Failure is a tricky subject. It’s hard to talk about failure for a lot of people. It’s negative; it’s something to be avoided. We just don’t talk about it. We get over it. We move past it. We get better. But I want to talk about it. I want to talk about it because I have spent a lot of my life trying very hard to never screw up. That was what I wanted more than anything else in the world. I wanted to go through life and not really fail.
That’s impossible. I hit the successes I needed to in major areas. I never got lower than a B in college. I graduated early. I was smart, got enough sleep. I did a lot right. But those successes shouldn’t overshadow all of the mistakes that I made along the way.
I lost friends. I dove deeper into anxiety than I ever wanted to. I had poor self esteem. I wasn’t always happy (which isn’t necessarily a failure). I struggled deeply with where I was going to go. I failed in regard to a job for the future. I failed in ways that also mattered. I never got anything published. I didn’t reach all of my goals.
So what do you do about failure? The worst thing that you can do is repress it and never speak about it. I collect my rejection letters. It’s relatively simple because they’re mostly emails at this point. But I collect them. I want to keep my failures. I want to acknowledge that I was failing in ways that really matter to me.
But not only should I accept and love some of those failures, but I should learn from them. I should really focus on making my life about growing through those failures. It will take more failures before a piece of mine gets published. It will take more struggles with my body image before I fully accept myself as I am. And even then, I will continue to struggle as I change and grow in new ways. I will accept my failure in regards to anxiety. I let myself down by not chasing after help in several places. I will learn from those mistakes and then grow in how I treat my mental health.
Growing up is about working with your mistakes. You shouldn’t look at your failure as something terrible. Failure should be something you embrace. We talk about failure as something terrible in schools and in life. It instills this kind of fear about screwing up. This forced perfectionism is definitely part of why I think I struggle with anxiety as an adult. When I was a kid, I was so afraid of not having homework done that when I forgot it, I would go to the bathroom to do it before that class period. I was so scared of failure that I cried when a teacher told me that they couldn’t find an assignment that I had done.
When I got to college, the grading scale provided by teachers allowed me to fail more and not feel terrible. I loved that. I was free to try something and fall flat on my face. I want that for more students and more people. If you’re working on a project, don’t be afraid of your failures. It’s your chance to try something new. Even if you fail, you put yourself out there and tried to do something that you felt really passionate about. That’s a great thing and you should be so proud of just doing that much. Don’t let anyone say that it’s not worth the experience.