It’s Time to Let Yourself be Defeated

Ask yourself these two questions: Have I ever failed at something? Have I ever let myself be defeated?

My guess is, that you’ve failed at something before – maybe multiple somethings but you probably haven’t let it defeat you. We see it all the time that defeat or giving up isn’t in our vocabulary or that we’re supposed to get back on the horse.

I don’t think failure is something anyone ever gets used to but for me, it was oddly foreign until college. Yeah it’s true I sucked at all things sports but when it came to academics I did well. Sure, in college I earned a D once and had to retake a class but for some reason that didn’t bother me too much. It was embarrassing but it was a 400 level college course and I struggled to understand the teacher. I was studying for my bachelor’s degree in math and math education.


Now in order to become an actual math teacher, you have to pass a couple of basic tests. You have to pass one that shows you understand adolescent psychology, different teaching methodologies and best practices. You also have to pass another one that shows you know the topic you’re about to teach. In my case, math. Well, I passed the teaching concept test first try but I failed the math one… Then I failed it again…. and again… and AGAIN!

I failed that test 4 times. Essentially I failed a test that a high schooler could pass and my college-educated ass could not. 

This isn’t a story about, “Get back out there! Try it again! You can’t let something defeat you!” No, this is a story about letting something defeat you, redirect you and keep your sense of self-worth.

Every time I failed, I drove away from the testing center (in my mom’s 2003 Town and Country Minivan named Ursula) bawling my eyes out. And the last time I didn’t pass the test, I cried even harder. I called my mom while I was sobbing, unable to see the road through my tears, and I told her I failed it again and I was done taking it. Not only, was I sick of burning $250 every time I attempted but I was taking it as a sign that I’m not meant to be a teacher. 


Recently, I was listening to an NPR Podcast called, How I Built This with Guy Raz where Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, was being interviewed. Guess who wanted to be a lawyer but failed the LSAT two times and is now a billionaire?? That’s right, Sara is! 

Honestly, I was not meant to be a teacher. It stressed me out too much and I put a lot of pressure on myself but I had put so much effort and money into becoming one I couldn’t just drop out, could I? 

Failing the test (4 times, because I’m slow at recognizing signs from the Universe) gave me the reason to change paths. Failing forced me to take a step back and think about why I was working so hard at becoming something I didn’t enjoy. Why was I beating myself and killing myself over this test when I didn’t really want to teach anyway?

And although I’m not at billionaire status yet, I am still thankful that my path was redirected. Overall I’m happier and enjoy more freedom than I might have as a teacher. 


Still, sometimes, the failure of the basic math test gnaws at the back of my mind and I can get very insecure about my intelligence.

When I started my new career in corporate America, I worked with a woman who made it clear she thought I was dumb. She would make passive-aggressive comments and go out of her way to put me down. I was already down from the fucking test but I still knew her comments weren’t true. I refused to accept being labeled as a dunce. So I found ways to remind myself that I’m good enough. I found this quote by Les Brown and kept it hung up in my cube. 

It goes like this, “Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.” If someone thinks I’m a moron – that’s not the truth and it won’t become the truth. The coworker said I sucked at my job but that doesn’t mean I did. The test said I failed but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. 

It still takes conscious thought to remind myself that my self-worth is not attached to my achievements and definitely is not attached to someone’s opinion of me. 

So if something is defeating you, let it redirect you and make damn sure it doesn’t define you. After all, your failure may be leading you to billions!

(P.S. Allowing yourself to be defeated may result in you missing a goal and that’s okay. Check out more on the topic of Missing a Goal here!)