Dealing with failure

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Dealing with failure

Post by finalhurdle » Tue Jun 16, 2009 3:31 pm

I've just failed my first ever Dclin piece of work :( :( I completely messed up with loads of typos and poor presentation and failed. I feel soooo annoyed about it. I've never failed anything and I dont mean that in a bragging way its more because I usually work very hard. I didnt work so hard on the last one as my thesis is due. I am going to re submit rather than carry the fail but can't get past the big mistake. There was so many typos I'm so self confident now in uni and dreading what the person who marked it thinks of me!


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Post by joanner » Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:38 pm


I can relate to this but am now many months on and have managed to positively reframe it! :wink:

I had to resubmit my professional practice assignment because I only answered half the question, having misunderstood it. At the time of writing it, I was very stressed, unwell and on a tight deadline in the middle of an intense teaching block. It didn't help that I was writing about child protection, an area I know nothing about, and was given two massive government documents to read. It was a nightmare.

When I got my resubmit (NOTE: it is NOT a fail, just a 'let's try that again' grade), I burst into tears and stomped around the house. To be honest, I was very stressed at that point and felt like it was all too much and I didn't even understand what question I should have been answering as all the points the markers made were ones I thought I'd already covered. It all felt pretty hopeless and bleak. I resisted the temptation to CBT myself, and just let it all out instead. My housemates would have thought I had tipped over the edge if they'd been home. Really!

To be honest, the de-stressing was very good! I think I needed to get it all out at that point and the resubmit mark just triggered it rather than caused it. Once I'd calmed down and told myself it wasn't the end of the world then I arranged to see my main marker and discussed what I needed to do differently. I was also able to see the positives - lots of good content but missing some vital componenets. I rewrote it and passed with the compulsory C grade but it would have been a B as a first submission.

I know it's so easy to catastrophise. I think I just believed that I would be the first person to get through the course with no resubmits (I made it to 18 months in, and I'm in the minority! Others have resubmitted more than that!). I was being highly perfectionistic as we were told on day 1 that everyone would have to resubmit at least one bit of work during the three years. It makes sense as we're doing things we've never done before and to pass every one without errors would make you superwoman (or man). If you are someone who's not used to 'failing' assignments, then I can understand it's hard to accept but I had to realise it's not a reflection on me as a person or my academic or clinical ability, just about that one piece of work. You say you had lots of other demands on you at the time of writing it which is why you didn't live up to your usual standards. Chill, it really is fine. You are a human being, like the rest of us, and the doctorate is a very stressful and demanding course. Also, you have to look at things in perspective. I realised that resubmitting my professional practice assignment was nowhere near as bad as having to rewrite a thesis, research case study or service evaluation. If I'd had to prioritise between my thesis and another assignment then the thesis would have won hands down! In addition, typos and presentation are things you can easily correct, it's the content that's important and that's much harder to master.

On another note, if you are in an anonymous marking system, which I assume you are, nobody will know that you have written the bit of work. Also, it sounds as if you are assuming they would be highly critical of you and question your ability across the board. How do you know that they wouldn't actually be thinking 'Poor X, I hope things are going ok for them', or 'I think that person was having a bad day!'.

I know you are feeling terrible at the moment but head down, rewrite it and move on. Do what I did and have a celebratory bonfire when you finally pass it! Every piece of work is different and I got a resubmit closely followed by an A- for a formulation case study so what does that say about me!?! You are not one grade, you are an all-rounder. Celebrate your strengths and don't aim for perfection.

It's not a 'big mistake', just a blip on the radar.

Good luck!

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Post by miriam » Tue Jun 16, 2009 7:21 pm

And of course, no-one will know or care about individual marks once you pass the course as a whole.

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Post by finalhurdle » Tue Jun 16, 2009 8:25 pm

Thanks for the responses. I've been feeling really bad but feeling much better now. I've done the corrections already as they were mainly typos and have resubmitted so I won't have a 'fail' on my record!

Oh the joys of clinical training... :roll:

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Post by escapee » Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:01 pm

joanner I just wanted to thank you for being so honest - I find your post very comforting! :)

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Post by joanner » Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:17 pm

I am not ashamed of my reaction, even if it reads as being a bit extreme. In the context of the moment it was very appropriate and helpful! It's so hard to explain how stressful and demanding the doctorate is until you've experienced it first hand. It's much better to express your emotions than have a complete meltdown! 8)
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Post by Dr.Dot » Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:03 pm

I just failed one too. It totally sucks, cognitively I know its not the end of the world, but it feels pretty terrible.

Well done on getting the corrections done so quickly, and good luck with the thesis.
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Post by lakeland » Wed Jun 17, 2009 8:31 am

Thanks everyone for posting so honestly. When I was preparing for my course interview this year, I was asked questions about thinking of a time you have failed. I initially found this hard to do, but my supervisor pointed me in the direction of a piece of research about unrelenting high standards among clinical psychologists and trainee clinical psychologists.

