In my experience as a university student, the word “failure” has always had an extremely negative, derogatory connotation. Among students there is this almost habitual need to be the best version of ourselves at all times and to constantly be excelling in all areas of our lives. We are taught that failure is something to be avoided at all costs, and we put ourselves through an unnecessary amount of physical and mental stress in trying to do so. We often forget that we are only human, and it just isn’t possible to be our very best selves every day of the year. We are dynamic individuals who are constantly growing, developing and learning about ourselves and the world around us.
I have always closely associated the words rejection and failure, and like most other university students, I have experienced my fair share of both: from retaking a course because the grade I received was not one that I was proud of, not being selected for a position I was extremely passionate about, to being turned down by someone I cared a great deal about. I let myself believe that these shortcomings somehow defined who I was in a very permanent sense. But the reality is that each failure was an opportunity for improvement and growth. The second time I took that course, I was much more focussed and worked much harder, and I became a better student because of it. After not getting the position I wanted so badly, I reflected on what I could have done better during the application process and became a stronger applicant because of it. In heartbreak, I learned to better value and find happiness within myself and am a stronger person because of it. Through these experiences, and countless other setbacks, I have learned that rejection is simply a part of life. And I have also learned that experiences where we end up falling short of the desired outcome can teach us more about ourselves than any success can. Failure teaches us to prioritize the things we truly value, and to invest our valuable time and energy into those things. It teaches us how beautifully resilient we are, and how to fight even harder for the next goal we set our eyes on.
In all honesty, it has taken quite a bit of time for me to be able to view failure in this way. And I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’ve got it all figured out or that I am suddenly immune to failure, because that would do a disservice to anyone reading this. Accepting our failures and being discouraged by them doesn’t make us weak, it makes us human. I guess if there’s any advice I can give, it would be to let yourself feel those negative emotions, and when you’re ready, pick yourself back up and reflect on the experience. You will come to know yourself much better than you did before. My roommate really loves Pinterest, and she wanted me to include the quote, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.” It sounds corny, but the message is important. Set big goals for yourself and then fail, and fail, and fail again. One day you’ll look back and realize that somewhere in the midst of all these little setbacks, you learned the lessons you needed to that would give you to opportunity to develop into the kind of strong person you always hoped to be.