Dealing with failure
Failure is a part of life, but in a society where so much value is placed on success, particularly academic success, failure is a very real fear. I recently had an exam for which I prepared for and tried by best to pass. Unfortunately, I failed this exam by 3 marks. Reading that result was slightly surreal, I struggled to comprehend with how that result fitted with my life, with me, with my value of myself. I should have done better, I need to have done better. But I didn’t and that’s done and dusted.
So I reminded myself that my opinion of myself is not based on how I do in my exams but in how I live, how I treat others and what I do with my time. I failed my exam and I will have to deal with the consequences of that. The failure itself has no reflection on my character but how I deal with it does.
Growing up in the academic environment of school you are likely to hear 3 messages about your exam: “as long as you do your best we will be proud of you”, “these exams will determine the rest of your life” and “exams and grades don’t matter”. Unfortunately, the reality is somewhat blurrier. Firstly if you do your best, whatever that means, you should be proud of yourself regardless of how you or others feel about that grade. Secondly, whilst your value as a person is not dependant on an exam or a grade certain aspects of your life will be effected by your exams, it is foolish to say that they don’t matter at all. I want to be a doctor and to get there I must pass exams, failing them doesn’t make me worth less but it will have concrete effects on my life.
But that doesn’t mean that failing your exams (or at anything else) is bad, it might mean you go on to do something different that you expected but that’s a whole new adventure. It might mean you have to fight harder to get where you want to go but through that process you are likely to learn skills about perseverance, dedication and self-belief. Its better to fail and learn something than to never fail at all.
So here are my tips to you when dealing with failure
1. Don’t brush it off it when it happens with a half-hearted excuse like “I didn’t really try”, face your failure face on and deal with the consequences
2. Don’t be ashamed of your failure, everybody fails at something at some point, you failed at something, you are not a failure
3. Don’t accept failure as meaning you can’t do something, try again in a new way, have a new approach, its ok to have a second go, or a third or a 20th
4. When your friend and family fail at something be kind, supportive, don’t be patronising especially if it’s at something you find easy. Remember a time you failed and how you felt
5. Remember that its ok to fail, it isn’t a negative thing no matter what anyone else says to you. It is an opportunity to improve, learn something about yourself and be a better person.
Congratulations on failing, welcome to being human!
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The articles here are written by guest writers or previous TWE members.