The Second "F" Word- Why is Failure Such a Negative Thing in This Society

We have been inculcated as children by parents & teachers that failure is bad & to be avoided. They are taught that they MUST succeed & win.
We have been inculcated as children by parents & teachers that failure is bad & to be avoided. They are taught that they MUST succeed & win.
Children who are successful are viewed very positively by parents, teachers, &/or other adult figures. They are seen as  stars, go getters, &/or winners
Children who are successful are viewed very positively by parents, teachers, &/or other adult figures. They are seen as stars, go getters, &/or winners
Then ........there are children are try ......and fail. They are often not viewed positively but seen as missing "the mark."
Then ........there are children are try ......and fail. They are often not viewed positively but seen as missing "the mark."
Many parents have a dim view of their children if they failed. They feel that the latter is not smart, inept, &/or other negative pejoratives. Some parents see their children's failures as personal affronts to them.
Many parents have a dim view of their children if they failed. They feel that the latter is not smart, inept, &/or other negative pejoratives. Some parents see their children's failures as personal affronts to them.
Children who are deemed as failures are demonized by teachers. They are also consider to be unnoteworthy. In the teacher's eyes, they are to be pitied as they will amount to very little or nothing.
Children who are deemed as failures are demonized by teachers. They are also consider to be unnoteworthy. In the teacher's eyes, they are to be pitied as they will amount to very little or nothing.
As a result of early indoctrination that failure is bad, the phobic fear of failure continued throughout our high school/college years & beyond. To fail at something is to be considered a loser or worse.
As a result of early indoctrination that failure is bad, the phobic fear of failure continued throughout our high school/college years & beyond. To fail at something is to be considered a loser or worse.
Many of us are told that there is only ONE chance &/or one opportunity to succeed. If they "fail" , they are told that they have missed the boat ,there are NO MORE chances &/or opportunities & doomed to a very constricted  & limited life.
Many of us are told that there is only ONE chance &/or one opportunity to succeed. If they "fail" , they are told that they have missed the boat ,there are NO MORE chances &/or opportunities & doomed to a very constricted & limited life.
Because we have been indoctrinated since childhood that failure is something to be avoided, we have a fear of failure. To fail at something is akin to D-E-A-T-H for many people.
Because we have been indoctrinated since childhood that failure is something to be avoided, we have a fear of failure. To fail at something is akin to D-E-A-T-H for many people.
Those who have tried & failed are made to be lesser than those who are deemed to be winners & achievers. Some act on this negative self-fulfilling prophecy while others become quite resigned to the "fact" that they are "failures".
Those who have tried & failed are made to be lesser than those who are deemed to be winners & achievers. Some act on this negative self-fulfilling prophecy while others become quite resigned to the "fact" that they are "failures".
Many people don't realize that failure is an intergral part of success.Many successful people had numerous failures before they became successful. In fact, such failures spurred them to evn greater heights of success.
Many people don't realize that failure is an intergral part of success.Many successful people had numerous failures before they became successful. In fact, such failures spurred them to evn greater heights of success.
People approach failure either positively or negatively. Some people become dejected, giving up as they feel there is nothing else in their lives while others view failure as an opportunity to start anew.
People approach failure either positively or negatively. Some people become dejected, giving up as they feel there is nothing else in their lives while others view failure as an opportunity to start anew.
Failure is a fact of life. There is no avoiding. Failure & success oftentimes go hand in hand.
Failure is a fact of life. There is no avoiding. Failure & success oftentimes go hand in hand.
Failure seems to be a 4-letter word in this winner obsessed society. It is seen as a demon to be avoided at all costs. However, failure is a valuable part of life & the learning process.
Failure seems to be a 4-letter word in this winner obsessed society. It is seen as a demon to be avoided at all costs. However, failure is a valuable part of life & the learning process.

Why Failure Is Such An Unmentionable Word In This Society

Failure is such a bad word in this success driven and oriented society. The name of the game in this society is success. Successful people are adulated and viewed as winners. Everyone wants to be successful for the accolades obtained and for what success represents.

Children are indoctrinated from early childhood to succeed, win, and to go for the stars. In schools, children are told to make the highest grades possible. If they achieve good grades, they are awarded with stars and other symbols of success. Children who succeed and achieve are adulated and respected by teachers and parents. They are also seen as winners who will achieve later success in school, college, and in life.

