“Failing is not the opposite of success, it is a part of the success story.”

Growing up, I remember having conversations with my peers where we all had something in common; all our parents came top of their class in school.

Back then, we never really thought to question this until much later when it became apparent. If they all came top of their class, who came bottom?

This is just putting it lightly but the reality for many of us growing up was that we were shielded from the struggles that our parents went through and the reality of their success stories.

Modelling perfectionism was the norm for many of us, and the thought of failure often brought about anxiety because you might as well not return home.

If you grew up in this era, have you finally figured out that failing is actually not all bad?! I eventually realised in adulthood that it was all a SCAM!!

If all parents came first, then who came last?

Perfectionism is actually a dangerous model to portray to children because it achieves the opposite of what it was set out to achieve. By putting undue pressure on our children to succeed, we take away the most important part of learning, which is that failure is also a part of the success story.

As a parent, there is nothing wrong with wanting to encourage your children to succeed and to strive to be the best at what they do, however, what I find to be an issue is how the lesson on failure is taught to be perceived as a negative thing and consequently, we shield our children from the reality that failure is actually not a bad thing when in fact it is a necessity that sometimes creates a path for greater things.

Fear of failure can create negative feelings of anxiety and a poor sense of self which can be an overwhelming emotion for anyone, much less a child. Failure should be taught to children as a necessary component to success and not the opposite of it.

Negative feelings can be overwhelming for everyone.

In 2007, I went through a really difficult and challenging time in my life when I failed at something, and I didn’t know how to process it. I felt more concerned about what my parents and others will think of me and how much I had disappointed them. I went into a state of depression and literally cut everyone close to me out of my life because I just couldn’t see any other way forward.

One of my biggest fears was having to let my parents know what had happened but I just couldn’t bring myself to tell them. I didn’t feel equipped to deal with the humiliation that I had failed at something. The thought of disappointing them had overwhelmed me to the point that I literally felt it was better for me to just escape to somewhere where no one knew my name.

With much hesitation, I eventually summoned up the courage to speak to my parents about it and I will never forget the feeling I had when the words came out of my mouth. I waited for their reaction thinking, “I am finished, ground, just take me now” I prayed. But I am glad I shared this with them because I was not prepared for their reaction.

I was waiting for the earful of “How could this happen, after all we have done and sacrificed for you”.

But instead, calmly and in the most soothing way I will never forget what my dad said:

“Eremoje, (as he usually calls me) …..it is not the end of the world, I know your capabilities, you are not a failure, you just failed at this!”

“Eremoje, it is not the end of the world, I know your capabilities, you are not a failure, you just failed at this!”

By now, as you can imagine, I was wailing my eyes out, because I felt a range of emotions.

Wow!!!! Was I hearing right or was I dreaming? I felt grateful and that was a significant point in my life. I was learning as an adult that failing didn’t mean I was a failure. How I wish I learnt this as a child. I am forever grateful to my parents for this because it literally turned my life around and my perspective to failing changed forever.

I am paying this forward intentionally as a parent. I will not shut my children out for failing, in fact, I am teaching them that failing isn’t the issue, being afraid to try is what they need to overcome. And when I fail at something, I share my experience with them and I am honest about it, using myself as a point of reflection to never give up.

Remember, protecting your children from the reality and benefits of failing forward is actually stopping them from living because they may never try at anything because of the fear of failure.

4 thoughts on ““Failing is not the opposite of success, it is a part of the success story.””

  1. Lol @ SCAM!!

    It is indeed necessary to teach our children that failure is a stepping stone towards success and, most often, the best learning tool. Because without it one would not discover where change needs to happen.

  2. Indeed, failing is a fundamental part of learning, If only I understood this earlier in life.These is so pertinent, we need to ease out the pressure we put on ourselves and our children.

  3. I was practically laughing out so loud when I read the part you mentioned “since all our parents came first,who then was the bottom of the class?”… This is a very insightful piece to parents and especially to the younger folks that intends to be parents. It is indeed very wise to guide ourselves and the little ones, that failing is necessary for growth… Thank you Mrs. Pam..such a lovely piece😘

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