How I deal with failure

I have been extremely lucky in my life that I have never faced significant failure. On the other hand, that could be because I haven’t taken huge risks and with great risk comes great reward, so I haven’t managed to get any great rewards either lol. However, I’ve been listening to “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” and the author talks about ignoring pain or ignoring failure is like ripping out a massive thread of life- pain is guaranteed and it’s how you deal with it, not trying to avoid it, that should be your focus.

So, being human, I’ve had my share of failure. A lot of people don’t like talking about failure, but I think at the end of the day it makes you closer to the people you share your mistakes or falls with because everyone makes them and knowing that you trust them makes them feel good too. So! Hopefully you feel a bit closer to me as well.

Like I said, I don’t think I’ve gone through many soulcrushing failures, but mine tend to be nagging reminders of how I’m failing at my goals and at what I want. I’ve never been impulsive, I’ve always planned ahead and considered the failures, so when things aren’t going my way it’s more like my brain telling me that the path I’m on is not what I imagined. I don’t feel like it’s wrong, but more like my brain marvelling: “this is nothing like I imagined it to be, I wish it was different but I guess it’ll have to do. The you 5 years ago would be so disappointed right now.”

Before I start borderline insulting myself, some achievements I’m proud of:

  • did really well in high school academically
  • won 3 scholarships, so don’t have student loan, won $500 through doing well in NCEA history and some money off my exchange to New York in uni
  • I have my drivers license
  • I work in social media and marketing
  • I moved out and live with a cat (my flatmates cat. Goals right there.)
  • I have a good chunk of savings
  • I have friends I love and trust immensely
  • I have had one of my writing pieces published with really good feedback
  • I have travelled

Next stop: Failuretown with a stop at Insecurityville.

A common theme that I feel like I have consistently failed at in life is being hot.

I know, it sounds so petty, but since I grew up in a white neighbourhood, I had very little Asian, or even other people of colour, friends growing up. My ideals of beauty at 6 years old was Baby Spice and Britney Spears wearing pink and glitter. And unlike all the other girls, I couldn’t just dye my hair and get some white platforms to look like them. This was not helped by the fact that I wore glasses from about 9 years old, had homemade haircuts and my mum’s target goal with my clothes was to be warm and cheap – looking cute wasn’t even a consideration. Noone, including my parents, ever called me cute or pretty. Everyone called me smart since my tiger parents forced me to learn the timestables and read the time before anyone else, but never pretty, and that was what I knew was the key to getting more friends, getting a boyfriend, getting married and being treated like a princess. All girlfriends, princesses and fairies are pretty.

My confidence drastically improved in intermediate where there were way more people and different types of beauty; girls of all sorts got attention and for the first time in life it actually drove it home that I didn’t need to be blonde and blue eyed to be pretty. I had always imagined that as I got older and could wear makeup, get contacts and nicer clothes, that I would be pretty and have boys pay attention to me. That’s what happened in the movies- girls take off their glasses and use a straightener, and their crush all of a sudden falls in love with them. 

I didn’t feel pretty in high school, even when my skirts started getting shorter, my hair started getting longer and my body was actually at the best it would ever look. I didn’t feel pretty when I had money to spend on makeup and clothes, and even when I got love poems from a boy that I immediately ghosted. It wasn’t just a lack of resource now; it was just me: I did not think I was that pretty, or that hot.

My failure at not just looking pretty, but feeling pretty is what I blame for my insecurities. I catch myself thinking “More boys would want me if I was skinnier.” “More boys would want me if I was taller.” “All the boys I think are hot are out of my league.”

Although it doesn’t keep me up at night, it’s definitely what gets me crying in the club if I get too drunk and see other girls and boys grinding on each other (if Dancing On My Own plays then I will have a meltdown). Not that I’m jealous- I’ve done my share of shameful dirty dancing and I dress/present myself the way I want to look, and not for a male gaze. I’ve just failed at being hot enough to have a love life.

This leads on to my next failure. My failure in having a boyfriend.

I’ve always known I would travel. I really, really wanted to go to Italy. I studied Rome in high school and it became part of bucket list to visit Italy. It evolved into travelling through Europe with a significant other, and it became a hard goal rather than a bucket list bulletpoint. I wanted this for years. It did not help that when I was 23 I did a tarot card reading where the dude, who I now know got everything wrong lol, told me I was going to travel Europe with a significant other. This was music to my ears, as I had wanted that for years.

