Stop Worrying…Make Lemonade

This is the 1st of a 2-part series on resilience and mental toughness after rejection, failure or loss. When life gives you lemons, don’t be afraid to make lemonade! Read on to see what we mean. 

By Rachael McNamara 

I want to be open and honest here. Before attempting my first draft I tried to research my way through four physical library books and three digital library topics, all still at my fingertips. Why do I do this?

  1. I am very interested in learning.
  2. Because someone somewhere knows more about this topic than me.
  3. Fear of failure.

Yes, you read that right: I am literally writing a post about making the best out of failure while fearing failure. But being afraid to fail and doing it anyway is really one of the few ways to grow.

So I shall put the books away and use my own experiences.

Social Failure? The most negatively impactful “failure” in my life started in 6th grade and peaked in 8th grade. My family moved from my beloved tiny hometown to a vastly different small city. I didn’t fit in. My peers in the new town dressed, talked, and fought differently, and acted much older than my former peers. When I reached 8th grade, I thought I found my group. Success? No. Within that group was the source of my failure.

The problem was one of the members of the group tormented me daily by insulting my body, my intelligence, my athletic ability, and my compassion for others. Every school day and social situation, I endured his behavior while protecting a deepening emotional wound and hoping that I could change his behavior. I tried so many things: play acting by coolly countering his insults against me, attempting to banter insults back, asking him to stop, talking to him one on one, sharing my pain with him, and asking the other two friends to help. None worked.

After years of reflection, I can analyze this fundamental experience and break down how I have learned to approach failures into 5 steps. Here are the steps applied retroactively.

Academic Failure? Two years ago, I decided to take a Project Management Professional (PMP) course with the goal to achieve certification.  This was online before, you know, all classes were online.  I excitedly purchased notebooks, rented the book, and logged into the course. 

1st challenge: I had no idea how to navigate this professor’s online class. I found the first assignment before realizing there were lectures, and took the first quiz without ever realizing I was supposed to do any reading from the textbook.

2nd challenge:  I failed the quiz and I failed the assignment.  Academics is very different then relationships, but I used the same strategies to work through this situation.

Luckily, with practice “Making Lemonade” becomes easier. 


One last thing, you may have noticed that I bolded my two situations with a question mark at the end. Using the question mark was a distinct choice that I made because I have learned that another important step to “Making Lemonade” is to restructure the way you look at your experiences. Thinking or writing failure over and over again centers your focus on the difficult part of the experience. One of the most powerful things you can do is to examine these situations as challenges or setbacks. I find that adjusting this word naturally helps me to be able to move forward.

Acknowledge the challenge.

Now it is an opportunity!

Rachael McNamara is a health educator with CofC’s Student Counseling Center. She also coordinates Students 4 Support. 

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