The child who succeeds is viewed as worthy of respect and as competent and intelligent. Obviously, there are rewards for achievement and success, starting from early ages. Children who achieve and win are viewed as success worthy. They are seen as apt, prodigious, and go getters. They are praised as the achievers and symbols of the American Dream. They are held as examples of what other children should expire to.

Then there are children who try to............fail! Now, these children are perceived by teachers, parents, and relatives to be problems. They wonder what could be possibly wrong with these children! In fact, they view these children in quite a negative light.

Many parents view children who try and fail in their tasks as "not smart" and "inept". They wonder what will become of their children. They begin to view their children as failures. In essence, their children absorb their parents' negative inundations that they are failures because they fail at a certain task or tasks.

This is the parent who becomes very disturbed if their child fails a subject although he/she studied hard. This parent feels that his/her child is a "disgrace" to them. Furthermore, this parent maintains that their child is not an achiever and studying hard enough to earn the proper grade. This parent further assert that since his/her child is a failure who will not amount to anything much.

Many teachers approach the child who tries and fails as nothing worthy of note. This child is not as glorified as the child who is a consummate achiever. This child is viewed as "the other" and "less than". As you see, no one loves a "failure". This child is in fact demonized and pitied.

This phobic fear of failure continues to the high school, college, and into the career arena. People who try and fail are often looked down upon as losers. They are told that if they tried hard enough, they would have succeeded at their given task.

People are often told that there is only one chance and one opportunity to succeed and if they fail in that chance and opportunity, there are no other chances and opportunities to do it over! There is an inculcation that we must succeed in everything we undertake and if we do not, we are failures and losers who are doomed to very constricted and limited life choices. In other words, failure is something to be avoided at all costs!

Because of the fear of failure in our society, many people have become risk aversive, choosing the easiest and safest route to success. There are even more people who have such an aberrant fear of failure that they elect to play it safe and to be in the safe and comfortable zone. They are inundated that failure is next to death or is death itself.

Many people who have tried and failed for whatever reason are made to feel that they are inferior to those achievers who society deem as winners and successes. Some of them believe the self-fulfilling prophecy inflicted upon them that because they failed in one or more tasks, they will not become anything worthwhile in life. Many others become quite resigned with the fact that they are indeed "failures", not worthy of respect.

What many people do not realize that failure is often a part of success. Many successful people had many failures in their lifepaths before they became successful. These people were quite undaunted by the fact that they failed. Instead they viewed these failures as part of the life plan towards success. In fact, failure spurred these people to even greater achievements.

There are many people who believe that so-called failure and mistakes are part of the learning process of life. They learned something valuable from their so-called failures and mistakes. These people definitely do not have a fear of failure at all and that failure is one of the options in life.

Many people often took many detours in failure until they discovered something that was suited to them. While many people are quite floored and devastated by failures and view this as the end of their plans and aspirations, there are other people who view failure as a vitamin injection and as the beginning of many exciting adventures. These people are often fearless risk takers who believe that success often involves many pitfalls and roads less tried and traveled.

For example, two people are fired from their jobs. The first person believes himself/herself to be an utter failure. According to this person, his/her life is finished and he/she is damaged goods. He/she believes that no one else wants to employ him/her and sinks into a deep depression. He/she has determined that being fired from his/her job is the end all.

This person becomes quite fearful that he/she will sink into abject poverty and homelessness. He/she then believes that his/her life is no longer worth living and start to have suicidal thoughts. To this person,his/her socioeconomic situation is quite perilous and hopeless and he/she decide to become quite self-destructive and descend on a downward spiral.

Then there is the second person who views being fired as an opportunity to find another career, perhaps a new and exciting career. He/she starts to network with others regarding job opportunities. Maybe he/she decides to do some volunteer work in a field which interests him/her.

He/she may decide to return to school and further his/her studies, obtaining an advanced degree which would make him/her more viable to future employers. In essence, the second person does not view the firing as an end of his/her employment life. He/she believes that he/she will definitely work again. He/she may have to start at the bottom of the new career but he/she believes that he/she would thrive in that particular career and/or job.

In essence, failure is a part of life. Oftentimes, failure leads to success and/or greater success than what was previously had. However, we have been taught to fear and avoid failure because of the stigmatization associated with it.