It made me realise that it's hard for us to admit we've failed, probably due to the competitive nature of getting post degree jobs and then getting onto the course. Realistically, most of us probably haven't failed anything academic in the past, and I must admit, it scares me knowing it's a possibility. But it's reassurring that people feel comfortable to share their experiences, and that it happens to the best of us!

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Post by charley » Wed Jun 17, 2009 8:35 am

I recently 'failed' or (whatever the polite way of putting it is) an essay on a post qualification course - how embarrassing is that?! Also it was four weeks before exams (which i also might have messed up...fingers crossed!). If this has been a learning experience at all (beyond admitting that i massively cut corners on the essay and doing it again is real punishment), it's been the reaction of fellow CP's and AP's - mouths drop open in horror, no words of comfort or condolence and quietly make their exit. I've been made to feel that i should shuffle away with my head hanging. Fellow course mates have been great as i think they understand the pressures of studying and working fulltime but i've been surprised (maybe not, on reflection though) that a supposed 'empathic' profession has nothing useful to say to a colleague. i think as a profession we have a real problem with over acheivement and measuring ourselves against each other which starts very early pre qualification and goes well beyond. Because of this, I've been trying to talk about it openly to try to desensitise myself and others to the idea of 'failure' and not being as good as others - try it, it's interesting!

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Post by astra » Wed Jun 17, 2009 11:17 am

I had to resubmit 2 pieces of work and ended up carrying the fail on one because I failed the resubmission. Like you I wasn't used to failure and found it deeply upsetting. BUT when I thought about it and talked with others I came to realise that I was juggling so many more presures as a trainee and it wasn't realistic to get through without failure. Plus it was probably good for me developmentally to experience some academic failure. I try to think much more now about what I would say to myself if I was a client, or if I was my best friend, as I'm trying to work on the striving part of me that finds criticism or failure so hard to deal with.

Charley, I really feel for you with your recent fail, I've just passed an essay on my CAT course but probably by the skin of my teeth and had such an anxious wait for the mark. Doing study once qualified is such a massive challenge because of fitting it in with a much more demanding caseload, so big hugs to you for that one! I think you are right that as a profession we expect so much of ourselves and our colleagues and yet spend so much of our time telling clients to lighten up on their overly high expectations! Doesn't make sense really does it?

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Post by eponymous85 » Wed Jun 17, 2009 2:13 pm

It's been very enlightening reading this thread. Obviously I was aware of the prospect of failing assignments, but I wasn't aware that most people fail at least one.

Like many of you, I do not do very well with criticism or failure and have very perfectionistic standards for myself that are not always achievable or realistic. I think it's hitting the nail on the head to say this is compounded by the fact that we have achieved so much so far, so the high standards feel appropriate.

I think it's good that I've learnt this about the course before I start, so I can prepare myself for when it happens.

Thanks for sharing guys! xx
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Post by finalhurdle » Wed Jun 17, 2009 6:13 pm

Thank you everyone for sharing. Whilst I know many many people in my cohort have also 'failed' it feels nice to hear other people's success stories following a 'failure'.

Thanks a lot :D

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Post by finalhurdle » Wed Jun 17, 2009 6:17 pm

Oops posted too early!

Charley, your post really highilights an issue with some people in our profession. I completely agree that as a profession we can sometimes be very hard on ourselves and over achieve to extreme lengths. From the constant strive to get on the course through means that other professionals wouldn't consider (i.e. poor paid posts, working for free!) to the sometimes horrible uphill battle on training!

Sorry you didn't pass your post-qual thing but I'm sure you'll get it sorted. Best of luck

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Post by noodle » Wed Jun 17, 2009 8:24 pm

finalhurdle wrote: I completely agree that as a profession we can sometimes be very hard on ourselves and over achieve to extreme lengths.
I agree aswell. I used to feel rubbish when I got a 'low' 2.1 on assignments and exams during my degree and still do if I get 'just' a pass on my MSc assignments. I just have to keep reminding myself that I am not my grades....

Finalhurdle thanks for sharing your experience as i think its been a really useful thread. I also didn't know that most people fail something on the course of the doctorate.

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Post by chixta » Wed Jun 17, 2009 10:37 pm

My fear is failing placement, I have (so far) passed all my academic work, but I cant imagine being too worried about failing that. However, my greatest fear is around placement, because to me, that reflects on me as a clinician and as a person. I reassure myself regularly that although I'm not that academic, I'm good at my job, so to fail a placement would be the hardest thing for me to come to terms with as it would challenge that (in my eyes). I used to pride myself on not having perfectionist tendencies, then I got on the course and realised that I do have them, they are just focused less academically! :roll:

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