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  • Rei Pham

Fear of Failure

Failing in College... The idea of failing is dreadful for anyone.

For Vietnamese Americans, the pressure to succeed often stems from the fear of failing and the fear of disappointing one’s parents. In a typical Vietnamese household, children hear their parents and relatives gossip about someone else’s child changing their majors or taking a year off of college as if they kissed success goodbye.

It’s strange, but growing up as a Vietnamese American, I’ve struggled with this internal battle--one where I need to explore my career options and try new things, and the other part of me tells me I cannot take risks because I am not allowed to fail.

This leads me to the question: Why are we so afraid of failure?

Perhaps our fear comes from our Vietnamese concept of 'saving face.' Our pride keeps us from celebrating our failures because we strongly believe failure equates to weakness. Not only that, we ourselves look down on others when they fail! So we are the very reason why we have such high expectations of ourselves and we are the cause of our own stress.

What happens to a person if they only plan for success yet leave little to no room for failure? Their mental state will be shaken because they were not prepared for these unplanned outcomes. Additionally, it says they are not ready to make changes or improvements. This fixed mindset not only adds to the pressure they will experience, but it will also take them longer to get back up and try again.

It is important to recognize that as humans, we make mistakes because there is so much to gain from celebrating our failures. Not only does it take off the pressure to do everything right the first time, I believe that with every failure comes tremendous growth and a stronger mind.

I hope this article gives you a new perspective on failure and helps you realize failure can be seen as a positive experience. As a college student, this is one of the most important lesson I have learned.

I will be back with more college related articles!

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Rei Pham


Rei is a Psychology student at the University of California, Merced. As a Vietnamese immigrant, she understands the challenge of balancing both Vietnamese and American cultures. She is passionate about equality for minorities and wants to introduce the world of possibilities for first generation Vietnamese-Americans. Rei hopes to inspire the youth by sharing her stories in obtaining higher education and the resources available for them to achieve their own success.

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