The Hardest Thing to Accept: Inevitability of Mistakes

16 Feb 2019 - Vivian Hir

As a hardworking student who constantly strives for straight As, a weakness that comes with this trait is having low self-esteem by not accepting the fact that I will keep making mistakes. These mistakes range from doing labs incorrectly to writing mediocre essays on tests. Despite using my reflection process (study like Darwin) after a test, lab, or assignment, I still make similar mistakes such as a calculation error or forgetting to do something. This repeated cycle of criticizing myself for not following my expectations has only made it harder for me and feel obliged to always improve instead of falling down and then getting back up. Looking back on my previous failures, I realized that the best way to deal with failure is to not make it very personal. One of the most important skills I developed from some failures was seeing it as a temporary situation and not an apocalyptic situation. In other words, I didn’t let my current situation determine my future. Instead, I would treat it like a postmortem and examine why I made mistakes and how I could do better. I accepted that making mistakes was natural and that failure was a learning opportunity for me. I used my failure to motivate me to do better. It would make me be more aware and informed about how to tackle a future challenge that I may encounter. In fact, it was a good reminder that I was being challenged. Although every student dreams of having perfect grades, it may not be a very good sign because having perfect grades may indicate that you aren’t learning much from the class.

The internal conflict hasn’t really been resolved because I still struggle with the difference between confidence and arrogance, but what I can attempt to do is to not make my mistakes make a generalized statement about who I am as a person. Usually, I exaggerate how bad my character is by calling myself irresponsible, careless, immature because I forgot to do my history homework assignment or forgot the negative signs for a physics lab. This may sound silly, but I think of how my teachers think about me in a disappointed manner after I didn’t do well on a test or assignment. I have this assumption that teachers expect their good students to consistently do well. That thinking needs to stop. Rather let my past define me, I can seize the moment to try to improve in the future. Another way to prevent me from entering a downward spiral of beating myself up for the smallest mistakes is to redefine what improvement should look like. I know I shouldn’t have this mindset, but I see improvement as a straight, linear line that keeps going up over time. Perhaps I should visualize improvement as a graph that has both high and low peaks, but over a stretch of time there is a positive correlation.  Most importantly, I have to let go of my unwillingness to accept the fact that I will still make the same mistakes. Even if I make the same mistakes, as long as I am more aware and gradually do less of those mistakes, I should feel better for myself.


Vivian Hir is a high school student who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her blogs can be found here. Constructive feedback is appreciated.