Everyone has dealt with failure in their life. Maybe you didn’t get the grade you wanted on an exam. Maybe you didn’t get into the school of your dreams. Or maybe you got rejected for a job.
Whatever the case, experiencing failure can make it hard to keep your head up. It can make you want to give up all together.
I, for one, am very familiar with failure. I went through a time in my life where I didn’t think I could accomplish anything; I couldn’t figure out why though. I think of myself as a hard worker; I’m organized, I turn in assignments on time, I always give 110 percent. So I decided to apply for the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program (GSP) in high school. GSP offers a summer program in which students go to a university in Kentucky and attend special seminars and programs on a variety of topics ranging from astronomy to political science. You can also get scholarships and grants for participating. GSP has an intensive application with two teacher recommendations, a community recommendation, volunteer service, test scores, GPA and so much more.
Nevertheless, I got to work.
On top of going to school and working part time, I found time to go through the application process. Not in it alone, I had help from my teachers, my counselor and my friends who also applied. But talking to my friends about it made me feel a little worse. It seemed as though all of them had more entries on theirs. I slowly began to worry how mine would compare. I couldn’t keep my mind off of it. Day after day, I found myself thinking of what I should have done differently.
It took me weeks to write, edit and rewrite my application and get all the forms that I needed. Ending up over 20 pages long, it became my most prized possession. After weeks of anxiety and late nights trying to perfect it, I finished. Handing it in to my counselor, I sighed a breath of relief. I’m done. Almost.
Now came the waiting game. Every day after school, I immediately checked the mailbox for a letter with my name on it.
Eventually, one day I reached in and pulled out the key to my future. Shakily, my hands tore it open as I skimmed the first lines. At this point, I knew that I had made it past the first round of eliminations, now I faced the final round. We regret to inform you… My heart dropped.
I had this all planned out. Ready to spend my summer at GSP, meet a ton of new people and learn a lot along the way, it all collapsed. Maybe I won’t get into a good school. I definitely won’t get a jumpstart on college. Now what? Not the first time I had failed at something, and certainly not the last, this ended up as my first big disappointment. I found myself lost and let it consume my life.
Summer came around and the time came for a lot of my friends to head off to GSP.
I felt even worse now than when I got my rejection letter. Though I tried to let it go and enjoy my summer, I couldn’t. I kept imagining all of my friends at GSP without me—not jealous or angry, but rather frustrated with myself. Why didn’t I try harder? Why didn’t I volunteer more? How could I not get in?
After this, I couldn’t accomplish anything. My job performance declined. My motivation for school plummeted. I didn’t give my all in my extracurriculars. Everything seemed to pile up all at once, and this greatly shifted my mindset. I began to think very negatively and doubt myself constantly.
This trend continued as college began. Numb to it at this point, I applied to different internships and opportunities only to receive more rejections. Well, what can I do about it now? What can I do about it now? Those words made me discover something that changed my life. Yeah, I couldn’t do anything about it except learn from my mistakes. Why did I spend so much time dwelling on my failures? I let them turn me into just that: a failure.
Once I started to turn my mind around, I not only became more successful but also happier.
Because of this, I became a better person all around. I didn’t try to give myself unrealistic goals or bite off more than I could chew. I knew what I needed to do in order to grow from my past. I remembered that I can accept failure without letting it consume me. I’m thankful for the ones that I faced, even if they represent an unhappy time in my life. In the end, they made me come to terms that even though I didn’t achieve certain things, these failures don’t make me one.
I knew the only one holding me back, me. I couldn’t live up to my full potential if I kept thinking negatively and putting myself down. You can’t punish yourself for failing at something. Instead, you should do the opposite. Learn from your failures. Grow from them. Know the mistakes that you made and correct them in the future. And most importantly, from here on out, celebrate your failures—all of them.