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  • Allison B.

The Art of Failing

I'm not a people-pleaser, per se, but I did want to please others. Not in the sense that I wanted to make everyone happy, but I sought approval from certain people whose opinions I cared about, like my parents, family, or friends who supported me and who I did not want to disappoint. I'd want approval from my boss, teachers, or colleagues because my work and or education is important to me, and I want to demonstrate my potential and good qualities as a professional in order to grow in my career. This, in my opinion, is a healthy form of social acceptance because it encourages me to grow personally and professionally and build meaningful relationships with others around me. What I've realized, however, is that I often put these authority figures on a pedestal and hold them to such a high regard that I beat myself up when they expressed disappointment in my work or myself. And because of that...

...failure was not acceptable.

Failure was scary to me.

I've always been a perfectionist, which I've recently learned is actually a form of anxiety. I have, of course, had my failures here and there, but not objectively to the extent of a "It-feels-like-I-hit-rock-bottom-so-hard-that-I-landed-in-the-place-beyond-it" sort of failure (though it feels that way in the moment sometimes). For example, in school, if I received a grade on an exam or an assignment that was not acceptable to my standards, the perfectionist in me would not accept it and try ten times as hard on the next opportunity. I told myself I was making up for the mistake--I was undoing, erasing it,--but I've realized that the backbreaking work I forced myself to do was my way of punishing myself. And if other people would recognize these mistakes, I felt even worse (along the lines of, "I'm doing so bad that I'm falling through the cracks, and other people are noticing). As trivial as these "failures" were, anxiety amplified these situations to feel like I was violently imploding while the world chaotically burned around me.

As a side note: That may sound dramatic, but for those who have difficulty understanding what anxiety feels like, just remember: anxiety is dramatic. It's like experiencing the world in the most intense way, (which may be my way of sugarcoating the dismal reality that is cascading mental health--or is it optimism)?

I'm learning that failure happens, for whatever reason. It needs to happen, not only for us to appreciate the triumphs in life, but also for us to really find who we are while we tread through uncharted waters. I have to learn to let myself fail sometimes, to stop letting the perfectionist incessantly build wobbly bridges over it or unstable paths around it.

I just have to go through it. And that, in itself, is already a triumph.