Effect of repeated failures on the self

Acharya Prashant
4 min readMay 15, 2021

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Questioner: Sir, in this age of competition, sometimes we try very hard for various types of examinations. And sometimes — and many times — it is possible that we remain very close but we end up at a failure side. If it keeps continuing, it’s not that we don’t want, we want that, but doesn’t that regular failure hamper our self-confidence? If it does then how to deal with it?

Acharya Prashant: So, are you asking how to deal with repeated failures? That’s the question?

No, dealing with repeated failures is not a problem provided you are failing at something worthwhile. The more important question is, “What are you failing at?” Equally, the more important question is, “What are you succeeding at?” We just say, “I am successful, or I am a failure.” Why don’t we complete the description? What exactly are we successful at? What have we obtained? Or, is it so that we didn’t bother to go deeply into that and we just went by the commonly, socially accepted definitions of success and failure?

Do what is worth doing — relate this answer to the answer that I gave to your neighbor — and then failure would not mean so much to you. Equally, success too will not mean so much to you. It is the doing that will matter. You will say, “I am grateful, I am getting to do what is worth doing.” Success or failure, they depend on a thousand factors, some internal, some external, “And I have no handle over all those factors, I may succeed; I may fail. I may have a great role in my success; I may have no role in my failure. All these permutations are possible.”

Sometimes it’s possible that you might be the architect of your success, sometimes it’s possible that you are a failure despite all your brilliance. And you cannot make this thing deterministic, because the world, in that sense, is an open-ended system in which there are not only infinite numbers variables but also a constant flux of interdependent variables. How can you really control them or manage them? You cannot.

The only thing you have some authority over is your own self. And that self must choose what to do, what to pick. How does it decide what to pick? By seeing where its own incompleteness lies.

Acharya Prashant