Failure has never really been an option for me. I have always had an intense drive to succeed in the various activities I participate in, but my confidence often hurts me more than it helps. It has taken some time to realize that the certainty that I develop in my skills is often unfounded and premature, interfering with my drive for self-improvement and leaving me unprepared for the challenges of my high expectations. I only began to realize the implications of overconfidence when I failed my driver’s test a few years ago.

My driving career began as any Toronto teen’s would: sitting painfully through endless hours of Young Drivers training in a stuffy, angst-filled classroom, nearly ruining my parents’ car while attempting to parallel park, and having an irrational fear of driving on Yonge Street. I often felt a slight dread leading up to my weekly in-car lessons with Norm, my middle-aged driving instructor, as I saw these lessons as boring and unchallenging. I cannot completely blame my instructor (it can’t be too exhilarating to be constantly reminding me to check my blind spot), but his suggestions began to pass right over my head. Although my driving habits were missing some essential skills, namely checking my blind spots and scanning through intersections, confidence blurred my awareness of these shortcomings. I continued to push myself beyond my boundaries without having a foundation to stem from.

“I sat defenceless in the middle of the intersection as cars swerved around me”

Finally, the day arrived for my long-awaited G2 road test. Norm and I drove through the city in excitement, both hopeful that I would pass and conclude our relentless hours in the car together. While we impatiently loitered around the parking lot in anticipation, Norm eagerly echoed the laws to remember while behind the wheel–which I tuned out entirely. Passing seemed inevitable. But the moment I pulled out of the Downsview Drive Centre, I knew this was not the case. Although I wish I didn’t, I can still remember every detail of that drive vividly, and it may even be in the running for the most disastrous test my examiner has seen to date. While nervously trying to impress him, I dramatically checked my blind spot before switching lanes–so much that my hands started to drift the car into the curb as my head whipped a one-eighty. The examiner barked at me to be careful, but more threatening than his tone was his hand that instinctively grabbed the door handle out of fear (a reaction I have witnessed from my mom far too many times). As I inched into the next intersection to make a left-hand turn, I was so distracted that I missed my final chance to move on the yellow light. My heart raced as I sat defenceless in the middle of the intersection as cars swerved around me for their unbearably slow green light. 

The seven-minute road test became a victim of my panic as my self-confidence drained with each mistake. Although I ultimately anticipated failure by the end of my test, hearing the words from my expressionless examiner was the final stab to my ego, and I instantly began to cry. It’s honestly kind of funny to look back on now–the image of me crying in the back of the car as Norm reassured me the entire drive home. But at the time, all I could think about were my fears: of never being an acceptable driver, of my increasingly vulnerable self-worth, and of disappointing my own expectations. Over the next few days, I couldn’t bring myself to drive again. Accepting failure doesn’t come easily to me, so I preferred to disassociate myself from the problem altogether and place the blame on my instructor and examiner. The situation felt helpless and even unfair.

“My failure provided me with the reality check I needed”

Yet one day, I pushed myself to book another driving test. I had eventually come to realize that my failure was no one’s fault but my own. A license was something to be earned, and I had to put in real work to deserve it. Over the next month, I reached for any opportunity to take over for my parents behind the wheel. I began to instinctively check my blind spot–thankfully without swerving into the sidewalk–and I noticed my mom grabbing the passenger door handle less frequently. My failure provided me with the reality check I needed to genuinely reconsider my confidence in my driving skills, and I can proudly say that it has undeniably made me a safer and better driver.

By the day of my second attempt at an identical assessment, my mindset had completely transformed. Rather than seeing this test as a single occasion to prove myself as a capable driver, it was a foundation upon which I could continue to improve my skills. Now, I can proudly say that I’m a person with an Ontario Certified G2 Licence, recovered self-esteem, and an ability to not only recognize, but learn from my failures.

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