Facing Failure From an Avid Perfectionist

Lauren Mazon
Edited by Amy Karim
Published on
December 18, 2022

As a student, failure is inevitable. No matter how much of a perfectionist somebody may be, failure is an obstacle that one must face. Whether you benefit from your mistakes, though, is up to you. 

In school, there are many opportunities for success but there is an equal chance of facing failure. For example, you may work for hours on a school project, perfecting every detail, and still receive a low score. This just goes to show that failure is completely unavoidable, no matter the effort. Dealing with failure and making mistakes can be difficult and giving up can seem like the best thing to do, but failing can be a great opportunity to learn and improve later on. In order to let failure be something  positive, you need to embrace your emotions. “Embracing your emotions” means making sure you are being transparent with yourself, whether it be by accepting your anxieties or talking to others about how you feel.  Journalist Amy Morin of Very Well Mind delves into the idea that accepting that you have failed is the best thing you can do. “Allowing yourself to feel bad is motivating. It can help you work harder to find better solutions so that you’ll improve next time” (Hartney). Feeling shame and disappointment may help you in the long run. 

You should also keep in mind that accepting and projecting your emotions should be taken with a grain of salt. There are limits to this step to overcoming failure, recognizing that you may be unhealthily handling your emotions is key to evolving. In certain situations, when you face defeat, denying that you did not want to succeed anyway is very easy. Then, you give up as a whole and your progress comes to a halt. Keeping yourself accountable is what allows success to come easily, but pushing yourself away from what you want will not get you anywhere. 

Even with these tips, certain thinking patterns, mindsets, etc. play a huge role in how failure is perceived. Psychologist Elizatbeth Hartney explains that failure can often be distorted, and a lot of the time, this may be a psychological barrier. There are many kinds of “cognitive flaws” that affect behavior - specifically having to do with accepting and facing failure. For example, there is the “All or Nothing” or black and white type of thinking. Usually, this thought process incorporates the idea that everything is ultimate (good or bad, black or white…). With this type of mindset, failing can mean that you have done everything wrong and there is no way of fixing it. As a result, handling failure may not come as easily to some as it does to others. There are many other patterns of thinking that hinder one’s ability to fully comprehend and deal with their emotions, especially when it comes to failing. Hereby, finding the right coping mechanisms and seeking help from a therapist may be what is necessary to healthily deal with failure. 

Like many, I have found that tips, tricks, and advice are not always the best thing to look for when help is needed. Instead, I find that connecting with others through common personal experiences is what allows me to cope and enforce a positive mindset. Still, failure is something that I have feared for a long time and continues to loom over me everytime I walk into a classroom. Stressing over every little detail and perfecting every last sentence is what gets me through my fear of failure while working, but makes failing so much worse when it happens. I put my everything into all of my work, and failure is the last thing I expect. So, after studying for a chemistry test for three hours straight, finding out I pretty much failed… is absolutely devastating. Really, what I have learned from failure is that I should always expect to have something I can improve upon in my work. I realized that I need to understand that teachers do not see my work the same way I see mine, and that failure, or rather mistakes, is undeniably a part of life. 

Failing may be something that you are used to or something that you are completely horrified of. Either way, it is healthy and normal to make mistakes and fail. Success is not easily attained, which should be noted. Allowing yourself to understand what the mistakes you made are is the most important part of failure, but pushing your shortcomings aside and denying that you failed will not allow you to progress in your journey to becoming the best version of yourself that you can be. Failure and success go hand in hand, so let both happen and do the best you can.


Hartney, E. (2021, November 13). Cognitive Distortions. Verywell Mind - Know More. Live Brighter. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/

Seelye, L. (2020). Failure should be normalized. Opensource.com. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://opensource.com/

Wooll, M. (2022). The Art of Making Mistakes. BetterUp: The People Experience Platform. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://www.betterup.com/

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