Lack of Failure?

Delta Winds cover 2010Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Lack of Failure?

Javier A. Villalobos

In today's society, confidence may be as important as any other personal attribute. Without confidence, a person might find his aspirations a little bleak. People who lack confidence never really take chances. One example is taking out a long-term loan to purchase a new home. A person could be intelligent and have a good job. But if that person does not have confidence, he may not take the chances necessary to purchase a new home. Uncertain people usually blame their lack of confidence on past childhood failures. In recent years, psychologists have begun to tell parents that failure in childhood is a healthy experience. Furthermore, some psychologists believe that parents should not always protect their children from failure. I disagree. The psychological and physical effects of failure are far too unhealthy and should be avoided. The definition of the word failure means lack of success. The experience of failure usually gives that person the impression that he has reached his limit of success. Once a child believes that he has reached this limit, he abandons the hope or idea that he can ever do any better. The psychological and physical effects of failure can make a child feel discouraged, inadequate, and alienated in many cases. So parents should protect against it.

The psychological discouragements and frustrations of failure can break down a child's confidence. Failure results in embarrassment. If a child displays poor dexterity, his peers and opponents might heckle him. The shame experienced due to heckling can directly influence the child's confidence. Fearing further humiliation, a child might withdraw from activities. For example, if a child does poorly in a physical sport, he may decide that that specific sport is not his forte. When multiple attempts to overcome a challenge result in defeat, the child becomes frustrated. As a child, for instance, I remember doing very poorly in basketball. It was because of my inferior basketball skills that I decided very early in my childhood that basketball was not going to be my long suit. Realizing that I would rather not be teased about my poor skills on the court, I chose not to be on the court.

Failure can also make a child feel physically inadequate. Imagine a child playing baseball or softball for the first time. As expected, a rookie ballplayer is not likely to do too well in a game of baseball. One can easily foresee that a rookie would likely strike out a few times. It wouldn't be surprising to see the newcomer maybe throw a baseball too short or too long. Seeing the majority of his teammates perform better can cultivate in him feelings of physical inadequacy. For a child, this can easily progress into the idea that the other children are physically superior to him. What if the team were to lose that baseball game? Believing that he lacks the physical skills that his peers may possess, the child and his teammates may find the child to be at fault for the failure. Now I'm not trying to imply that parents should not allow their children to play baseball or other team sports. I'm just trying to point out that in dilemmas like this, children tend to quit rather than continue. I would suggest to parents that if their child is going to participate in a team sport, then the parents and the child should set aside a little extra time to practice and prepare for his first game.

Sometimes failure can cause social alienation. For example, if a child were to fail publicly in front of his peers and companions, a crowd of the child's peers might criticize him for his failure. Such disapproval could cause his companions and other groups of the child's peers to conclude that the child lacks the ability to benefit their group. In circumstances like this, the other children might even find the child's presence to be a weakness. When a child experiences social alienation, he might feel depressed. The alienation and disconnection from his friends can lead to loneliness.

Failure can cause a child to be negatively labeled for his past and present failures and shortcomings. This negative verbal abuse due to failure can easily result again in humiliation and loss of confidence. For example, if a child does not do well in sports, he often receives the physical label "wimp." Another label that one might receive due to insufficient success is the term "loser." "Loser" usually describes someone who is constantly failing. Most of the labels people think about that describe failure are terms that describe physical failure. There are other types of failure; take for instance academic failure. I remember as a child that school was a very competitive environment. A lack of academic achievements in a competitive environment can cause a child's peers to see him as an underachiever or a failure. The labels "idiot," "stupid," and "dummy" are all commonly associated with academic failure. These labels can be devastating to a child's confidence. That's why it is so important for parents to observe their child's academic progress, especially if their child wants to compete academically. Through observation parents will know how to better prepare their child to achieve academic excellence and success.

In situations that result in failure, the psychological and physical consequences negatively affect the child. These effects can continue far into adult life. I know from my own personal experiences that the yoke of my past childhood failures have many times kept me from success. For psychologists to champion the idea that parents should not protect their children from experiencing more failure is unprofessional. Life is tough and already filled with far too little success, not lack of failure. Thus I advocate that parents should always help their children experience the happiness and benefits of success, and protect their children from the embarrassment, devastation, and hardships of failure.