This is probably one of the most annoying words in any language. Annoying, depressing, tear-worthy. I have encountered it few times in my life and I wish I had not.
Admitting I have failed at something makes my stomach turn and my brain get angry. Simply because failing is my fault and no one else’s. I cannot put the blame on my teachers for getting a bad or mediocre grade. I cannot put the blame on supermarkets for me gaining weight.
Saying “I have failed” is tiring and infuriating, so much that whenever it happens, I get cranky the whole day, until I have interiorised my failure and I am ready to move on. Admitting my failures is a process that has to happen in order for me to have mental clarity and sanity.
If I were to find the root of the problem, I would go as back as primary school. I was not used to failing. I always had top grades and was considered a nerd. That went on during middle school, getting admitted to high school with the highest grade possible. High school, on the other hand, was a low blow. Teachers expect more than average and they are not willing to give you more than you worked for; sometimes they do not even give you that. Of course, my behaviour changed too: I started working harder and smarter. I understood what they wanted and tackled the skills I lacked.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard I worked, I sometimes failed. Usually, that happened in math (surprise…not). It has never been my strongest subject and it still is not. I have admitted that, despite my pride, and I moved forward, doing what I can.
Failing, or getting a mediocre grade, at math is not acceptable, but it is not catastrophic either. What hurts more is getting a mediocre grade in a subject I usually am one of the best at. Not getting the maximum in Italian or History or Philosophy stings for two reasons: firstly, because it hurts my pride, secondly because people have high expectations of me. This last part is something I am still struggling with.
Hearing my teacher say “I expected more from you” hurts more than them saying “You sucked at this”. In the last case, something must have definitely gone bad, where I could not have done anything to mend it. In the first case, it is all my fault, because I have set a certain standard that people, and also myself, are accustomed to and now expect.
Failure and expectations go hand in hand, especially because when I fail, there are always people who cheer. When you almost always are the best, people start rooting for you to fall. Had you been less stellar, your fall would not have made so much noise.
I guess failure itself is not so bad; everyone encounters it in their lives and it is normal and part of being human. What matters is how we deal with it and what we take from it. I believe in the “You win or you learn” motto. That is what life is all about: progressing and learning, which most often than not, are quite the same thing.
Thank you for reading.