Failure is scary.
According to a Gallup poll done in 2005, teenagers aged 13 to 17 listed failure, and fear of not succeeding in life, as one of their top fears.
It ranked as the fourth top fear, only trailing terrorist attacks, spiders and death. Even though this poll was done for teenagers and not college students, I think it still resonates the same.
In our society, failure is seen as unacceptable. Growing up, I believe a lot of people are put under pressure to be perfect and not allowed to make any mistakes. It is required that we have to make perfect grades, do volunteer work, be good athletes and excel at a myriad of other things.
Even if we struggled in a subject in school or at athletics or anything else, parents are quick to get a tutor for the subject, or get a personal coach and extra training. Once we grow up, however, the real world hits us with the hard truth of failure. It's hard to handle making mistakes in the big parts of our lives. It seems like something that you can't recover from, and so the best thing to do is just not to let it happen. But obviously, in life, that's impossible.
What I'm proposing is an attitude change — to not be afraid of failure, but instead to embrace it. It helps you figure out who you really are, what you're actually good at and how to really focus on what you're passionate about.
Especially for younger students, the ongoing "application season" can discourage those who apply for things and face rejection. They can become afraid to try anything else.
I remember my own freshmen year so long ago. I applied for Freshmen Council and made it to the second round but did not make it any further.
Freshman me was devastated and unsure if I should apply for anything else.
Senior me is telling you now: get over that fear. Instead, accept your failure in not getting into what you wanted and use your energy to do something else. Apply for other things, or even start your own organization. And of course, try, try again — there is always next year to apply too.
Don't be afraid of failure because it can also teach you what exactly you want to do with your life. My roommate and I were talking about this, and we've both had several friends who ended up changing their major because they were not doing well in some of their classes. They realized that maybe the career path they had chosen were not the right ones for them.
They accepted their lack of success and moved on to something else.
Someone who was in charge of choosing students to participate in a competitive internship once told me that they didn't consider any applications in which the student had a 4.0 GPA, because it 1) probably meant they did not have a life, and 2) that it meant they were probably very afraid to make mistakes.
Mistakes and failure are just a part of life – nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.
As cliché as it is, mistakes become part of who we are, and if we learn from them, hopefully help to shape us more into the people that we want to be.
I'm not saying that we should not strive for greatness, and make our utmost effort to do our very best in all the things that we do.
But failure is not the worst thing ever, and rather than seeing it as an end, let it instead serve as a catalyst for new beginnings.
Victoria Knight is a senior in microbiology. She can be reached at email@example.com.