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How to overcome the setback of failing

Failing anything sucks. A driving test, an exam, an interview. It can be crushing and a huge confidence killer. Young people have loads of pressure on them to succeed at everything they do, which often results in an overwhelming feeling of "now what?" when things don't go exactly to plan.

If you're someone who takes failing hard, we've put this guide together to help you dust yourself down and get back on your feet. Let's do this.

Facing failure head on

  1. Take some time (but not too much)

    So you failed. Bummer.

    You feel crappy, disappointed, annoyed - even the birds tweeting outside are irritating you. This is your time to pause things for a bit. No amount of manically flicking back through your revision cards is going to fix how you're feeling. In fact, you'll probably just end up resenting the thing you're trying to pass at.

    Take some time away from it, just a few days or so, and start again when you've cleared your head. You'll feel way more positive and less likely to throw a book at someone.

  2. Acknowledge how far you've come

    When we fail at something we're usually quick to come to the irrational conclusion that we're just not good at it. Not true. Failing something is actually a good time to reflect, looking at how far you've come from the point you first started learning to now, and what may be stopping you getting to where you want to be.

    Of course, that time of reflection could also make you think twice about whether you really want the thing you're aiming for. And that's a positive thing too. If the answer is yes: great. You've just had a complete test run of what you need to do, so next time shouldn't be so daunting. If the answer is no: still great. It means you're no longer wasting anymore time and can look to the next goal you have.

    It wasn't your dream to be a synchronised swimmer anyway.

  3. Make a plan of action

    Enough pondering, time to get an action plan in place.

    All the reflecting you've done should now have highlighted a couple of reasons why you failed. If it was a driving test, you should have got a scoresheet and a test summary from the examiner. If it was an exam, you should be able to get your hands on a breakdown of where you lost marks. If it was an audition or an interview, you're completely entitled to ask the company for more detailed feedback.

    You may already know the reasons why you failed:

    • I didn't revise enough
    • I wasn't prepared
    • I didn't take it seriously
    • I had a late night and didn't get much sleep

    Or it could be down to some other factors that feel out of your control:

    • I got overwhelmed and panicked
    • I worried so much about failing it became my focus
    • My confidence levels were rock bottom
    • My mind went completely blank

    Once you've recognised the reasons why you failed it's much easier to make a plan of how to tackle that next time. For the stuff that feels out of your control, the fact you've identified the reason is already the first step into tackling it.

    Try to look deeper into the specific causes of your worry or lack of confidence, rather than the whole picture. You'll probably find the root of the problem is smaller and more manageable than you first thought.

  4. Reward yourself

    It's SO SO SO important to reward yourself when you've overcome something big and scary. Plucked up the courage to book another driving test? Well done you, go get yourself that new top. Got to the end of a 2-hour biology exam? Great job, treat yourself to a big slice of cake. Finished that essay that's been hanging over you? Bravo, hit your mates up and go out to celebrate.

    We're all guilty of being mega hard on ourselves when things don't go well, but we're also guilty of not being very kind to ourselves when we do reach our goals - no matter how small.

    Self-love guys. We're human, and humans like pizza and bubble baths. Now go ace it.

Feeling anxious about learning to drive? We've all been there. Give this a little read.


Katey Joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of all things social and content. She passed her driving test in 2015 and her first car is a Toyota Yaris T3 named Tyrone.