Anxiety from Fear of Failure

Nobody likes to fail, that’s a fact. Many people have achieved success through many failures first.

But when you’re in the heat of the moment trying to achieve success it can feel like the road to it is like a fork up ahead and if you fail, you fail, and it’s final.

I have experienced many failures. In my college program, I failed this exam three times that we needed to pass in order to graduate. I thought it was silly that we had to take it because of the mark required and I had to study hard just to pass the fourth time.

I also had to repeat a course as well which was no fun either but it did reduce my workload.

This year, I have attempted to take my road test to get my G2 after deciding last year that I wanted to drive after all. Here in Canada, the G2 is the second level of driving where you can drive alone. I currently have my G1.

The first time I failed was due to a left turn I made which entered the wrong lane. There was a car coming the other way and I misjudged how close it was to determine whether to yield or I was free to go.

Once I realized I botched the turn, my confidence dropped and I tearfully performed my hill park and 3-point turn before being instructed to drive back to the test center.

Then I began to panic when traffic was stopped due to a police car blocking the right lane. The examiner told me to move into the left lane but my anxiety did not cease when I put my signal on and all the cars jammed in the left lane wouldn’t let me in. The examiner had to intervene.

I already knew that I had failed but still ended up crying once the bomb was dropped. I normally have no issues making turns but screwing up that one made me fail.

The second time I prepared more for at least two months I practiced the routes with my dad so as to not mess up any turns and be wary of traffic volume.

I was nervous but felt more relaxed the second time around. I tried to smile and had no issues driving along. I even put myself at ease by informing the examiner that was nervous. I tried to appear cheerful and gave myself verbal instructions of what I was about to do to follow the steps and acknowledge the examiner’s instructions.

And yet, when I pulled back into the test center, my reverse park wasn’t perfect but I managed to correct it a little. But they still failed me again because I apparently did not yield to a car entering the parking lot at the beginning when I was turning left to head for the exit onto the main road.

This was something my instructor from the driving school I signed up for, did NOT go over with me. I was shocked that I failed again and that I wanted to yell at the examiner for being biased. Did they not like female drivers? Did they know about my music tastes and worry that I would blast my music too loud that it would shatter the eardrums of every other driver on the road? It was one mistake, ONE, but to them, it was an automatic fail, hence another day and a half of excessive weeping. I had to work the day after that test and it was a good thing it was extremely busy, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to pick myself up again as quickly.

When I reflect back on those two tests, I can understand why because from both attempts, those mistakes were due to dangerous actions or violations of a traffic law. I mean yeah you wouldn’t want to give someone the next level of their driver’s license if they’re going to do something risky or illegal, would you?

Still, part of me thinks there is some bias present and even if I didn’t make those costly mistakes, what if they still found a reason to fail me because of how nitpicky they are? Perhaps if I did yield to that car coming in during my second attempt then I would have passed, but like I said, I did not know at that time because it was something that wasn’t reviewed with me.

Now with my third attempt at the test being nigh, I start to worry will I get it this time? What does this mean for me if I fail again? My anxiety goes through the roof worrying about failure. I know there is no limited amount of attempts that you can take the G2 and G road tests, but how much longer can I put up with this? It has a significant impact on my mental health, my bank account, and my family too considering without my G2, I cannot legally drive myself to work yet.

My dad told me not to worry if I fail since there are unlimited attempts and it’s not like I would be kicked out for failing. I often fear letting my family down once again, especially after practicing really hard. My troubles won’t be over if I do pass this third attempt since, in a year from there, I will have to do the G test but I would prefer not to think about that now, I’ll go crazy if I do like Scarlett O’Hara always said.

Failure has a habit of destroying me inside when it happens. It’s like I go through the stages of grief differently starting with the denial which lasts probably a few minutes, anger with depression in the heat of the moment, then total depression where all I want to do is cry for hours and then I lose sleep and my appetite, then anger again but with bargaining before I finally reach acceptance. Usually, there will be something to distract me long enough to accept what has happened.

Is it because I am not used to failure? My parents often spoke, especially my dad, about how as soon as they learned of my diagnosis, they spent their lives educating me about right and wrong, there was never a gray area. Although black-and-white thinking is very common with ASD, for me it was almost at an extreme level. I either do it perfectly or not at all.

Since then I feel like I have grown up into a timid person so deeply afraid of failure that I become so conscientious of what I’m doing, and if I do one thing incorrectly, I get very anxious and frazzled and nothing else goes right afterward.

For example, today my dad and I were practicing reverse parking. When I managed to successfully do it between two cars, after practicing several times in an emptier lot, he instructed me to drive us home as he thought I knew what I was doing and it was time to call it a day. I was feeling good about it. On the way home I had to turn left at an intersection and just as I was straightening back again after the turn, a fire truck pulled out of the station across from me (it didn’t have its flashing lights or siren on). Not anticipating it, I reacted quickly and got through and out of the way like the car in front of me when what I should have done was pull over to the right to give them room. Realizing what I did, I became anxious and forgot about all of the good things I did earlier.

My last therapist says this negative thinking is called a mental filter where we see only the bad and not the good. I feel like one contribution to those thoughts is the fact that the test is rigged where no matter how well you drive, if you did something illegal or dangerous, you fail, even if it was accidental. I did know that I was supposed to pull over for an emergency vehicle, I guess I was once again too hyper-focused on completing my turn that I forgot my surroundings.

It is also due to my way of being too hard on myself trying to be perfect because it seems like I have been raised to aim for utter perfection, though not intentionally. My parents even say they regret pushing too hard and times and wish they educated me more on that it’s okay not to be perfect. It makes me upset because to me it felt like the examiners want me to be a flawless driver to pass guaranteed when nobody is.

All I want is to become more independent and I’m tired of being held back. I might be putting too much pressure on myself and the first step I have taken is to start receiving counselling again. I need someone else to talk to other than my family. The pandemic prevented me from receiving some professional help for a while so I am hoping I can take steps toward having more confidence in myself and not being so terrified of failing.

This won’t mean by the time the test rolls around I’ll be so confident that I can drive like a pro but I am hoping to have another perspective will make it easier for me.

I just want to pass this damn thing and get on with my life.



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