Wise words of young University students:

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After rounding some guest bloggers who also dabbled in the same category with nifty social causes, I’ve decided to gather their short stories in their most recent ‘failures’. Keep reading for extremely relatable stories to get you through the day:

Quarter Life Confession: 

I’ve recently failed (many times over) in attempting to acquire an internship. However, through these attempts, I’ve gained a lot of experience in interviewing, online assessments, video interviews, and testing centres. This has enabled me to learn a lot about myself, and the importance of being resilient and never giving up!

Don’t Overthink It:

I failed a job application for a role that I really wanted. People say to think the worst before you find out, but I couldn’t help but stay hopeful. I was pretty crushed when I found out. But we are human, we have feelings. You just have to give yourself some time to get over it but remember that your chance will come if you keep trying. Sometimes life doesn’t go as expected and that’s ok!

Examining Exams:

The last time I failed was in an application for an internship where I had applied for what I thought would be ‘easiest’ department to get into because I felt that I just really needed any vacationer experience. The fact that my heart wasn’t in it was very clear to anyone and I learned that I shouldn’t do things just because others do it too. It’s okay to go at your own pace and direction because it’s better to pursue what you really want (even if it is more difficult!) because it is much more rewarding in the long run!

Switch Off the Stigma:
I recently felt that I failed when I handed in an assessment and when I received the marks I completely missed the mark. It was a blow to my confidence and made me question my ability. But, I’m really determined, and it only made work harder. That’s how I see it. If you fail, it only means you can go up from here. I talk to my tutor and worked things out on how to improve. Don’t take it to heart. Failure is only a part of success! ūüôā

3 reasons why our failure is amplified in current day society

oliver-cole-232552With soaring demand from students for mental health services increasing exponentially, it’s important to pull back and analyse the environmental factors that play a pivotal role in setting the context for our emotions when dealing with failure.

  1. Our meritocratic society.
    We live in a world now where we believe that nobody can stop us from reaching the top,¬†and that our full potential is activated by ourselves. This essentially is a meritocratic society. Therefore, we believe that those who are at the top deserve to be by their own efforts and merits, and so by default, those who fail also deserve to me. That means that society and how it runs escalates our self-doubt and negative emotions as we blame ourselves for ‘failing’.
  2. Social media.
    With everyone connected to social media, there’s no better platform that allows us to constantly compare. Whether its comparison with strangers or our peers, we’re offered 24/7 access to compare our lives against the palette of others. What’s worse is when we compare ourselves to those similar to us. Those who are roughly the same age, came from the same place, went to the same school – the more similarities they have to us, the worse we feel when they fare better than us, allowing our failures to be magnified. Social media essentially is a breeding ground for jealousy and comparisons, with our failures amplified when viewing the success of others.
  3. Failures in the media are glorified.
    From Walt Disney’s failures to Oprah’s, they’ve all been plastered in the media along with their current triumphs. Whilst these feel-good messages no doubt inspire hope and aim to inspire a positive message – these glorified failures also mean that the smaller everyday failures everyone experiences get ‘lost’ in the sea of triumphant failure. This concept of ‘failing forward’ is now so prevalent in our society from job interview questions of ‘Tell me about a time you have failed and how you learnt from it.’ to media articles we see so frequently, that those ‘failing stagnantly’ or ‘failing backwards’ may feel even more alone.

 

2 common unhealthy ways used by students to deal with failure

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Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) for many, when dealing with failure they rarely realise at that point of time that unconsciously they employ self-protective strategies in order to deal with failure. These deflective strategies, defensive pessimism and self-handicapping act by skewing and minimizing one’s ‘true’ level of ability in order to protect self-worth and regulate one’s emotions.

  1. Defensive pessimism is a cognitive strategy used to a alter the meaning of failure by setting exceedingly low expectations for tasks with evaluation. By doing so, students afraid of failing are ‘protected’ and ‘cushioned’ against these anxiety-inducing tasks, and keep one’s expectations in check by minimising the gap between expectations and disappointment.
  2. Self-handicapping similarly alters the meaning of failure, by deflecting the causes of failure away from the students and onto other excuses in order to keep failure from hurting self-esteem. Other reasons for this include self-enhancement and maintaining an image (both for themselves and others). A typical self-handicapping situation would be a student blaming their low exam grade on not having enough time, or not having studied.

