Failure is a very taboo subject for some reason. If you talk too much about your personal shortcomings to others it is often perceived negatively. Even thinking about these things alone can cause a jolt of shame to course through your bones. Why is this though? Why does our society (at least domestically, I can’t speak for international ways of thinking) impose such narrow minded and pessimistic views on our psyche, collectively and individually? Obviously, this is speculation, but I believe it stems from something deep within all of us: insecurity.
Everyone, no matter how bronzed and buff your exterior, has insecurities lurking below the surface. Even if you are too stoic to have ever uttered these to a single living sole, they exist, whether consciously or subconsciously. Sorry to bust your bubble of invincibility. Depending on your comfortability with your demons, you talk about them. Like most things, this is a spectrum, with some confiding in many and others confiding in few. Looping back to the taboo nature of failure, it is common place for people to build exquisite facades, sheltering their interiors. Social media is the prime tool for building such a castle. You can essentially edit your life, making it as glamorous and upbeat as you want. Moreover, people are not going to blast their failures around the world with their social media bullhorns. What you are left with is a highly doctored highlight reel of those around you, functioning to nourish your insecurities, no matter how trivial. This cycle is especially vicious in highly competitive arenas. Given the nature of my blog, which follows my own path through medicine, you can guess where this is going. However, no matter where your endeavors are set you bring you, you can find value within this article, so I encourage you to keep reading. Moreover, if you write a blog piece unique to your pursuit, I will gladly publish it on my site ;).
Now that we are diving into the realm of medicine, it is worth sharing the inspiration for this piece. Although there is going to be nothing but praise here for this individual, I thought it best to keep him anonymous. I attend a weekly research meeting with some fantastic mentors. The other week one of them started the meeting out by encouraging us to all failure repeatedly and spectacularly. He went on to bash the taboos surrounding failure, pointing out that it if you don’t give up, it eventually culminates in success. Moreover, no giant of their field gets to where they are without numerous failures. He himself is a perfect example of this. So, as tokens of our ongoing failure, he insisted on rewarding us with various surgical instruments as physical reminders, as well as neat gadgets (obviously we are all interested in surgery). This uplifting speech could not have come at a better time, as my abstract continues to get rejected from conference after conference.
In your own journey, where ever that may currently be, I encourage you to get your own taste of failure (and success thereafter). If you are a premed, don’t fret over unsatisfactory grades or a disappointing MCAT score. Regardless of what your peers convey, they are having their own struggles. Better yet, find a group of people who you can openly converse with such topics about. If one doesn’t exist, then god damnit create it. You can be the beacon of positivity yourself. If you are in medical school, don’t let the polished exteriors of others throw you. They feel just like you do, even if they refuse to admit it, including to themselves. Honestly, the stakes just keep getting higher, as we eventually will care for real people as residents and attendings, so the failures will keep rolling in. Just remember, you are not alone, even if you may feel like it. Like those before you have done, and those after you will do, learn from you failures, pick yourself up, and keep grinding.