Fallible

I talk about the need to embrace weakness and not be afraid to be fallible. This is the final blog post of a 3-part series.

This is part 3 of a 3 part series. Read parts 1 and 2 here – Effigy, Growth and Individuality.

In an effort to fuel constant profit and benefit and progress and other buzzwords, each of us has been taught and conditioned right from the very outset that failure and weakness are bad. Even when a child is told that failure is a stepping stone to success, a caveat is added – the child should never repeat the mistake, as if that mistake is now used up on a list of mistakes you are allowed to make.

It shouldn’t be like that, should it? Surely a person’s worth should come intrinsically – one should be valued simply for existing, that is what family is after all, and another buzzword often touted is “global family”. Then why is weakness bad and why are mistakes not allowed?

I believe it is a simple matter of escalation – we are getting too used to success. It is a norm. A very morbid analogy is that of a serial killer – it is always the hardest to kill a person the first time, and killing another is easier to justify or even crave. A different and better analogy is of coffee – at first you don’t like it, but if you keep drinking it, you acquire a taste for it, and then become dependent on it just to wake up in the morning. Success is like coffee. In nature, there is no success beyond survival. Civilisation however, thrives on success. Because we are part of civilised society, we are pushed to succeed, in exchange for comfort and pleasure. Eventually, success becomes a need, as it is today.

Where a few decades ago having a Bachelor’s degree in India was considered something special and indicated great knowledge, today a Bachelor’s degree is considered commonplace and even incomplete without a Master’s degree.

The result of this behaviour will be that we will reach a point where the need for success is so strong, it is detrimental to the health and well-being of the person, just like a drug. Coffee (Caffeine) is a drug, just like heroin or cocaine – the only difference is that it is legal. Strong drugs like heroin create a dependency very quickly, and hence quickly become detrimental to one’s health. Coffee does the same thing much slower.

Success is slower still, but it’s not implausible that the need for it will drive people crazy. In fact, there is evidence to support this claim, with student suicide rates climbing in India in the last few years. Entrance examinations to some colleges now require 99 and even 100 percentile. With parents also pushing their children to get admitted to high-profile colleges, sometimes with accompanying verbal abuse, we are soon going to peak at stress-related issues in students and young adults.

Now more than ever, it is important to embrace our imperfections and shed the fear of weakness. A feeling of self-respect is crucial to being happy and learning to move on. Ironically, it is when we lose the fear of weakness that we stop being weak.

It is okay to fail. Remember, people don’t cheer and encourage the person who has never taken a drink or a drug hit in his life, but they do cheer the person who is recovering from alcoholism and addiction. Being afraid of failure leads to more mistakes and more worry, being free from fear leads to confidence and more motivation.

This fear of showing weakness also creates a bad cycle of stunted growth. Parents refrain from talking to their children about sensitive issues like drug use or sexuality because they feel awkward talking about it. A parent generally is not able to admit their own fault to their child, maybe because they feel that they will be disrespected if they admit to not being perfect.

A parent cannot admit that the cigarettes they are smoking is bad for them, or that they wrongly answered a question, because of refusal to admit failure. This need to be admired/respected leads to important information not being communicated to the child, and by extension, the child gets this information in a distorted manner from other sources.

The reason this post is part three is because this is still something I feel I need to do. I feel like I have achieved the goals of the first two parts, but ability to admit failure is still something I’m working on, having made some progress in the last four months.

If you agree with these ideas, you can start embracing yourself, shortcomings and all. Ask your closest friends to review you, say like they review a restaurant. Ask them to detail out your strengths and weaknesses. Compile the results from different friends and see which points are most common. Take the results with a grain of salt – don’t believe them completely, don’t feel bad about them, but try to think if you really have these strengths and weaknesses. From there, decide if you sufficiently supplement your shortcomings with other talents or if you need to improve. Whether or not you do something about those, just having the knowledge will make you a better person.

Thank you for reading. 🙂

  • Yes, there is a lot of emphasis on success. Though what we all forget is success has different definitions for different people and the same goes with failure. We should be allowed to commit mistakes. It’s the learning from each mistake is what I consider important. Additionally, as Tom Rath would put it – why not soar with strengths and leave weaknesses for ever?

    Great series Vaibhav! I enjoyed reading all three! Good job!

    • Vaibhav

      Thanks for all the encouragement Parul! 🙂