Elana Williams-Leonard 

Im sure you have experienced failure at some point in your life. Maybe a job that you had been anxiously waiting to hear back from for months finally told you that you are not what they are looking for. Maybe a position in the graduate school program of your dreams only had five spots to fill and unfortunately, you did not make the cut. Perhaps it was even a love interest who allowed you to tap into your vulnerability for the first time and share your true feelings, only for them to tell you that they would rather be friends. Whatever the case may be, we can all agree that we have experienced some form of failure. We can also all agree that it is not an easy thing to deal with. Despite this, the way you decide to channel your energy afterward is critical in the process of recovery. 

During the initial moment of failure, your reaction is that of anger accompanied by sadness. Failure or rejection of any kind puts a significant damper on your overall attitude. The rest of your day—or days—is consistent of continuous contemplation regarding the reasoning behind why it happened. You may even begin to feel as though you are not good enough at anything or that you were foolish to even believe that you would be able to succeed at the respective undertaking. 

I am here to tell you that you are in control of how you let your failure affect you thereafter. You dictate the way you navigate through life once it occurs. You control how long you let the situation consume you. There is no debate about the extreme difficulty involved in getting over the dissatisfaction or the distress that comes along with it, but constantly dwelling on the situation will not help you move on. You must be strong and persevere.  

Firstly, it is important that you give yourself time to process what has happened. If you were not chosen for the position, give yourself some time to sit with those emotions and feel them. This is crucial. Be frustrated. Be disappointed. Be sad. Process those feelings. You must understand and confront those emotions before you can move on.  

Now, once you have dedicated some time to this essential emotional healing, it is then time to channel your energy elsewhere. You must remember that failure is a part of the process. You need to be willing to understand its role in your life, what it is trying to teach you, and how you can learn from it. Also, please remember that there would be no success without failure. I know this sounds cliché, but it is merely a reality. Think about all of the people who have been rejected that are now in positions of power and are tremendously successful, influencing the world on a daily basis. If they had given up the first time they did not get what they worked for and let their disappointment consume them, where would they be right now? 

Imagine a world where famous basketball player Michael Jordan decided to give up when he was cut from the team during his sophomore year of high school. Imagine a world where Stephen King stopped writing after his 30+ rejection letters for his now critically-acclaimed book, “Carrie,” that was subsequently made into a classic film in 1976. Imagine a world where Jerry Seinfeld gave up comedy when he was booed off of the stage during his very first gig. What if Oprah had given up journalism when she was deemed “unfit for television?”  

As Thomas Edison modestly expressed, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Think of these exceptional people and these words the next time something doesn’t go your way. It is important that you embrace your failure and understand that it has become a part of life for a reason. We all experience it. We all understand the pain that comes along with it. Regardless of this, we must learn to embrace it and not let it define us.  

If you are someone who does not deal with failure well, I am sorry to tell you, but you will fail again. Maybe it’ll be something small, and maybe it’ll be something big. Despite the severity of this failure, you must understand that it is solely a learning experience. You need to eventually accept it and then make an active decision to live with and in spite of it simultaneously. You cannot let it control your attitude, emotions, and behavior. You cannot allow it to deter you from applying yourself and trying new things. Instead, let it invigorate and inspire you. Let it do its job and mold you into who you are supposed to be. Once you understand the role the situation plays in your life, you are a step ahead of everyone else.  

Failure forces you to become more adaptable, more accepting, more resilient, and most importantly, it helps you become fearless. And once you get to a position where you are fearless, that is when you are truly free. That is when nobody can get in the way of your success. As J. K. Rowling eloquently puts it, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” 

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Hello! My name is Elana Williams-Leonard and I am a senior pursuing a bachelor's in Literary and Cultural Studies with a concentration in Applied Psychology. My minors include Business Administration, Communication, and Africana/Black Studies. On campus, I am a Writing Consultant in the Academic Center for Excellence, a Resident Assistant, a MyPath mentor, and an active member in the Multicultural Student Union Organization. My life's goal is to educate people about the importance of acceptance, diversity and love. I try to accomplish some of that through writing, whether it be in my free time or here at The Archway. I really hope you enjoy my articles!