A Relationship with Failure

I was a bright kid growing up. I have talked about this briefly in my introductions, and it's said with not much pride. It was only helping me in the short run of school which grew more and more difficult to navigate using innate talents alone. By the time my innate talent ran out of proper capacity to deal with my problems, I had not learned how to deal with failures of any kind. It was one of the main triggers of my anger issues.

I was so used to being independent and capable that even the thought of failure can induce a level of anxiety that incapacitate me. Life grew more and more frustrating as I walk through life I start making excuses and finding faults in everything else but myself. Either that or I start going hard in the opposite direction and beat myself up and curse myself for every single tiny flaw and even forecasted a dark and dreadful future for myself due to my incompetence.

It got to a point where I couldn't enjoy the stuff I used to love in the past, like sketching. Everything I do often becomes a question of “Will this help me succeed in the future?” so even a simple sketch becomes an object of critique. It got so bad because I couldn't even properly define what “success” meant for me. Maybe it was financially? maybe it was other societal expectations? religious goals? It all blends into one simple horrible sentiment. It doesn't matter since I'm failing at every single one of those and probably any other metric I forgot to mention.

I think I managed to properly convey how horrible of a relationship I have with failure. But, I had an interesting thought that can hopefully steer this post in a more positive direction. I want to talk about curiosity and how it's related to the concept of failure. Curiosity is a positive emotional response to failure and incompetence, while its negative counterpart is shame or insecurity.

Think about it for a second, one of the defining characteristics of children is that they are curious. They have always been that way and that is what drives them to learn about all things in their developing years. They learned how to do things like walk and talk because they are curious. Curious about how the people around them can do things they can't. And so their curiosity drove them to try again and again and again. They take their time and they keep at it with no regard for how many times they failed. It is because they had no prior concept of shame or insecurity. They just know that it's possible since people around them can do it too, even though they themselves can't do the thing just yet.

Curiosity is one of the most precious traits of humankind. It is the driving force of human progress, be it as a whole species/society or as individuals. And it is eroded by shame and insecurity. The more we shame those who are incapable or incompetent, the less likely they are to be curious or to keep trying to reach any goal. Thus, I think the world would be a better place if we learn to cultivate curiosity and penalize shaming people that aren't yet capable of something.

As a burnt-out grown-up gifted child, I have a terrible relationship with failure. It made me take years to realize that failure isn't the end of the journey, it is the beginning of it. It is a marker on the side of the street saying that there is more road ahead of you. Thus, you should continue the journey ahead.

And remember that the journey is not a race, let alone a sprint. It is a marathon at best, though it's more enjoyable to treat it as just a leisurely stroll. Enjoy every step and see where the road takes you. Until then, safe travels and be well.

Yours Truly, Singodimejo