A Note on “Failure”

I had my capstone presentation last week, and it didn’t go at all how I planned. The whole year, we’ve been preparing this huge research project with the ultimate goal of presenting it in front of our friends and host families. Now I like to identify myself as an anxious mess, and I’m not always the *best* at public speaking. I knew that I’d probably be scared to present, but I really thought that I could just push through and do it. I prepared my speech a week ahead of time, made sure I KNEW the information, and pumped myself up with lots of RuPaul music. However, when I got to AMIDEAST at 10 am on my capstone presentation day, something inside of me just freaked out. I tried really hard, but I literally could not make myself get up in front of all of those people and present my speech. I knew all of the information, I was confident enough in my Arabic, and I really thought I could do it, but my body just wouldn’t let me. I ended up presenting it only to the teachers, not to the big group like everyone else did.

I’ve had anxiety for my entire life. It sucks, because I feel like it holds me back. After my capstone, I just felt defeated. I felt like I failed, both myself and all of the friends/ family that came to watch me. It’s really hard when you prepare so much for something, and then let yourself down. Something like this has never happened to me before. I’ve never not been able to breathe through it, and do it. In all my years at acting camp, this never happened. I always got on stage and did it, even if it was Shakespeare and I was terrified. This never happened before a dance show, because the dance was so physically exhausting that I couldn’t focus on being scared. I think that this whole thing has made me reflect a lot on what I think success and failure are.

Sure, if I look at my Capstone presentation as an isolated incident, I would say that I pretty much “failed,” but really I don’t know if that’s true. I poured so much time and energy into my capstone paper and the Arabic summary. The presentation was only one part of the project. I’ve done so many things that used to make me anxious this year, and I’ve overcome a lot of fears. I’m better at starting conversations, I can talk about my feelings, I went on a boat, I cut my hair, and so many more things. A lot of those things sound so trivial, but I truly can see a change in myself. I may not be the most fearless person in the world, but I am certainly less fearful than I was 7 months ago (and I still have 1.5 months to go)! That’s why I know that I can’t be too hard on myself for this one gosh darn thing that I couldn’t do.

My father, a very wise man, reminded me that projects like this are not “one-size-fits-all,” which really resonated with me. At first, I couldn’t figure out how everyone else managed to push through their fears of presenting, while I couldn’t. But you know what, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. I now know that public speaking is something that I need to work on in the future. But maybe right now was just not the time, I wasn’t quite ready to face this fear (because it’s a big one). I really think that’s okay.

So really, I don’t think that I failed. I didn’t do as well as I thought I would, but what’s important is that I learned something. I learned that even if something scares me so much that I just can’t face it, doesn’t mean I’m weak. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t tons of other challenges I’ve overcome. It doesn’t mean that I can’t try again in the future. If anything, this has made me more determined to work harder and do better.

I’m writing this post because I think that this is one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned this year. I’ve had a lot of weak moments this year, big and small. I truly believe that accepting that I can’t always do everything perfectly and then letting that go and just moving on is so important. Little setbacks can’t stop me from going for the things that I want. Even if I don’t do as well as I hoped or wanted, I can accept that maybe I’m just not ready, and I can try again in the future. Thank you for reading,

  • ليلي


3 Comments Add yours

  1. AnneMarie Burns says:

    Lilly, you are amazing and this is just one little bump in your road. Public speaking was always extremely difficult for me and I was WAY older than you are before I was able to be sort of okay with talking in front of a group. No way could I have ever taken myself halfway around the world to do the things you are doing! I’m proud of you and all the things you are accomplishing! You are going to do great things, girl!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lillian Cox says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Aunt Anne!! Love you 💖


  2. Paula Zhang says:

    I love this post!! It kind of reminds me of this one time in Korean class when I cried in the middle of my presentation and had to redo it the next day. It was so embarrassing, but I turned around and gave a speech in a Korean contest just a month later and didn’t let my prior embarrassment stop me from putting myself even more out there. So what your dad said about this stuff not being one size fits all is so true 🙂


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