Being a current junior in college, I know a thing or two about failure. I’ve certainly failed in the academic sphere, whether it be missing a deadline or not doing as well on an exam as I’d hoped. Socially, I’ve failed at communicating properly, or being more awkward than anyone could imagine possible in meeting someone for the first time. Career-wise, I’ve failed in the sense of not getting a job that I really wanted, or further, not even landing an interview for the job I really wanted. Really, I may not be able to say I’ve seen it all in regards to my own failures, but I’ve definitely seen a lot.
And yes, it feels odd, and a little embarrassing, to admit to all of these in a public forum. That being said, I could be bitter about these imperfections on my record. I could say they were all the fault of XYZ, rather than my own responsibility. There were surely times where I didn’t study enough, or where I was rude and unproductive with my word choice, or where I didn’t prepare enough for an interview. I could completely ignore these failures on my part, chalk it all up to the fault of something else, always holding hatred in my heart over it.
I could be thankful for these failures. At the risk of sounding like a TikTok self-help guru, hear me out.
Failure is good for you. I know, it sucks. The perfectionist in me born of being a perpetual “pleasure to have in class” is watching me write this right now, screaming, crying, throwing up, banging on the glass, begging me to not admit my faults to others. But I can confidently say that I have never learned more than in circumstances in which I’ve failed.
Of course you can initially mourn failure like a loss. At times like these, I think of one of my favorite tweets of all time, “cancelling plans is ok. moving to greece is ok. sleeping with 3 men in one summer and then falling pregnant without knowing who the dad is and then having your fatherless daughter invite them all back for her wedding in an abba musical is ok. do whatever you need to do to cope.” Sometimes, dealing with failure means pulling a “Mamma Mia.” That’s totally cool – but after, move forward with it.
By this I mean move forward with the knowledge you learned from said failure. For example, if you didn’t do as well on an exam as you would have liked, take that information and plan to start studying earlier and more frequently for the next one. If you got into an argument with a loved one, and can recognize that it was partially due to improper communication on your part, apologize and make a note to yourself for next time to communicate more respectfully and productively when faced with conflict. If you didn’t get the job you had your sights set on, plan to do more prep for the next interview, and look into similar opportunities. Above all else, don’t scrub a failure from your memory banks, as much as we would all like to.
We know failure is good for us – we’ve all heard it a million times before. If you just Google “failure is good for you,” the Related search suggested by Google is “people who failed before succeeding,” which shows pictures of Walt Disney, Thomas Edison and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few. We’re well aware of these stories – incredibly famous people who took a couple tries to reach success early on in their careers. But it’s much harder in practice to be okay with failure in our own lives, making this a message worth repeating. So, be okay with failure, and maybe even do some exposure therapy with failure. Believe me, it gets easier the more it happens.