Feeling like a failure? You’re not as alone as you think

| Managing Editor

It goes without saying that everyone at Washington University is pretty extraordinary—you wouldn’t be here unless you were. We are all people who excelled, even overachieved, in high school. I never struggled in high school.

But Wash. U. is a struggle. It’s stressful, and it can be intense.

I felt a lot of pressure. It wasn’t just a pressure to get good grades, although that was certainly part of it. It was, for lack of a better way of describing it, a pressure not to “fail.”

Everyone at Wash. U. is so talented, and it felt like whenever I talked to my friends and classmates, they were succeeding in class and in life. They were landing amazing internships, acing impossible tests and getting involved with research projects. It felt like they were kicking butt, and I felt like I was the only one who was struggling with the difficulty of my classes and the only one who felt like the stresses and pressure were too much.

Even though I wasn’t getting Fs or in danger of flunking any of my classes, I felt like a failure.

It got to the point that I was terrified to start any projects because I was so scared of failing. It wasn’t rational, but I started putting off writing a paper because the pressure to come up with an idea or find a place to start was too much for me. But then I just grew more stressed because I hadn’t started anything. I was paralyzed by stress. I felt like a huge failure, like I couldn’t hack it, and I felt like the only one.

I wasn’t, though.

That finally occurred to me at a class meeting for Ervin, my scholarship program. We were going around the room talking about our high and low points for the week, and the people who were kicking the most butt were the same people who were struggling hard-core. Success and failure were not mutually exclusive.

Everyone else was having just as much trouble as I was, and I was succeeding just as much as they were.

People don’t like talking about the ugly parts, so you only hear about the good stuff happening in their lives. But when you’re only hearing about the good, it makes you feel alone in your troubles.

It’s important to hear that other people are failing. It’s important to hear that not everyone has a picture-perfect, amazing college experience. Because college isn’t picture-perfect (as much as the Wash. U. admissions brochures want you to believe).

I’ve had a good three years at Wash. U. They certainly haven’t been perfect, and that’s OK.

It sounds silly, but just knowing that I wasn’t the only one struggling was helpful. It didn’t make Wash. U. any easier, but it did make it more manageable and much less overwhelming.

Struggling is a part of college. Just because you struggle doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You aren’t alone.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.