At 3:45 two Sundays ago, my mom received the call I’d been waiting weeks for; a spot opened for me to go to Girls State. An hour later, my parents and I hit the road on our way to Seguin, Texas. Mostly I felt excited. For one of the first times in my life, I would be surrounded by intelligent, involved, and eager girls who were my age.
My parents dropped me off, and I jumped into Girls State life, instantly joining conversations and seeing the beginnings of friendships sprout from unlikely places (Chacos were quite the conversation starter). Since I got there late, I was behind on the information, and the girls in my city were more than willing to help catch me up.
Not only were these girls intelligent and talented, but they were humble. They were honest, and funny, and kind, and unique.
I went into the week knowing that I would run for an office, but I didn’t know what. At first I bounced between city and county attorney. I chose county; but then I began to wonder if I sold myself short by not going for the highest. So I decided to run for Attorney General. I wrote my speech. I loved my speech. I felt confident; I would get through primaries, at least. I was so sure of it.
And then I didn’t. As soon as I heard the other girl’s name, I felt ashamed. I was so embarrassed for trying to do something way over my head. I felt foolish for even thinking that I could make it. I felt stupid.
The worst thing about these kinds of thoughts is that once the first one comes, they don’t stop. I went from being embarrassed about not winning to despising everything about myself. I felt stupid, immature, and ignorant. Things I have never felt before. I began to think I was unqualified to be there. I may have a high GPA, take all accelerated classes in school, and have an undying love for reading. But there? At Girls State? I felt fake, like I was pretending to be something that I’m not.
It didn’t matter that I am aware of what’s going on in the world, or that I’m passionate about a wide variety of things. My desire to learn and my love for the people I am surrounded by were forgotten. The things that make me who I am no longer mattered, because they weren’t enough to get me to where I wanted to be. I felt inferior to the girl who won-anyone who won, really. What do they have that I don’t? What makes them so good?
But I realized sometime between that moment and the end of the night that other people being good doesn’t make me less good. I may not have won the position I wanted, but I am talented, I am intelligent, and I have a right to take up the space I occupy. I am not less for losing.
So often we think failure is a sign of weakness or worthlessness. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else; I have a fear of failure. It holds me back from joining teams and clubs because the thought of trying something and not succeeding drains the excitement from so much. This week, I overcame that fear and tried for something that was not a guarantee.
And I failed.
But I’m more secure in who I am because of it.
Failing does not mean we are inadequate or inferior. The people around us are not better for their successes or wins. Our culture runs on jealousy and bitterness, and it creates the idea that if we’re not the very best, we’re the worst-regardless of how good we actually are.
I was created in God’s image, with a specific purpose and a specific set of talents for that purpose. And so were you. But we can’t focus on our relationships with God (or with others) if we’re constantly comparing ourselves to the people around us.
Over the course of the week, I learned how to fail, and it wasn’t a fun lesson to learn. But without ‘missing the mark,’ I wouldn’t be able to confidently say that I am enough, despite my failures.