Why should failing be the cause for one’s low self-esteem? Why should winning be everything, when in actuality it is failure that teaches you more life lessons
By Manjulaa Shirodkar
I wonder why is it that we are all hard-wired to win and win only? Why are we made to believe that winning is all and the winner takes all? What exactly is meant by ‘is all’ or ‘takes all’? In theory I do recognize the pleasure that winning accords and the whole deal about adrenaline rush when you ‘win’.
As an ultimate example of some grand wins, I am sure you have heard about the swimming champ Michael Phelps – the most decorated and celebrated Olympian of all time. And I am sure his feats are aspirational not just for fellow swimmers, not just for athletes from other disciplines but each one of you who dreams big – irrespective of what field you may choose.
And certainly we do not remember those who lost. But why is it such a big deal if you fail? Why is it ingrained in us right from the very beginning that failing is not such a great thing? An individual’s effort must be celebrated but is that reason enough to denounce all those who have tried but not been successful?
I sincerely believe that there is a still a case to be made out for those who tried and came second or third or didn’t even make to the ranks because for every One Michael Phelps – there are 10, 20 or maybe hundreds who never made it to the top. In short, the list of the failures might just be twice as long.
Sure, there is only One Tenzing Norgay or One Sir Edmund Hillary but can we ignore all the others who have failed to scale the world’s highest mountain? Are their efforts, training and failing just before reaching the top, to be discounted only because they didn’t make it or worse, lost their lives while trying? Or what about those who willingly gave up their positions to these two,and sent them ahead to try for the summit in the end?
Those like Colonel John Hunt whose expedition and team Norgay and Hillary were a part of and who instructed them to try and scale the summit. He chose not to go himself. Is he a failure then? Isn’t it time we began celebrating and acknowledging each other rather than measure each other through competitive eyes? Is winning the only measure of success?
Still, one must try and understand what it is about failure that gives goose bumps; leads to immense low self-esteem and loss of faith in oneself. Failure wants to make you hide or brazen it out by turns – depending upon the mood of the day. It makes you dislike yourself; place blame (instead of responsibility); become more critical of yourself and generally go on a fault finding spree.
But is that what failure should do? Should it stop you from going forward? Failure comes in handy when you have given anything your best effort and not won. If you fail because it was a lack lustre effort and you couldn’t be bothered about who won, you haven’t learned much. You are however, aware that you hadn’t put in your 100 percent. Big learning.
So, you are either quick to forgive yourself by saying there is always a next time or you know deep down that this is the person you are and therefore its okay to fail. If it is the second option we know that we are setting selves up for more disillusionment with ourselves and some more self-flagellation follows.
And that is so not fair. If you didn’t vie for the top spot in the first place, don’t punish yourself for it. Maybe it wasn’t important enough anyway; perhaps you were under pressure to try for it. But you didn’t succeed. That is alright. Don’t get me wrong, nobody wants for you to fail. You may win or losebut for the most part, very few care one way or another. Because the world is a huge place and you but a tiny speck.
But it certainly doesn’t merit for you start losing your self-respect and, blame yourself entirely. Don’t set yourself up for pain deliberately. It is okay to fail because it opens up alternative avenues. It allows you time to mull over the reasons for why something didn’t work out; for you to examine what happened and what could have been done and what can be.
Maybe the circumstances weren’t favourable, maybe you weren’t driven enough, maybe this, maybe that, maybe something else. The reasons are endless so you cannot be the fall guy. But if your best effort fails you have learned something valuable – that this isn’t the way forward. Because the secret to winning is in learning how to lose.
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Manjulaa Shirodkar (nee Negi) is an established film critic and author, having worked in leading national publications. She is also a Film Selection Committee member for various film festivals.