I Failed, but I am NOT a Failure

A grade shows how you did on a particular test on a given day–it neither measures nor affects who you ARE as a person. However, most students don’t feel that way, and I got a painful reminder of that fact. I just received the results from two exams I took last month for Women’s Gymnastics, and I failed both.

I know in my head that I didn’t pass, but I feel in my heart that I AM A FAILURE! That’s what kids feel when a grade or performance doesn’t meet their expectations, or those of their parents, teacher, or coach. If I’m having trouble separating the fact of not passing from the feeling of being a failure, how much more difficult is it for young people who don’t have the depth of knowledge and experience to help them sort facts from feelings?

In my defense, I studied a lot for this test over the summer. I was familiar with the material, but hadn’t mastered it by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not even surprised I failed. I fully anticipated failing, and had already begun organizing and planning my studying in preparation for a retake.

If a colleague hadn’t passed, I would remind her that these are all new rules, and that she is very new to judging. I would remind her that most judges have years of experience and that many of them have to retake tests, so she is in good company. I would never condemn her for not achieving her goal on the first try, but I have no problem berating myself for the same thing.

The almost overwhelming sense of worthlessness that threatens to drag me under is unsettling. I am more than a score on any test. I am more than a grade on a paper, or a test, or in a class. My value as a Christian, a mother, a friend, a sibling, or a person does not hinge on any test.

I pray I can remember how personal this feels the next time one of my children is upset by a grade. I hope to help them separate the fact of the grade from the feeling of failure. I also need to learn to give myself permission not to be perfect. I don’t expect perfection of others, and won’t hold myself to a higher standard.

I know this is a good Life Lesson, but it doesn’t feel good. It reminds me how much I depend on my feelings, which can be so deceptive.