Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fear of Failure

I have an intense fear of failure.

I've never coped well with failure. It is safe to say I used to react horribly and it greatly contributed to my struggles with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I won't lie, on occasion I still do react badly it is just  not as often. For me, most of my fears of failure have always stemmed from primarily one source: school.

In middle school and my first year of high school, I cried when I got Bs on exams/ projects. Literally. Eventually I "loosened up" and became okay with getting Bs, but they were acceptable to me only in my AP classes. My parents never had to put any pressure on me about schoolwork because I did it myself more than needed. If anything they would tell me to ease up a little. And during field hockey games, I would tear up if I ever let up a goal in a close game because I felt like I was failing my team. I remember when we lost in the state semi-final my sophomore year and in the state final my junior year I thought the losses were all my fault; I was the goalie after all, the last line of defense. Looking back now this all seems pretty silly, but back then it was perfectly normal to be. I stressed myself out so much over making sure I succeeded in school and so I graduated with over a 4.0 GPA that I had no social life because I burned myself out over schoolwork. And thus I was stressed over my lack of a social life and felt like a failure in that category as well; but that is different story for a different day.

I managed to make it through my first 3 semesters of college without really having to worry about getting anything lower than a B in a class. (Duh, most of my classes up until that point were mainly Gen Eds aka General Education courses - except Russian, I took Russian. That was hard.) Then came my spring semester of my sophomore year. Now, I have always been a person who is better at writing papers than taking exams. Much to my chagrin, I took a physiology course where my entire grade consisted of only 5 exams, your lowest of which was replaced by participation points(for most like me - a 100%). I would walk into my exams relatively confident that I would do decently and every. single. time. I would see my grade and nearly burst into tears. Only twice did I score higher than an F: the first and last exam, and they were barely Cs. I had to study like I have never studied before just to get that 73% on the final to ensure I would get the C I needed to pass that class and not have to retake it. This was the first C I ever received as a final grade. I know C means average and getting Cs is very common, just not for me.

But you know what? I'm damn proud of that CI worked my tush off for it. I realized you can't be perfect at everything and in every class. After all, "Cs get degrees". Even though the old me would have been crippled in sadness over getting that C because to me it used to scream "you're a failure"I didn't necessarily feel like one. Because I knew/ know I'm not one. I felt like I understood that I couldn't always get the grades I wanted simply because not everyone can be good at every subject. Sometimes the material just will never fully click with you in certain subjects. And that is okay.

Then about a month ago I was faced with another difficult challenge: I realized I may have to drop a class. I bombed an exam. Like really bombed. There's no light way to put it. Despite studying for hours that day before the exam and feeling pretty darn confident walking out of it, I just bombed it. I guess I should mention that I only go to this class half of the time because one of the days it's my only class and it isn't until 4:15. I live off campus and honestly it is hard to work up the desire to go even though I like the material and my professor is awesome. When I got this particular exam grade I was in another class waiting for it to start, and I broke down crying. I also got my grade for a small paper for the same class back, and that grade was horrible. I just lost it.

Getting a C is one thing, but admitting I am doing so poorly in a class I may need to drop it in order to not have an F on my transcript? Me? The girl who graduated top 5% of her class? The girl who has always prided herself on being strong at academia? This can't be happening. It just can't, not to me anyway. I was like I was losing part of my identity. 

After many tears shed and a few heart felt conversations, I've reached the point where I am comfortable with the fact that I may have to drop and retake the class despite my best efforts. I've done all I can at this point and maybe I have already dug too deep a hole to climb out of, this semester. That's what drop credits are for anyway, right? No matter how comfortable I feel about what I may have to do at the end of the semester, facing failure is an overall horrible feeling. I've had to learn that I can't be a perfect student and that academics don't define me anymore but this doesn't mean I am a failure. Grades don't make the person and don't tell the full story about one's intelligence despite common beliefs. I think I'm still coming to terms with that.

Sometimes you have to fail because failure and your response to it makes you stronger and helps you grow as a person. It makes you learn quite a lot about yourself. It's an unavoidable fact of life.

But boy can it be a tough pill to swallow.

Talk to y'all soon!


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