Whilst both these strategies may work in the short-term to preserve self -esteem, they have seen to confirm doubts about one’s ability, and can result in downward spirals of mental health. When excuses run out or when you ‘fail’ too many times, students become disengaged from learning. It is also found to be detrimental to student motivation, mental health, academic performance, general adjustment, and behaviour in later life.

Although this post relates these strategies to a student, they’re also found in people of all ages. For those unaware that they’re doing this, hopefully opening your eyes to these strategies make you more self-aware and on the road to stopping.

 

 

Best 5 quotes about failure:

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As inspirational as long stories can be, sometimes you can get the same message that’s short and sweet and gets straight to the point. Quotes are easily digestible, and on a personal level have helped me deal with failure as small pick me up reminders. Below are the best 5 quotes for failure that have resonated with me.

  1. I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
    – Thomas Edison
  2. I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept not trying. – Michael Jordan
  3. It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case you fail by default.
    –¬† J.K. Rowling
  4. Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchhill
  5. You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
    –¬† Johnny Cash

 

 

Dealing with failure, what’s next?

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It always sounds easier than done when someone tells you to learn from your failures. Sure, the concept sounds great, but do they really understand the feeling of defeat, the rejection you felt? Answer is most likely less, but in different ways, since we’ve all failed to some degree. But still, can’t beat the blues? Here are some ways that’ll hopefully keep your head up.

  1. Acknowledgement, to let it go.
    There’s a saying that the more you immerse yourself in a feeling, the easier it’ll be to let it go later. Don’t do that half-half thing where you kinda admit it but you don’t actually come to peace with it. Do it properly, feel all the pain you feel, think it through 600 times over if you must. Eventually, we’ll reach a stage where we get bored of thinking the same thing, and we’ve become so immersed in the pain and heartache (sounds awfully dramatic) that we essentially can’t get any deeper so we end up floating back to the surface (i.e. reality – and that Earth stands still for no one)
  2. Write it down.
    I know, I know. It’s almost like admitting you failed. But that sounds awfully like exactly what you’re meant to be doing. Don’t just write about your failures though, but them in line with your successes. We’ll both succeed and fail, but if you fail, you might as well extract all the ‘good’ stuff from failing. What did you learn during this process? How will you change it differently next time?
  3. Bury yourself deep in pick-me-up videos.
    We all need that inspiration sometimes. Whether it’s videos about extremely successful people who have failed, or TedTalks about failing, or reading 60 Humans of New York posts in order to make yourself feel better, do it. It took my about 4 days of constant watching till I snapped out of it. Read here as well, about a successful Stanford professor that listed all his failures, then read about his successes. You’ll notice that they come hand in hand.
  4. Make a plan and construct your fears.
    Whilst undergoing my own self pity-parties, I came across a video that advocates setting your failures, also known as “failure-setting”. Which helps you control what you can and can’t control, and rather have fear and failure hit you at full force all at once, you can mentally and emotionally plan for them and be, well, one step ahead.
  5. Think back on your past failures.
    Now realise you’ve gotten over them before, and surely you’ll get over this one now. Sure this failure might’ve been grander, you might be in an extremely dire situation now, but then realise the obstacles you have to come might even be grander than that. Were you raised a quitter? If you were, then nows the time to change it. If you aren’t, then here’s the time to prove it. If you’re a neither-nor, then choose the better side. If possible, think of a failure and how it’s actually led to something good. Hopefully, you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel by doing so.
  6. Change your mindset.
    Change your mindset into one of inevitability – that everyone fails, you HAVE failed, and you most certainly WILL fail. Realise your strength lies in not avoiding these failures for the rest of your life, but rather having the strength to overcome them. You’re on the 50/50 section and how you think now and how you approach failure in the future will really change the way you perceive things.
    I also like to heathily dose (and hopefully not cross into the fields of existentialism) by zooming out back onto my existence and realising that I am really just a small speck in the Universe. If I look at it that way, sometimes I feel like my failures are more insignificant and less well, shit.

