Failure makes me who I am

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Photo Credit: Phoebe Lim

What is failure, really?

Typically, it’s known to be the absence of achievement. It’s the state created by inability. Failure is a condition virtually everyone knows, and perspectives on it are constantly developing. The idea of failure alone is alluded to by various aspects of education, ranging from the precise moment you step foot into the classroom to the letter grade on each assignment. As a student, I see  sfailure is a significant part of my education.

We tend to think of failure as a negative result to a situation, often leaving us helpless and bitter. If this is the case, then it should be avoided at all costs, right? My past experiences tell me otherwise.

I have never really been academically distinguished. My school grades are representative of my somewhat ineffective diligence for studying. The walls displaying my ‘academic prowess’ are instead tiled with nothing more than lackluster attendance awards and recognition for menial tasks accomplished with satisfactory behaviour. My collection of consolation prizes pale in comparison to those of my siblings and my friends. It’s like having frames and trophies acknowledging my scraped knees.

“This isn’t me,” I thought.

The readily acceptable excuse has always been my artistic aptitude, and my current university experience has been widely determined by this. Being very indecisive about my future career at the time, my amazing solution for applying to universities involved accommodating for everything I could possibly be. Expectedly, I was not accepted into all my choices, and I am now studying graphic design at SFU.

I am more inspired by someone accomplished who has countlessly failed, than a natural genius.

Personally, my failures were a symbol of shame. The standards I set for myself were insane. My grades told me I just wasn’t smart. I often feared that pursuing a career that didn’t guarantee a favorable salary was risky. Being creative was just bad luck to me, like I had fished up a boot in the lottery of society’s prosperous aptitudes.

“I hate this about me,” I would say.

To my surprise, I’ve enjoyed my time studying design and grown passionate for the field of work. I’ve excelled beyond my expectation, and have become more confident in my creative abilities. How did this turn out so well when the process was so painful? Reminiscing, I realized some valuable truths about failure. It often sucks to experience; it is, however, essential.

Failure is necessary for success. No one is as perfect as they want to be. For me to set an abysmally high standard for every goal I was interested in was naive. Failing is as necessary and sequential in this process as planting your foot on the next step is to climbing stairs. To me, mastering a skill involves knowing how to fail in every element of doing it.

Furthermore, failure isn’t shameful. In fact, I would be more inspired by someone accomplished who has failed countless times than a natural born genius. Failure is the very element of life that makes it authentic and human.

Implementing this perspective in my daily life is still a challenge. I won’t pretend to completely understand how to deal with failure. Even now, I still struggle with new experiences and fall victim to comparison. Despite this, my realization of what failure really is has made me a stronger, freer person. One day, I want to be able to look back at   all the times I’ve scraped my knees and say with a smile “This is me.”