Project looks to erase students’ fear of failure

Regardless of what’s on your plate, Western’s Science Students’ Council (SSC) wants you to keep this in mind.

Failure is common.

It’s human.

And it’s valuable.

With the Western Perspective Project, the SSC aims to showcase the ways in which members of the campus community have fallen short in order to address the stresses associated with a fear of failure. The month-long campaign, culminating on Jan. 30, offers daily diverse perspectives from the Western community, including accounts of failure from students, staff and faculty from all disciplines and walks of life.

“When we look on campus, whether we are in our classes, speaking with friends, connecting on social media, we always see how other people have presented themselves and nobody likes to talk about failure. Nobody likes to say, ‘I dealt with this struggle’ or ‘I failed’ or ‘I didn’t meet the expectations I set for myself,’” said Kevin Zhang, SSC Student Support Commissioner, who launched the campaign with Montana Hackett, Vice-President Academic.

Their efforts are aimed at promoting mental health and stressing the normality and importance of setbacks and failures.

“The reality is, everyone goes through failure. It’s nothing to be ashamed about; it’s nothing to be feared. And yet, because of our culture, because of the way people talk about it and address it, everyone has come to believe they are the only one that fails. That’s just not the reality,” Zhang continued.

Remember, Apple founder Steve Jobs was a serial failure. With the NeXT Computer, he turned a hardware failure into a software success. The Newton, a personal digital assistant that proved a commercial failure, paved a path to the iPhone.

Hosting a social media campaign that highlights perspectives from the campus community is meant to drive home the message that if we have one thing in common, it’s that none of us are perfect and we all experience setbacks.

“We are all human; we are all trying to find happiness and fulfillment and we all go through difficulties and struggles and failure in our lives.”

It’s all about failing forward – learning and growing from one’s mistakes, Hackett added.

Those who have offered their perspectives and experiences initially were hesitant, he added, but as the month and campaign drew to a close, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Putting (failure) out there is a big step. But we had many message us on all our social channels saying, ‘This has meant a lot to me because I went through something similar.’ Alumni have messaged us and said they were thrilled to see this type of project and wished they had something like that when they were here. One said, ‘I was thrilled to see this and just so you know, you’re probably saving a life right now.’ It was pretty amazing to hear that.”

The campaign ends Jan. 30 with Bell Let’s Talk Day. SSC will be in the Allyn and Betty Taylor Library and will release of a video compilation of community members sharing their experiences and failures, alongside a number of other mental health initiatives on campus.