If you fail, you might as well do it like a champion

During exam season the pressure is on to perform. But you shouldn’t be afraid to fail, because failing can also lead to success, says UKrant’s new student columnist Liza Kolomiiets.

The pubs of Groningen are empty. The library is full. January equals stress. Anxiety is in the air. Pass and fail are the scariest words to many students. I am a part of that group, not knowing how to start my essay. 

Procrastinating, I talk with my roommate. He decided not to go to one of his exams. ‘Why would I go, knowing I won’t excel, ruining my academic self-esteem forever?’ he asks rhetorically. I am confused. He should’ve at least tried, I think. Surely, the confrontation with the bad results couldn’t be that bad! 

Doomscrolling, I come across atychiphobia, an extreme fear of failure. Atychiphobians may procrastinate or avoid situations where they don’t feel they’ll be ultimately successful, leading to anxiety and depression, especially among young people. My roommate and I can relate. But why do we consider the words success and failure as contradictory rather than complementary?

A few years ago, my fine art program held a competition. To win, you had to fail, and show it in an artwork you made. The prize was a Champion of Failure cup. Brainstorming and try-outs led to nothing. My failure-avoidant brain couldn’t comprehend the task of succeeding while failing. 

Why do we consider the words success and failure as contradictory rather than complementary?

On the morning of the submission day, I only had the list of ideas and their underwhelming outcome. Embarrassedly presenting that, to my big surprise, I won the competition. Could it be that failing can sometimes lead to an opportunity rather than misery? In art school and out of it, in real life?

In academia’s high-pressure environment, we sometimes forget that studying can be a fun process full of surprises. We fear failure, and it prevents us from discovery, curiosity, and joy. Flowers and pictures by the temporary Silent Struggle sculpture at Akerkhof show what that can lead to. 

I show my long-forgotten trophy to my roommate, and we both laugh. It is ridiculous, but at least I tried, and he should too.

I finally start my essay. It will not be flawless. But to succeed, you have to fail, and to fail, you have to try. Exams shouldn’t lead to paralyzing anxiety over failure. Perhaps failing could be just an opportunity to learn, or, maybe, even gain something you haven’t thought of. And if you fail, you might just as well do it like a champion.

LIZA KOLOMIIETS

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