The Darker Side of Covid and A New Light of Mental Resilience

by
Jordan Lok
,
July 29, 2021

Failure is an Option

You’ve read that right, and it’s high time that we lay the popular Apollo 13 credo to rest, or at least within the context of our everyday lives as students, entrepreneurs and workers in society. We’ve all failed in something at some point in our lives, everybody perceives and deals with failure in their own way. Sometimes failure manifests itself in your test results, a business venture gone awry or a feeling of powerlessness to break free from the clutches of unemployment. And that’s okay. Failure - be it a distant memory you're running away from, a probability you’re running towards, or a reality you’re currently experiencing - should be embraced.


Failure Gets a Bad Rap

There was a time in growing up when people believed that failing school meant being jobless for the rest of your life, there was a time when we thought it’s too late for us if we don’t achieve a degree, there was a time when the most intelligent minds on the planet thought the Earth was flat, and if pre-woke Hollywood has ever taught us anything, its that our heroes always have one flaw that makes them weak and vulnerable. These are the few forms of failure’s misapprehension and misperception that ultimately elude us from ever being successful. But you’re not alone! All successful people go through these preludes of perception and experiences before turning the tide to their advantage as their gleaming hope for opportunity.

This is it for people who have achieved success, they utilize failure as an empowering tool for learning. Look at Virgin Brand founder and “Rebel Entrepreneur”, Sir Richard Branson, who sold records by mail order at a lower price than conventional record stores before unfortunately getting busted for tax fraud. After paying a painful fine of £60,000 in penalties and facing imprisonment, Branson could have fallen. But instead, he accepted his failure and learned from it, leaving prison thinking bigger, longer-term, walking the talk, and thus began the story about Virgin Megastores, Virgin Records, Virgin Airlines, and the more recent Virgin Galactic.

This all may sound sanguine and optimistic, dear readers. But while most failures manifest as an opportunity by themselves, allowing space to innovate, improve, and learn - embracing it can be a big challenge. Moreover, being intimate with failure itself is innately anathema to many and runs counter to our natural instincts. Ultimately, it’s about the journey - start by cognizing the truths around you, probe for hidden incentives in your situation, consult with others who have faced failure. It’s worth being upfront with mitigating the negative impacts of failure. 


A Need to Shift the Perception of Failure

Feelings of depression, anxiety and emptiness have amped up with every Movement Control Order. As social creatures, we are hardly dealing with the restrictions itself - isolation and disconnect can make anybody feel vulnerable as it takes a hefty toll on our mental health. These strong, crippling emotions associated with feeling like a failure are succumbed by entrepreneurs and startups, youth, and gig workers alike. Since March 2020, COVID-19 restrictions have forced over 30,000 businesses in Malaysia to close down to tackle the staggering surge of cases.

Fear of failure is pushing us to the brink, ultimately affecting our cognitive approach to end businesses, relationships, or much worse. Stress levels, depression, suicide rates are ever-increasing - the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a mental health crisis that can no longer be sidelined. With tens of thousands of businesses shutting down, people losing their jobs and loved ones to the pandemic, the year has been highly distressing for Malaysians. This plight has also given rise to the “White Flag” or #BenderaPutih campaign launched by netizens of Malaysia, calling on those who are in need of assistance, especially in terms of necessities, to raise a white flag from their homes and job-finding platforms like LinkedIn. To ask for help, sign in to the Bendera Putih app - now rebranded as Sambal SOS.

COVID-19 lockdowns and the mitigation efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic have brought about short-term and as well as long-term psychosocial effects that debilitate the mental health of many, including children and adolescents. The almost seemingly endless lockdown measures and unfaltering numbers of infection cases have robbed the youth of their highly anticipated lives at university, causing children to miss out on social experiences, academic mileposts, and growth learning opportunities, the impact is worsened for economically underprivileged youth. With stress and prolonged isolation, it is likely for anyone to overthink and believe terrible things about themselves. Not seeing a future ahead of them, not knowing what else to do but call it a day, not feeling motivated because everything seems to set us up to fail - what’s next for the youths, entrepreneurs, and the survival of businesses impacted by COVID-19?


Welcoming Failure

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a fresh graduate, or someone who has lost their job due to the pandemic, start by welcoming failure as part of the trip. Part of ameliorating the bad and negative facade of failure is perceiving it differently, see through failure as an opportunity. Your skills are transferable, the pandemic has altered the future of work in many ways, some are temporary, and some are likely permanent. It’s not only about what you have learned from your academic career or your past experiences, it’s now also about your willingness to learn, never stop learning, adapting, and harnessing your professional toolbelt of skills for a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to work. Learn how you can develop and learn with platforms like OpenAcademy, MDEC Digital Skills Training Directory, LinkedIn Learning, Sols 2/47, Teach For Malaysia, Arus Academy, and FutureLab.

Friends, strangers, and compatriots - deep down, you and I both know that failure contributes greatly to personal growth. Yet we may still fear failing, we loathe it because it is painful in the short term and frankly the word “failure” isn’t exactly palatable to the ears. But that’s the thing! Our minds are wired to prevent us from doing something that makes us feel bad - even if the benefits are inevitable in the long term. We understand that failure is relative, it’s okay to fail and it’s okay to allow yourself to fail. Remember dear readers, always put your mental health first. Here are a couple of mental health support pages that may help:  @kau.ok.tak, @myplusvibes, @pocketofcare, @aloe.mind, @caracara.space


Bottom line: failure and success are two sides of the same coin, it’s less about what happens to you but more about what would you do with it - how would you flip the proverbial coin? 

Jordan Lok

An INFJ personality type and a savant of everything peculiar, Jordan often finds themself dabbling in the likes of self-advocating, creative writing and music.