This is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Standing at the end of the semester now, there are great obstacles to face over the next few weeks, but there are even more behind us. You may have overcome some of those obstacles successfully and failed to overcome others. And, while I’m confident we’ll all face our upcoming challenges to the best of our ability, it’s possible we might not live up to the expectations we’ve set for ourselves. But falling short of them is not just okay, it’s normal.
It would be easy to say that failure is the biggest learning opportunity, we should revel in it and take every lesson it brings, but I know how hollow that sounds. The truth is, for most of us, failure sucks. It feels bad, and it won’t always bring life lessons with it. What did I learn from forgetting my lines in that elementary school winter play? I’m a horrible actor and that’s about it. But it made me think, ‘Why did I want to do well in the play in the first place?’.
When I miss the mark or fail a quiz, whose target am I aiming at? It’s my own. Sure, there are others who depend on me and mentors that I’d love to impress, but at the end of the day, I’m seeking approval from myself. I think that the worst thing about underachieving is the idea that I expect too much from myself. There’s a lot said about the external pressures that play into standards and expectations, and they do play a massive role, but I’ve heard less about the internal pressures we set for ourselves. Things like social media or parents and guardians can lessen or magnify our expectations, but innately, most people just want to succeed. We want to feel like we’re on track towards something. Not living up to expectations can feel like we’ve fallen off track and it often fills us with self-doubt. What’s left is simple: We need to forgive ourselves.
Not every failure has a moral, and not every play has competent actors. But it’s not our failures that will define us. Don’t worry; You’ll graduate, you’ll find a job, you’ll find love. You’re navigating an entire life. Dust yourself off after those pitfalls and take your time doing so.
Happy Holidays, friends.
Matthew Diaz is UF political science senior