What Does “Failure” Really Mean?


Why do we run from failure, rather than embrace it with open arms? (Credit: blogs.kent)

If you search up failure on Google you’ll get “lack of success.” Yet when you search it up on Urban Dictionary, it’s ironically defined as “Me.” Much like Google and Urban Dictionary, we each have different definitions of what it means to fail — which often makes the idea of failure seem increasingly vague and intimidating. 


However, I wonder what causes our definitions to be so personalized? When we think of the word success, I’m sure everyone is thinking of the same generalized definition: wealth, fame, happiness, health. It couldn’t be any more simple for our dreams of a “successful” future to come true. 


But if success means ultimately achieving our dreams, then doesn’t that just prove that no such thing exists? Our dreams are constantly changing, and so do our definitions of success. As we move forward in life, the goals we dream to achieve move forward with us as well, until it’s almost impossible to catch up. However, when — if ever — we do catch up, why does this feeling of “success” feel so temporary, while failure makes us feel like we’re drowning in an empty pool? 


In my eyes, failure is a shapeshifter, and it often takes on the form of success. Imagine a shadow with no face is holding a knife and is chasing after you. I’m most certain that you would be running away. As you run, you attempt to succeed in getting away from this scary figure. Nevertheless, it’s futile because the shadow you’re running away from is the one you’re reflecting behind you. It’s your shadow that you’re so scared of. We are scared of who we become when we fail. 


But so what if we fail? Is failure truly just “a lack of success”? I wouldn’t agree with that. We must be failures in order to understand the feeling that leaves us drowning. We’re running away because we’re scared to be caught by that feeling, the feeling of failure that seizes the air from our lungs. So in the future, when the game of tag begins once again, we should learn to run away faster, hide better, and ultimately realize that there is air in the empty pool that engulfs us. Only then can we be defined as successful.