Campaigns · Coping Day to Day · OCD · Personal · School & OCD

The Fear of Failure | Life in a Cardboard Box

A fear of failure is something that many of us struggle with. Especially with the increasing pressure that seems to be coming from schools and universities to get straight A’s or to finish with a first. With all this pressure, it can leave us extremely torn down and feeling as though there’s an expectation for education and getting a job to be a very specific and linear process. So, if we end up re-sitting exams or going onto further education/getting a job later than everyone else, it means we’ve failed. Which is an extremely sole destroying expectation to put on anyone, because life isn’t a linear process. Sure, maybe a fair portion of people end up going through the standardised education system, with GCSE’s at age 15-16, College/Sixth Form from 16-18, university from 18+ and then a supposed job in the specified field you trained in straight after. However, this isn’t always achievable by everyone or even wanted by everyone.

The expectation needs to drop that we must follow this outline for a successful life. There are so many different ways you can achieve the life you want and you shouldn’t be shamed for not taking the conventional route. It doesn’t matter if you don’t go to university at age 18. It doesn’t make you any less of a person if you go at age 19, 20, 30 or even 70. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t go at all. Same goes for re-sitting years or dropping out. You are still a valuable and worthy human being and nobody should ever be made to feel ashamed for where they are in life.

What’s so warped is that are told from the age of 15, or even younger to start making our decisions as to what career we want to commit to for the rest of our lives (another frustrating expectation, because the majority of careers nowadays are really quite flexible and diverse, thus not locking us in one career for the rest of our lives) which inevitably creates more pressure and fear about the future and not choosing the ‘right’ job pathway and don’t even get me started on tuition fees…so I guess we can draw a very common theme throughout all of this. Pressure. Pressure, pressure and more pressure. It’s exhausting. I mean, I’m meant to be applying to university in a few months and I’m petrified. I’m not sure if I’m going to be okay there, or if I’m even mentally stable enough to fully commit to the work that comes with it, but I’m in an environment where university is pushed to be pretty much the only possible route forward and it’s awful. I wish it would change.

I was talking to a really close friend a while ago and she was talking to me about how she was struggling with the anxiety of not getting into vet school. So her psychologist had responded and paraphrased her thoughts with, “Let me guess, if you don’t get in, you’ll have no life and have to live in a box” A statement which I think is extremely representational of how many of us can feel at times. Especially with regards to the thought of not ending up in we career we necessarily wanted or not getting the grades we wanted.  However, my response to this would be to have you think back to when you were a child. Being presented a cardboard box opened up a world of possibility. You could make anything out of a cardboard box. Literally anything. You had the power to shape this seemingly bland piece of cardboard into the world’s greatest rocket ship or your own top secret hideout. Ending up in a cardboard box at that age was the best thing in the world, so why can’t that be the case when we’re older?

Maybe you didn’t end up where you expected or wanted and now you’re in a metaphorical cardboard box of wtf do I do with my life now, but remember. Your life is far from over. If you need time out for recovery, that’s totally okay and it doesn’t mean that the many other opportunities waiting for you out there are going to disappear. If you just want time out to travel, that’s totally okay too. The world is out there waiting for you to explore. You could end up somewhere you never expected to be and love it far more than where you expected to be at this point in your life. You could choose a whole new career, you could choose to move across the world and everything in-between. Just because you’re not having the stereotypical education, job, marriage life, does not mean you won’t be successful. Your journey is individual and specific to you. You don’t need to fit the moulds society has set for us in order to achieve great things.

So, if in life you end up in a cardboard box, don’t view it as a failure, view it as an opportunity to make your life into anything you’ve ever wanted.


6 thoughts on “The Fear of Failure | Life in a Cardboard Box

  1. I am not an expert, I am simply a student who espresses her opinion: International system of education need an urgent reform, because it is not possible that in 2016, with all the informations we have about pedagogy, our countries are still far from a quality system which considers the student first as a person (and not a machine and a number). There is still a mentality for which “the success is more important than mental health” and “the society is caotic, so we have to prepare students to that type of society”. That mentality is wrong and in my point of view should be replaced by: “We have to improve society, not merely adequate ourselves to it” . Thank you for the post.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Ellen, I’m the mother of a young woman who graduated from high school in June and is taking a year off. I’ve been following you since your started your blog and enjoy reading all your posts. This one really resonated with me and I hope I can get my daughter to read it because it is exactly what she is feeling. Unfortunately, she tends to not want to read anything that has to do with OCD 😦
    Keep up the excellent posts – I feel you are not only helping others, but it must be very helpful in your growth as well.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Carol,
      Thank you so much for sticking with me throughout the years. I’m so glad that this post has been able to resonate with you and I hope that your daughter may be able to read it too. If I can offer help with this in any way, please let me know.
      Hope you’re both well and please take care.


  3. Hi Ellen, Once again, wise beyond your years. I totally agree with everything you say, so much so that I homeschooled my three children throughout the years, way before it was an acceptable alternative to traditional schooling. The pressure on kids these days is just ridiculous, and is detrimental to their health in so many ways, I believe. I’m glad you realize it for what it is. You might be going through a rough patch right now but I wholeheartedly believe you will find your own way and have a wonderful life ahead of you, beyond your wildest dreams :).

    Liked by 2 people

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