Fear of Failure

A couple of days ago a friend of mine sent me an article about why women don’t apply for jobs they’re not qualified for. The majority: afraid of failure/rejection. This concept makes absolutely no sense to me. The fear of failure is an irrational fear, much like the fear of heights. The difference is, with heights the real fear is usually falling. What is the underlying rational fear associated with failure? Anybody?

Failure is actually a beautiful thing, because with failure comes knowledge. I have a cousin who has been turned down for jobs I think she was deserving of, and I’m not saying that just because we’re related. The point is, the one thing she told me that stuck with me longer than whatever these various positions were was, “I always ask for feedback so I know what to improve for next time.” Key phrase: improve for next time.

It did not matter to her that she failed once, or twice, or however many times. I don’t even think she would consider it failing to be honest, but that’s a distinction for another day. What mattered to her, and what should matter to all of us, is improving for next time. I am one of those people that struggles through my first round of midterms every single semester not because I haven’t learned yet, but because I am so caught off guard by new styles each professor brings in an exam. And yet, I am into my second year of graduate school and have always maintained a good GPA. How could I manage that if I consistently got D’s on my first midterms? Easily, by learning to correct my mistakes before they caught up with me.

Many people say “failure is not an option.” I think this is a load of crap. If it’s the motivational phrase that gets you through each day then by all means stop reading and start doing! However, if you’re like me and you hear this and you think, “well since you’re not perfect, you must be constantly disappointed in yourself.” I am rarely disappointed in myself because every thing I do in each day is nothing more than a learning experience. It might be something great that I try to repeat, or it might be something less than ideal that I try to make better. Either way, there is no “failing.”

A few days and 400 words later, I still don’t understand what the fear is. You go out, you take a chance, and you get a result. Why does a negative result have to stop you from trying again? More importantly, why do you give it enough power over you to do so?


Published by She Got The PhD

A web-based soapbox of an Assistant Professor of color in Chemical Engineering; sharing my feelings on books, academia, and current events. I hope you enjoy reading :)

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