I never thought of myself as someone with a fear of failure.
All through high school, I had never been afraid of failure. I passed all of my tests and exams and presentations without little effort. I had that same feeling when I took my first driving exam: I was not afraid to fail it. But then I did. I made a stupid mistake and it cost me my driver’s license.
When I took my second driving exam, I experienced for the first time a fear of failure. It was an entirely new feeling for me and thus I did not fully recognize it as such. I thought it was just nerves. Days prior to the exam, I would get nervous. My muscles would tense, my hands would shake, my sleep would not come and my head was filled with thoughts about my upcoming driver’s exam. I kept thinking: “What if I fail again this time? I can’t fail again. I need to pass the exam.” My fingers were trembling as I shook the examiner’s hand and a moment later, when I curled them around the wheel of the car, trying to calm myself down. About 30 minutes later, I walked back into the examiner’s office knowing I had failed again – and I did, for the second time. I had started crying even before the examiner had said the words.
The third time I took my driving exam was an exact replica of the second time, if not worse. I got nervous days before my exam was scheduled and I wanted to cry every time I thought of it. Before I failed my exams, I was never afraid to drive, but now I felt nervous and scared every time I sat down in the driver’s seat. Not to my own surprise, I also failed my third exam. I cried again and felt like I had disappointed everyone; I started to feel like a failure.
By the time my fourth driving exam was scheduled, I decided this time I would pass. I still was very nervous before my exam, I asked everyone if they thought I would pass this time (they all answered “yes”) and I cried the evening before my exam – I wanted to pass so badly this time around. As usual, I had an hour of practice before my exam and this time, I felt a lot calmer. Still nervous, but I still felt like I could breathe. I thought by myself: “This time, I’m going to get it. I can do this.” Unfortunately, I failed another time. I made one stupid mistake and I was right back where it all began.
But with my fifth driving exam, everything was different. I got a different kind of exam, which is designed especially for people who did not pass within four tries. This “BNOR” exam, as it is called in Dutch, takes longer than a regular driving exam, so that the examiners have more time for you. My examiner discussed my previous exams with me, asked me why I went wrong and by the thought of my four failures, I started crying again. I wiped my nose in fancy restaurant napkins and was calmed down again. By the time I sat down behind the wheel I felt calmer, still nervous, but a lot more confident in myself. My examiner stayed calm, told me where to go and didn’t bother me. By the time we drove back to the starting point, the doubt came back: “What if I fail again? I can’t fail again. Please don’t let me fail again. Please, please, please.”
We sat again and the examiner turned to me: “Congratulations, Eden. You passed the exam.” I shouted: “REALLY?!” and started crying again. But this time, it was a different kind of crying. It was relief. I was so, so relieved that I did it. I had finally passed my driving exam. It took me a while. But I finally got it. I went home feeling like the happiest girl on earth. Mom and I jumped around happily, I called Boyfriend crying: “I PASSED THE EXAM”, with money from my Mom and grandmother I bought myself new shoes, my Dad and godfather gave me a “Congratulations!” card when they came home and I got the sweetest messages from my friends and family – it was truly a victorious day.
I guess my fail of failure was a very selective kind. The fact that I had to do it wrong four times before I finally, finally got it right, had a big impact on me, on my confidence. I noticed how my fear of failing my driving exam also affected my school exams, as I felt super nervous by the thought of an upcoming test – which was something I never experienced before my driving exams. The thought of quitting driving was very tempting and it became more tempting with every time I failed, but I knew that I had to continue, had to go on. And I turned out to be right.