A Lesson in Failure

There is no doubt about it, failure is something we all inevitably encounter at some point in life. Maybe it’s failure in love, our careers, sports or education, we will all get dealt with the failure card.

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Failure; that other nasty F word. The one that leads us to feelings of shame, fear, anxiety and stress. The stories we tell ourselves can be negative and harmful and perhaps it starts with stages of disappointment, anger, guilt and embarrassment. We want to give up, wallow in self pity and all those feelings of “I’m just not good enough.

It is only natural to go through this roller coaster of emotions and my own recent failing has been a test to that. I failed my first exam (yes I know so what, big deal) but at the time it was a tough pill to swallow. Never before had I ever failed any exam, assignment or essay in my academic career. Especially as I had done so much preparation for the big day. This was a huge lesson for me.

Hindsight however is wonderful thing and even writing this now I look back and see the unnecessary stress and hardship I inflicted on myself. My inner critic telling me I was not good enough, too stupid and wasting my time. But here I am, I’ve come out the other side much more driven, more determined and overall I have learnt to just slow down.


Talk it out

Firstly, finding someone to talk to and hash the situation out with. This is so crucial. I have some wonderful people in my life who are so great at putting everything into perspective. My Dad once said to me, Everything works out in the end, if it’s not alright, it’s not the end. These words are so true and I come back to this often.

And while you are talking about your failings with others, talk to yourself as well with a sense of compassion. Imagine you are a ten year old version of yourself, what would you say to you in this situation? Or even, if you were in your friend’s shoes, talk to yourself in the same kind ways that they are speaking to you.

Ask yourself these four questions

Byron Katie talks of four questions we should ask ourselves in such situations to help overcome the suffering created by our minds. When we become lost deep within the storm of negative thought we ask ourselves:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know it is true?
  3. How do you react when you believe these thoughts?
  4. Who would you be without these thoughts?

As with talking it through with someone else, putting pen to paper can be very therapeutic and help present to you the situation for all it is. Write it down.


As the old adage goes, sh*t happens and while at first it may seem like there’s no getting past this point, remember at the end of the day no one died (well hopefully not…). It sounds very cliché, but you do come out the otherwise stronger and in a better place than before.

For me I realised failing one exam does not define me as a person and my worthiness. It’s all about how you react to that failure card that been slapped into your palm. I let myself feel those sh**ty feelings for a time and then told myself to suck it up princess, (yes, contrary to my previous advice to talk to oneself as you would others….) as I knuckled down again, working harder than before.

I have also come to realise failure is unavoidable. It’s just a bump in the road. I think this quote by Samuel Beckett sums it up perfectly, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

I now let all future challenges and failings come at me with resilience, pride and a stronger sense of self belief. Failure is unavoidable but a crucial part of life and if it didn’t happen right the first time, I’ll try and fail better.

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