experienced that feeling at one point or another in our lives; that uncomfortable, dreadful, pit-in-our-stomachs feeling. One where we don’t always know how to describe it, yet it eats at us like a parasite from within. It is a feeling that this semester, I have become far too familiar with. But what is it, one may ask? It is the feeling of failure, the feeling of being defeated – like you just can’t win no matter how hard you try. People have their own versions of failure, whether it be on a scale of one to ten, one being a tiny blip in our universe and ten being a catastrophic repetition of The Big Bang and our worlds come crashing down.

Me, being the anxious, perfection-seeking human that I am, can’t stand the thought of failure. It is absolutely perplexing and terrifying – on a scale of one to ten, always a ten – and this past semester has been a handful of tens. I am what the middle school bullies refer to as a “try-hard” and I don’t mean to do this on purpose, I just prefer to be successful in everything that I do to prevent from disappointing others, or better yet, myself. It is this fear of disappointment that propels me forward in life, which is a bit unhealthy if I do say so myself. Having endured these ten-sized failures throughout this past semester however, it has been a learning opportunity. I am doing my best to take these failures, no matter how over-exaggerated in size they may be, with a grain of salt.

To back-track slightly, this past semester my grades have been almost stellar. Almost. Except for one class in particular. Out of the whole semester, I have only successfully passed one exam/quiz in this class, whereas I only barely passed or significantly failed the others. This class also has the reputation to break down even the finest of students – the ones who have always made Dean’s List or have spent their whole lives on the honor role. I went into this class with the mindset that I would not be one of those students, that I would work hard and succeed. I was wrong. Extremely. It has been a hard, tear-filled wake up call that has opened my eyes to the thought that succeeding in everything is absolutely, 100% unrealistic.

While I am currently one point away from passing the class with a week of classes left and the final, this has caused a lot of self-reflection that I might not have otherwise approached. It didn’t hit me until a recent conversation with someone who had a rather good outlook on things. I was describing this disastrous situation that was my grade, and he looked at me and said, “Something tells me this is one of the first things academically that you have not succeeded in.” And he was somewhat right. But after talking for a while, it made me realize that success or failure does not define a person. I am a person who often spirals at the thought of failure; if I don’t do well on this test, then it will bring my grade down, which will mean I will have to get a higher grade on the next assignment or quiz, and if I don’t then I will fail the class, and then it will bring my GPA down and if it’s below a 3.0 then I won’t get an internship since most require a 3.0, and then I won’t get experience, so IF I graduate then I won’t have enough experience to get a job and then I won’t make money and then I’ll REALLY be a failure, and so on. It is one of my worst qualities and having to battle those inner anxieties and weaknesses has been one of the greatest challenges of my life so far.

I still have yet to fully soak in the meaning of acceptance in terms of failure, but if I have gotten anything out of it, it is that you will get nowhere dwelling on it. This is something I am still struggling, because letting my failures define how I view myself has been my default setting in my nineteen years of life. All of the hours I spent crying over something that I wasn’t successful at did nothing for me and did not make the situation I was in any better. All it did was give me a temporary relief from the weight that I was putting on my own shoulders. Many of these ten-sized failures were ones I inflicted upon myself by constantly always putting pressure on myself that could only be handled by millions of people collectively. In a sense, it can be good at times to hold yourself to a high standard, but there are times when it can be taken too far, as hard as it is to believe or no matter how much you don’t want to admit is true.

I am trying hard to not put as much pressure on myself as I do, but like many other things, it takes patience and it takes time. This kind of thing can’t just happen overnight, and I am moving towards acceptance. There are days when I make giant leaps of progress, days where I am taking pint-sized steps, or doing back-flips all the way back to where I started. Something that I tend to forget is that it is usually out of failure that we learn. It is those small setbacks that propels us miles ahead, and for those I am beginning to be grateful. So whether your situation is like mine or is a far cry from it, just remember that you are not alone in this fight. You, among others, are marching through quicksand and hailstorms to get to the person that you see as yourself in your wildest dreams. If you can dream it, you can do it, and some of the greatest creators, entrepreneurs, mathematicians – you name it, have been exactly where you are right now. This is your reminder that your failure, no matter how big or small, does not define who you are or what your future may hold.