How to handle failure or disappointment at results time

The end of the semester also brings along with it results time. It can be a stressful time for many; the pressures of life (particularly during a pandemic) and the expectations we put on ourselves can leave us disappointed with our class or exam results.

If you didn’t get the grades you wanted you might feel a range of emotions, including worry, fear, sadness, guilt, even feelings of being left out. All of these are normal emotions to feel and can be necessary for the healing process, but some advice on how to help them on their way never goes astray!

Don’t panic and be kind to yourself

You aren’t the only one who didn’t receive the grade they wanted. It may feel like the end of the world now, but at difficult times, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Think of it this way, if you had a friend who didn’t get the mark they wanted, would you be hard on them? No? Try pretending you were that friend – what would you say to make them feel better? Now say it to yourself. 

Your grades don’t define your success

Success is not a straight line. Think of it as a squiggly line that goes up and down all over the place, but ultimately trends in a positive direction. Without some failure or hard times, it is difficult to grow.

Your grades don’t define you

For some, grades are important, for others, not so.  Regardless of your relationships with your grades, your grades don’t define you. All that we achieve in life can be exciting and fun, but at the end of the day, it’s what’s in your heart that matters. Think about all the beautiful qualities you bring to the world, how much you love or care about your friends/family/partner, your gentle or funny nature, your loyalty or passion – I bet there are more things that you can list if you truly be kind! We might want a doctor to save our lives when we’re sick or in hospital, but when we come home, it’s love that’s more important, and that love starts with yourself. Let’s aim for a PhD in that!

Map out your options

If your results have changed your plans, you might be thinking that your options have been taken away from you. It can be helpful to sit down and write down all the potential paths you can take from here, whether that be talking to your course coordinators, re-taking exams, choosing an alternative course, additional training, re-taking the course etc. Write them all down so that you can see them all in front of you and plan from there. You might find you have many options available to you and it might start to become clear what you need to do next. 

Learn from it (but do it with joy)

Try to look at the situation as something you can learn from and something that can help you grow and add to your repertoire of life experiences. Have you ever seen a baby get upset when they are trying to learn how to walk? Nope, they simply giggle and get back up again, all smiles as they take the next step.

Ask yourself:

  • What can I learn from this?
  • What could I do differently next time?
  • Do I need to take proactive steps now to avoid it happening again?

Write down the answers and try to act based on what you have learned, but do it with joy, take a page from your baby book – you once knew exactly how to fall and get back up again.

Remain ambitious

Don’t let any disappointment in life hold you back from whatever it is you want to do. Take your courage, strength and ability to bounce back from disappointment, and use these valuable assets to steer you into whatever you want to do in the future. The sun rises every day indiscriminately – it doesn’t go, “I failed Australia yesterday because I got blocked by rain clouds!” – be like the sun, every day is a new day.

Remember if you don’t have someone you can talk to or if you feel like you can’t cope with these feelings, seek professional help, like what’s on offer from the La Trobe Health, Wellbeing and Inclusion team.  That’s what we’re here for!

This is an amended version of an article published in October 2020.