Failure in Grad School

Today, I want to talk about something I've never talked about in this group on this blog: FAILURE.  It's a huge part of the grad school experience and it tests our resilience!

Whenever I was having a hard time in grad school, I would call my mom and she would always tell me, "This is the grad school experience. It doesn't matter how many times you fail or feel like you want to quit. You just have to keep going. Getting a PhD is all about withstanding the pressure and not giving up."

So this this post is all about failure in grad school and how to survive and overcome it!

Why failure is an important part of grad school and How to Overcome Failure in grad school | The Academic Society

 Why Failure is a Part of Grad School & How to Overcome the Fear of Failure


Fear of Failure

The first thing I want to talk about is fear of failure. And my challenge to you is to change your mindset about failure. Whenever you experience it, try to think to yourself, "yes, this is the grad school experience and as long as I keep moving forward, I'm succeeding at being a grad student!"

The fear of failure can cause you to be reluctant to try new things or reattempt the thing you failed at.

The fear of failure may cause you to self-sabotage through procrastination, failure to follow through, or becoming overly anxious.

 The fear of failure can cause low self-esteem or low self-confidence. You could find yourself saying, "I'm not good enough to apply for this grant or fellowship." DON'T DO THIS!!!

 The fear of failure can breed perfectionism. Not the kind that makes you do your best. But the kind of perfectionism that prevents you from trying something that you could fail at.

So remember, it's is COMPLETELY NORMAL to fail in grad school. That means you are doing it right!


What Failure Looks Like in Grad School

Let's talk about what failure looks like in grad school. It can be very obvious or very subtle.

Note: If you are a grad student, you have experienced one of these!  We need to train ourselves to look at our failures, learn from them, and move forward!

What does failure look like in grad school?

  • running out of time to complete an assignment

  • failing an exam, project, or paper

  • "disappointing" your advisor (quotes because it feels like disappointment to you, but it's all a part of the advisor-advisee relationship)

  • needing a new advisor or committee member

  • getting poor teaching evaluations

  • having your grant proposal or journal submission rejected

There are many other ways to feel like a failure but you cannot let these roadblocks stop you from achieving your goals and graduating!  Because remember, once you have your degree, no one will care about any of those "failures" mentioned above!


How to Overcome the Fear of Failure in Grad School

We’ve already established that failure is a part of grad school. And the fear of failure can be paralyzing and hold you back.  Here are some tips to help you overcome your fear of failure:

Analyze all potential outcomes – Many people experience fear of failure because they fear the unknown. Remove that fear by considering all of the potential outcomes of your decision. I’m all about making pros and cons lists to help me think through consequences.

 Learn to think more positively – Positive thinking can help you build self-confidence and reduce self-sabotage.

 Look at the worse-case scenario – In some cases, the worst case scenario may be genuinely disastrous, and it may be perfectly rational to fear failure. But in most cases, the worst case may actually not be completely life-ruining. And being able to see this can help you move forward. 

Have a back up plan – If you're afraid of failing at something, having a "Plan B" in place can help you feel more confident about moving forward.

Remember, failure is something that all grad students experience.  It's part of the process!  Your job is to keep going and not give up!  I hope this post is was helpful! Let me know how you’ve failed and overcome that failure in the FB group for grad students!