If there is one universal truth, it is that we all have to deal with failure – or, more likely, the fear of failure.
I have dealt with the former for what feels like too many times. Most people could probably echo the same sentiment with the same tired expression.
We’ve all heard that worn-out proverb: if you fall down seven times, get back up eight. But it seems like this is even more difficult to do as a young adult today.
Youth are surrounded by an overwhelming feeling of competition. The world is constantly reminding us how brutal the job market is, how bleak our futures will be if we don’t do better in school, how disadvantaged we will be if we don’t network, and so on.
The aggregate outcome is a perception that the stakes around failure are even greater. The blow of defeat is then even more devastating.
I was in the process of writing an application to be a volunteer on the editorial board for an undergraduate research journal. Whether I got the position or not was up to fate and how spectacular the selection committee thought my resume was.
The problem was that I was already mentally preparing myself for failure. I was already telling myself to give up because I wouldn’t get the position. Rather than finishing my application, I let myself get distracted and ended up on Youtube when I should have been perfecting my statement of interest.
I had developed a pessimistic attitude for something I had been excited about, and I allowed this nonsensical, overwhelming feeling of defeat debilitate me. This is the most deleterious thing fear can do – to stop you from even trying. These are unhealthy self-assessments that reinforce a negative thought process.
I had also deluded myself into thinking that success in getting this position was so important that it would determine my success in all other aspects of my life. It seemed as though this position would somehow be acutely related to whether I would be able to buy a BMW one day.
The stakes seem so great to me, and to many of us because we are constantly surrounded by a cacophony of competing voices about our futures. Any small failure or defeat seems like the end of the world. But it isn’t.
But it isn’t.
Instead of letting the fear of rejection cripple me, I eventually went back and finished my application (albeit only minutes before the deadline). I realized I put myself more at a far greater disadvantage by not applying at all. I learned you’re perfectly entitled to moan and groan, but you can’t make it a habit.
You have to pick yourself up at the end of the day, even if that means falling down seven times and getting back up eight.
We are so afraid to take risks and put ourselves and our work forward because we think we are automatically going to fail. Unless we take that risk, we will never know what we could have achieved.
There is nothing that can make that dreadful feeling in the pit of your stomach go away when you’re faced with defeat – or what you think will be an impending failure.
But you can’t let it get the better of you. We are young and life is a learning curve. Keep in mind that we will be faced with obstacles throughout our lives. It is what we make of them that counts.
If it means taking a small break from something to get over that overwhelming fear of failure, then so be it. No small failure will determine the outcome of your life, but you have to be able to try, try again. Even in the face of adversity.
As a dying Johnny Cade once said to his friend, “Stay gold ponyboy, stay gold.”
By Bhani Wadhwa
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