Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Make mistakes, then forget them

Sharon Chang

We’ve all heard the old adage “learn from your mistakes,” and honestly, it’s good advice. There’s a reason so many popular phrases tell us the same thing, like “fool me twice, shame on me,” or “never make the same mistake twice.” They’ve been drilled into us so much that mistakes we’ve made in middle school can creep back into memory, only to make us cringe eight years later. That one time my clumsy 13-year-old hands dropped ice cream on the carpet in front of my class is seared into my brain. To this day, I refuse to walk anywhere holding food. 

While it’s important to remember past failings and try our best to improve from them, we aren’t often told that it’s okay to let things go. Especially in UT classrooms full of high-achieving students, there exists the unspoken pressure of perfection. 

With so many students who possess unique skills, experiences, grades and connections, it’s hard not to feel bogged down by the weight of succeeding. 

Last semester, I found myself constantly replaying past academic failures in my mind. I berated myself over unwanted letter grades in high school, intent on figuring out how to avoid the same mistakes here in college to protect my GPA. With each college exam that returned a lower score than anticipated, the pressure to outdo myself rose. 

I was convinced that after the first exam I knew what the tests looked like and how to study for them, so I wasn’t allowed to do worse than last time.

While it was easy to understand where the fear of repeated failures came from, at a certain point, the endless rumination on my mistakes became counterproductive. I criticized my study methods excessively, which did little for me besides breed anxiety and sap my motivation. 

Not only did I feel less excited about the classes I was initially interested in, but I also had to force myself harder than ever to sit down and study. While mistakes and failures are meant to be learned from, we also need to let them go for our own sake. 

Now, I try to take a balanced approach to my miscalculations. I pause to identify insights on how I can improve next time, and focus more on the present and future than the past. I’ve realized how important it is to focus on the road ahead with optimism rather than remaining chained to the ghosts of past stumbles. 

Of course, learning from your mistakes is still good advice. Doing so can show us how to behave in future situations and help fill gaps in our knowledge. But sometimes, it’s alright to make mistakes again, or even over and over until you get it right. 

Obsessing over past failures pushes you to fear future errors and distracts you from the real reason we make mistakes in the first place. Don’t be pressured by the idea that you need to learn and improve immediately. Sometimes, a little more grace allows us to brush ourselves off and move forward despite the errors of the past. 

Narwekar is a philosophy and economics sophomore from Coppell, Texas.

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