Fast forward two more years and I was done with waiting for no one but myself to make my dreams come true and off I went on a Contiki. I had forgotten about the significant other part until I was on an 8 hour ferry from Athens to the Greek Islands with no internet, no books and only me to realise I was heading to Honeymoon island aka Santorini and I had wanted to do this whole journey with someone I intensely liked (I can’t even bring myself to write the l word, commitment problems?).

And the memory of my want came washing over me like the waves of the Mediterranean sea that I was currently staring at through a grimey window. One of my biggest desires in life, was to not do this alone. And yet here I was, doing it and making one of my dreams not come true. Alexa, play Dancing On My Own.

 I mean, I can still travel the world with a significant other and I don’t think it’s right to wait for another person to do what you want to do.  I like to think I am pretty good at getting what I want by my own work, but the only thing I needed someone else to achieve, I couldn’t make happen.

I don’t want to talk about my career failures and write something that could potentially haunt my employment future, so I’m going to talk about a major failure that still haunts me that I mentioned in my last blog post: my constant driving test fails.

I tried to get my restricted drivers license many, many times. I spent so much money on driving lessons, simulated driving tests and so many hours driving around Auckland for the sole purpose of practising. Once I failed because I didn’t stop at a stop sign long enough on the road that the VTNZ was on so the test only took 5 minutes. Once I scraped the curb when the instructor told me to pull over so he could tell me I had passed the first part of the test and it was classed as a collision. The first test fail was because my speed kept fluctuating and I was cutting corners when I turned into streets.

I was starting to think I would never be able to drive myself around, because each test I was failing on a different thing.  Over 45% of drivers fail their restricted drivers license tests in NZ, and I was becoming increasingly negative and anxious behind the wheel. I only kept trying because my driving instructors always said I could pass it and my parents forced me to keep driving lol. I felt like I was in a pit of despair because I hated driving, strangers were assessing my driving and saying it wasn’t good enough, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t pass it and nearly everyone else I knew had their license already. I’ve been blessed to be really good at school, and it gave me a taste of how shit kids must feel to fail at tests that they’ve tried hard on and everyone else seems to be passing.

I FINALLY passed my drivers test on the fourth or fifth attempt – I forget because I try to repress those memories haha. I know that if I had passed the first few times, my driving would’ve been really dangerous. However, I still get quite twitchy over comments about my driving due to how many people who have picked it apart (I did not like any of my driving instructors) and also the stereotype that Asian women are bad drivers. Even though I’ve been driving for about 4 years now, whenever someone makes a “I cant believe they don’t know how to drive”/ “I can’t believe they don’t have their license” I get lowkey #butthurt because I feel like that would be what they would think of me if I kept continuing to fail my drivers test despite trying my hardest.

I recently did my full drivers test in July without telling anyone including my parents who were constantly nagging at me to sit it so I could get get cheaper car insurance. I just could not have witnesses to my pain if I failed. To my surprise I passed it on the first time and I am so glad that I never have to take it again until I’m ancient, and by then there will probably be a lot of self driving cars and I won’t need to worry.

So, the whole point of this post: how do I deal with failure?

A phrase that I’m constantly telling myself is if it was meant to be, it’ll happen. I’ve failed at a lot of things that I’ve forgotten about. I’ve been to so many job interviews that I didn’t get, boys I didn’t catch the attention of, things I’ve missed out but I let it go by saying if it was meant to be, it would’ve happened. Maybe I dodged a bullet. I’m not religious or a huge believer in fate but if it didn’t happen, then it wasn’t supposed to.

My second way: I share it. I’m learning to tell my friends and those that I trust about my failures so they don’t ball up inside of me and become more bigger and scary than they really are. Sometimes they’re really hard to admit, and sometimes I tell strangers like therapists.  And the rest of the time I write it out! Why do you think I have a blog haha. Before my blog got wiped I had about 7 years of bullshit in here, but now I get to start afresh. I always feel better after letting it out, and I write about things I don’t mind people knowing about.

Failure is impossible to avoid. We just have to learn how to accept it and move on.

What are some ways you deal with failure, or some failures that you’ve had in your life that you’re proud of working through?

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