It’s okay to be a failure

Published: August 30, 2014

A topper is the apple of everyone's eye and gets what he wants, along with the adoration others crave to have. And having it all, never know how it feels to lose. PHOTO: FILE

Two years ago I had a breakthrough in life; I failed my finals. It was my first experience of failing in a major way; and my teachers and peers were not helpful. They would judge me and taunt me, and at times, pity me as well. But I was never the loser, ever.

How did I, being an exemplary student all my life, fail the exams and become the lowest of the low?

Nobody had even taught me how to handle a situation like this. I was left broken, and since I did not know what to do, it disturbed further two years of my education. My self-esteem dropped and I began looking down upon myself. I began to think like a loser; having failed once and not knowing what to do with myself but just dangle in life.

When we start school, we have this obsession with coming first in exams. This desire gets rooted in every child’s brain, thanks to the pressure of parents, peers and teachers.

A topper is a glorified person; everyone has just got to be him. A topper is also a nice person, and a nice person is always a topper. A topper is the apple of everyone’s eye and gets what he wants, along with the adoration others crave to have. So we thrive to be all that, for that is what we are taught.

On the contrary, a student who doesn’t top is not even noticed, and if he/she happens to be at the bottom of the marks sheet, might also be looked down upon.

Imagine how such neglect affects a kid’s mentality.

Such students are humiliated and mocked, and made an example of. This derogatory attitude reflects poorly on the kid’s self-esteem and self-confidence, and in the long run has dire consequences. We never know if the kid tried or not, but that kid is a failure anyway.

I know of a girl, who has failed many times and keeps failing, yet she still tries and struggles to get through. At least she tries. But the way her teachers and her peers shame her is embarrassing.

But a topper adorns in admiration. They grows up to be loved, knowing how to get what they want. And having it all, never know how it feels to lose. They aren’t the losers, and never will be. They have grown up never knowing what failure is. But it is obvious what society does to the one does fail, and nobody wants that humiliation.

A few months ago, a student committed suicide in the UAE after performing poorly in exams. Had somebody taught us in school that there are things that matter more than getting good grades in life, things like these would not be happening. We already hear a lot about such news in Pakistan, suicides over results are a common occurring.

This stigma against failure instils a narcissistic and critical approach to life. Only an experience of failure can let one feel what it is like to be at the bottom. And I promise you, it is not as bad as it is projected to be. A journey towards the top teaches much more than finally being on top. Most of us have to make this journey anyway. But what we need to learn along the way is that it is okay to be average. It is okay to not be at the top. It is okay to not be in the temporary spotlight. It’s okay to be a failure; to fail once in a while is to be human.

I am, by no means, trying to justify not working hard.

It is our obligation to discover and utilise our full potential. But know that what lies beyond that is out of our control, and if all is not according to how we want it to be, it does not mean we are any less than others. Not all fingers are the same size; someone has got to be the small pinkie finger.

If the world gets you down, don’t stop trying!

You have your whole life ahead of you. You cannot form the basis of the rest of your life on this small set back. Just be content with all that you are, rise, and keep fighting till you achieve your goal; even if it is not being a topper, but whatever is good enough in your own eyes. You might lose one or two battles, but eventually you will win the war; the war of your life.

Haseeb Sultan

Haseeb Sultan

The author is is a dentist, writer, and an artist. He blogs at and tweets at @haseebsultan_ (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Prashant

    A society where people want every child to become an engineer or doctor sees anything less than that as a failure, it is not really the kids being a failure but it is the parents and the society being a failure in their expectations and priorities, these are the same people who ask why does not their respective countries win medals in olympics when all along their lives they have been giving reasons to their kids why not to concentrate on anything other than academics.Recommend

  • omer abdullah khan

    I think and of course this is my personal point of view ,you may disagree with it that everyone comes to this world with some kind of a special talent or ability specific to him /her; our examination systems are very general in their approach where those to whom this design suits come out with flying colors and others as failures.How can you test everybody under same parameters,I mean a fish can never climb trees and a bird can never swim.In this capitalist world we are taught and reminded time and again that failure means death and if you are fail you are finished,so failure becomes a fear some times big enough to even take your life.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Like the dialogue in “3 idiots” goes:
    “Just imagine if Lata Mangeshkar’s father had told her she can’t sing or Sachin Tendulkar was forbidden from playing cricket. Where would they be?”Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Reaching the top is always worthy of respect – so a topper only gets his/ her due as a consequence of their own efforts. The topper who goes on to do miserably tomorrow suffers just as much (probably more because of the relentless psycho-analyzing that takes place at school and at home) as someone who is consistently in the bottom quartile. I think the point is that we need to temper our expectations of our loved ones, and not correlate love, affection and respect with academic success. We need to try and avoid living vicariously through the achievements of our young ones. If enough parents and teachers could behave that way, then maybe society would change its views on the whole.Recommend


    As someone has rightly said ‘The Woods will be very Silent If Only Those Sings Who Sings best’Recommend

  • Arooj Najmussaqib

    Beautifully highlighted another significant drawback of our education system and social reaction and dealt of it. Completely ignoring the child and his/her inner esteem and self being by excessive abuse.Recommend