“They who never made a mistake never made anything”. So true is this mantra. Unfortunately, however, many of us fear failure and this can affect how we pursue goals in life, be they academic goals, sporting goals, competitive goals, professional goals, or relationship goals. Therefore, teens must be instilled with a healthy understanding of failure and how it doesn’t define them. Otherwise, an unhealthy view of failure will hinder them throughout their teenage years and into their adult lives. Sometimes it can even lead to them choosing not to pursue goals at all for fear of failure, and that’s no way to live a life.
Failure does not equate to self-worth
This is important, so let’s deal with it first. Whether or not you succeed in a given pursuit has absolutely NO bearing on your value as a person. So you didn’t do well in an exam or lost a big match. So what? You’re still the same person that you were before the event. Your true friends and loved ones will love and value you no matter what the outcome. Being a good person is far more important than how successful you are. There are some thoroughly good and kind people out there who have never had great success professionally or academically. In contrast, there are some people out there who have supposedly achieved great things but have shut people out through self-importance and harshness. Which person would you rather be?
Your failures DO NOT define you
Never, ever, subscribe to the view that your failures define you. This is simply not true. Whether it is in the world of education, work, sport, music, or other fields, history is full of people who have gone to great successes after failure. Take Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, for example. You wouldn’t consider her to be a failure as an author, but her first Harry Potter book was rejected several times before being published. Had she simply accepted her ‘failure’ to get published and not pursued her goals further, the world would never have seen the successful book and film franchise that’s still popular to this day. In the art world, Vincent Van Gogh continually had his paintings rejected (he only sold one), and yet he is now one of the most famous painters in history. Again, hardly an example of a ‘failure’…
Learn from your failures
We probably learn more from our failures than we do our successes. Think about it. If things went completely right most of the time, how would you learn how to deal with a situation when things start to go wrong? You’d have no prior experience. This works scientifically too. For instance, a failed test on a new machine will give the scientists and engineers examples of methods and applications that do not work. That’s quite useful when it comes to honing the product towards eventual success. Let’s look at an example that’s practical for you. Maybe you failed an exam. Look at the feedback. Maybe it was a particular area that you didn’t score well in; you can use that feedback to focus more on that area prior to retaking the exam. Ironically, you might end up becoming more proficient than many in the area you once ‘failed’ in. Wouldn’t that be something?
Nobody is good at everything, but everybody is good at something
Just because you fail in a particular subject or field doesn’t mean that you’re automatically a ‘failure’ in general or that you can’t be successful in other fields. In fact, virtually no one is good at everything. Someone who isn’t particularly successful at maths, for example, could have a wonderful grasp of languages and become a successful translator. When they’re in a successful job providing translation services for a big company, do they think they worry about not being proficient at calculus? No, of course, they don’t. Expecting to be good at everything is an impossible standard to hold yourself to. So don’t.
Failure is good for us. No really.
Failure is good for our growth and development. It teaches that things don’t always come smoothly. It builds resilience. It actually helps self-confidence; by learning to accept failure when it happens, we also learn to be compassionate towards ourselves (and, in turn, others). This can have positive effects on our self-confidence. In contrast, someone who is used to always succeeding may become reliant on success and become anxious or unsettled when failure does eventually occur.
In summary, failure is an essential component of the human experience. It promotes learning and growth in ways success simply can’t, making for a more rounded human and therefore not only should not be something for teens to fear, but it should also be something that they embrace.