The Fear of Failure


My name is Bertha Kim and I am a failure.

If you scroll through my Instagram or read my resume, it might look like my life is a series of fun-filled over-achievements: I am the vice president of a sorority, senator for Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government, I have two jobs, and I’m on the Dean’s list at a top ranked, prestigious university. I am a girl with many friends and a supportive family, who has fun adventures and likes to travel. This is probably not who you think of when you think FAILURE.

However, I am a failure.

Since I was a young child, I have always hated failing but somehow still managed to fail consistently. I kept seeing red “X’s” next to my spelling test during elementary school and could never beat my friends in Super Mario Bros. To be honest, failing has always made me feel embarrassed and I felt this pressure to avoid it at all costs. As I got older, I realized this pressure I felt was a combination of failing and the fear of not wanting to fail.

As a high school senior, I was (what I considered to be) a failure. I wasn’t the school’s valedictorian and I got rejected from my dream university. I remember late nights of staying up, thinking what I could’ve done better to reach those aspirations and feeling anxious that I would always be a failure.

Then came college. I never knew that there were so many different aspects of failing until I got here! I knew that it was academically challenging at Ohio State, but let me tell you, freshman year general chemistry is rough. I remember receiving my first ever F — flat out less than a 50% — on an exam. College was hard and once again, those feelings of failure crept in.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, I then failed when it came to being social and finding a friend group. Coming from out-of-state, I knew no one at this enormous university. At first I thought that I could easily make friends, only to find out that I am actually super awkward. It was hard for me to find that “group of friends” but for some reason it felt as if everyone else found theirs. The first couple of months I realized I was failing at the social aspect of college, which then led me to stop trying.

I was too afraid to join any clubs or get involved on campus because I feared that it would be uncomfortable and that I couldn’t make any friends that way either. The fear of failure got in the way of my ambitions and my freshman year schedule looked something similar to this:






I just couldn’t live like that for another year. Luckily, I realized this before it was too late and I still had time to change my attitude and get the most out of my college experience. I applied to internships and got involved with clubs to make the most out of my college years. Freshman year was such a tiring year for me and I constantly felt like a failure. I was someone with big dreams and it was time for me to face my failures and make those dreams a reality.

Fast forward two years and here I am now: a student who is doing well and involved at a huge campus. However, the fear of failure is still lurking over me daily. As I wrap up my junior year, I am preparing to take the MCAT and apply to medical school. Because I am petrified of failing again, I find myself returning to my old mindset of giving up before I even try. I have skipped MCAT classes just to ponder in my bed, wondering what would happen if I confronted my fears. Even as I write this, I feel like a failure and it’s getting in the ways of my dreams.

Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Simply speaking, this is not how one would want to live life. Life is hard, and I have to come realize that failing is a very real part of it. So breathe. I know it’s so much easier said than done, but listen: it does get better. I have learned that your fears do not define who you are and that whatever stage in life you happen to be in, there will always be  the very real fear of failing.

I usually don’t have the greatest of advice, but I do advise each and every one of you reading this to find an outlet when you feel like you are drowning in your “failures.” That might be dancing to a good song (highly recommend dancing it out to Chance the Rapper) or going on a good run…for me it was talking to a therapist. Whatever destresses you, go do it!

I still struggle with these fears from time to time, but I try to just accept my failures. What makes me special and beautiful is that I’m me and no failure can stop that. So yes, I still fail and I will always fail at things, but it won’t and can’t get in the way of what I want to do with my life.

I’m Bertha Kim, a failure, but also a girl with a lot dreams who’s ready to tackle them with deep breaths and a smile on her face.

I’ll end this blog with a quote of one of my favorite people…

“When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” -Ellen DeGeneres.