People who try and fail are often viewed as inherent losers in our success driven society. Society loves and adores its winners and denigrates those who fail. However, many successful and noted people failed in one or more tasks before they become successful. Oftentimes, we learn more from our failures than from our successes. Failure often teaches and guides us as to what NOT to do.

In summation, we taught to always succeed and to avoid failure. From our early childhood, we were taught that if we failed, our life paths were been more limited and prescribed. As a result of the prohibition against failure, many children have learned to become risk aversive and taking the safe and easy road to success. Many children are taught that failure is definitely not an option if one wishes to be highly successful.

This teaching follows children through their secondary and tertiary education into their careers. One is taught that failure can seriously derail academic promise and/or a career. So the implantation against failure continues so adolescents and young adults view failure is the end instead of a learning process to guide them towards a particular and specific goal.

As a result of this indoctrination that failure is bad and/or evil, many people who do fail become depressed and dejected towards life. They believe that they are failures as people instead of viewing an occasional mishap is part of life. However, there are other people who are fearless and risk takers who view failure as a wise teacher ever guiding them towards higher levels of success. They believe in living in the journey and process and failure is a part of that- a welcomed friend, not a dreaded enemy.




© 2012 Grace Marguerite Williams

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Comments 10 comments

kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

It is too bad we don't encourage our students/children/friends to fail more often. Failures are just links along the chain that leads to eventual success. When I had a failure I would try to show my children, e.g. "Look, the bread didn't rise. Oh well, let's use it to make croutons instead." When I make mistakes sewing, I don't call them failures--I call them "design opportunities."


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

To kschimmel: You have made an excellent point. You have demonstrated that it is alright to fail. You are a rare parent. Many parents, however, view failure as if it was a mortal sin. I remember when I was 8 years old( a VERY long time ago), a child failed at a task and the father started to berate her, calling her stupid and totally inept. This father was a perfectionist who saw mistakes and failures as signs of disgrace and not learning processes. Many parents do criticize children in a horrific way when they fail which is very sad.


veritorogue profile image

veritorogue 4 years ago from Arizona

As a special education teacher I disagree with your characterization about how things are. Students who achieve academic success are indeed lauded for their rightly deserved accomplishments but students who put forth an honest effort and perform to the best of their ability are usually acknowledged for their determination and rarely fail. The major issue we face in education are students who don't care at all but who have a myriad of excuses for their failure backed by enabling parents who expect nothing from their kids. I have the utmost respect for my students who have the determination to overcome their challenges and work hard to be successful as possible. These are the people who ultimately win in life. You can't do nothing and expect good things to happen in your life.


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

I don't get upset when children fail--only when they fail to TRY. We all have different gifts, environments and temperaments, so it is silly to expect identical achievement from everyone.

My background in engineering helps, too. We know perfection is impossible, so we design based on how close to perfect something needs to be, e.g. a nuclear reactor needs to be pretty close, while a deck or porch can be a bit less perfect and still be functional.


maria v eyles 4 years ago from Pismo Beach, California

Great article about our cultural "norms" which are crazy and harmful to so many of us. But there is some confusion with your sentences because I believe you, the author, are using the word "inundate" incorrectly. Do you mean "inculcate"?

Thanks from another Hubber, Maria V. Eyles


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

To veritorogue: I maintain that teachers usually deride students who fail occasionally and that those students are viewed as less than apt. Students who consistently achieve and win are the ones who are adulated by teachers while students who try and are not high achievers i.e. C students are definitely not respected and admired by teachers. The C student in school are viewed as failures and inadequate( at least they were in my elementary and high schools) even though they often try to be good students. I never mentioned students who never tried because to me those students are not failures but are lazy underachievers. I never mentioned underachievers. Underachievers are just plain lazy period-enough said!


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

To kschimmel: This is so true. Many parents expect total perfection from their children and if their children fail to reach that standard, they are considered failures by their parents. In many homes, failure is simply NOT an option!


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Yes, I agree with you. However, I meant to use the word inundate which means to consistently brainwash.


maria v eyles 4 years ago from Pismo Beach, California

To GMWilliams...Thanks for your response. I'm sorry--I stand corrected. Anyway, I really like your clarity and your logic. Thanks again for a good article! Maria


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

To maria: You are quite welcome. Always feel free to stop by and add to the discussion and comments. Peace and love always!

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