Have a better tip? Leave it in the comments!

Failure, the author’s perspective.

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Prologue:

As a child, the notion of failure in the form of poor academics was always heavily laced into my life due to the influence of my parents. They came from a background where education was highly regarded due to Confucianism influences. As first generations coming into Australia, my parents worked back breakingly hard to survive and saw education as a path to gaining a good job. This meant a comfortable lifestyle, free of 12-hour dish-washing jobs and living day to day worrying about the next meal.

High School:

This heavy emphasis on academic excellence, where you strive to achieve 100%, where you’d be constantly asked for your school reports, and where there was a constant comparison of your academic social standing with their friend’s children became a framework I lived by. Failure was not a good thing, no, it was something to be avoided when you could. Every time I failed, I would blame it on anything but myself. It wasn’t me that failed, instead the test just happened to be too hard, or I just didn’t have enough time.

I wasn’t the only one though. In a school where students were predominantly Asian, where they were brought up with similar influences to mine, they were exactly the same. When I received back a paper and saw that I scored badly, I would sink a little in my chair and slide the paper from the desk straight into my bag. After when someone asked me what I got, instead of telling them I’d ask them what they got instead. Everyone around me did the same – only good marks were proudly displayed, whilst the scores of bad marks were kept quiet as the owners prayed to every spiritual figure to be left alone.

In hindsight now, that fear came hand in hand with the expectations of those around you. My family expected me to do well, my friends expected me to keep doing well, and at a certain point in my HSC year, my teachers expected me to do well too. Failure became a motivator, and I was in a cat-and-mouse game with it constantly trying to outrun it.

There were two instances where now looking back, would illustrate my point most clearly.

  1. In year 9, I did particularly bad in my school reports. Knowing my parents would ask me for it, and with less than 2 A’s (which blatantly signalled the end of the world at that age), I presented them a fake report. Same name, same everything, but with different grades and ranks. A better version of me if you will, the version they needed to see and the version at that age I really wanted to be.
  2. One of my favourite teachers (to this day) was my year 12 biology teacher. Having consistently maintained a high rank, I one day received my test results that made my rank drop from #3 to #27. Now I was on an¬†average rank. When handing back my results he asked ‘Did something happen? Expected you to get a little better than this, but try harder next time!’. For the rest of the class that day I sought comfort in plugging in earphones with my head down on the desk with silent tears of shame.

By the end of high school, I learned to internalise failure. No longer did my parents have to tell me about failing – I knew not to do it by instinct. I never displayed my failures, I never talked about them, I never reflected on them. Success was the only path.

University:

This fear of failure still permeates the way I live to this day (to a much much smaller degree), like the way it permeated my primary school, high school, and now University life. However, with only a stone’s throw away from the ‘real scary adult world’, the stakes are raised higher. Suddenly you needed more than just good marks. You needed a good CV, you needed to make friends that would help your career in the future, you needed to immerse yourself more in societies and clubs, you needed internships, you needed to win awards if you could, you needed networks. In short, you needed a lot to put you one-step above the rest so that you could be one-step closer to scoring a good job. It wasn’t just about the job though. You had to not only be successful in academics, but also physically, in relationships, your friendships, and your career.

Epilogue:

This blog was inspired from a small break-down I had one month ago after being rejected by 4 University societies (a 4/4 100% failure rate). Looking back, it was something so small and so insignificant to be rejected by 4 societies.
It wasn’t even a job.
It wasn’t even an internship.
It wasn’t even failing a class and accumulating my HECS-debt.
No one died.
It was just student-run societies.
But receiving the email with the contents of ‘We are sorry to inform you that you did not make it to …’ hit me hard.

After wallowing in my room of self-despair for around 5 days whilst watching what must’ve been at least 56 stories about failure, success and getting¬†your life back on track, I finally snapped out of it. Since then I’ve approached failure differently, seeing it as a fleeting and inevitable part of my life, and a stepping stone to better things.

I hope this blog helps you too if just a little.