(Photo source: Pexels)

(Photo source: Pexels)

I expect a lot of myself. I expect more from Karis Rogerson than I do from just about anyone else in the world. And you don’t have to take my word for it; you could ask my mom, my best friend, my counselor. They would all agree that I set supremely high standards that I’m unlikely to meet.

I expect myself to be the best writer in the world, the writer with the most acceptances and publications and fans. And I don’t expect this because I think I deserve it; I expect this because I think I don’t deserve it.

Let me explain that better. When it comes down to the heart of things, I’ve never really believed that I deserve my life. For some reason I’ve gotten it in my head that my birth was a fluke, that some other sperm, if only it could have swam faster, would have produced a better human being.

For some reason I’ve gotten it in my head that my birth was a fluke, that some other sperm, if only it could have swam faster, would have produced a better human being.

Maybe this human would still be called Karis Rogerson, but she would be a better friend, a kinder soul, a more upstanding Christian. She would have had more selfless dreams and aspirations, would never take her life for granted and would make people happier than I can. In short, she would have been a better gift to the world.

I’ve spent most of what I remember of my life believing that I’m starting from behind, that I’m struggling just to prove that I deserve the oxygen I consume and the space I take up. So in order to make up for my myriad failings, I need to do better than everyone else.

If I don’t — if I come in second or, God forbid, dead last, I beat myself up to within an inch of my life.

Yes, I mean that in all seriousness. I walk around telling myself that I don’t deserve to live and should do the world a favor by killing myself. I come to a place where I’m determine to throw myself in front of a moving vehicle. I whisper, You don’t deserve life, things would be better if you died, again and again and again, until I’m a sobbing wreck on a bustling and uncaring corner.

If someone is a better writer; if someone else’s article gets published instead of mine; if my friend turns to someone other than me for comfort in hardship; if I make my mom’s voice break or fail at being a good roommate, I come down upon myself with all the swiftness and deadliness of a falling blade on a guillotine.

I have a hard enough time forgiving those who hurt me; imagine the struggle it is to forgive myself.

Every time I don’t succeed, I consider it a failure. Recently I’ve been beating myself up because I lost my job, was irresponsible with my money, and am hovering right above being broke in New York City.

And that, in my eyes, is a glaring failure.

If only I were more qualified, more talented, better at managing my money. If only I were less ambitious, less attached to New York, less of a total and complete screw-up.

If only, if only, if only.

I moved to the city with lofty goals of succeeding: of being the top of my grad school class, of getting a publishing deal for my second novel within a few months, of making friends, climbing the social ladder and being sought out by publications like The New York Times.

Instead my professor suggested I take time off from school because my mental health is so bad, my novels are still nowhere near being published, I’ve lost two best friends, the social ladder is 20 feet out of my reach and I got fired from PuckerMob.

And yet.

And yet my professor also tells me she believes in me and wants the best for me, I’ve written one-and-three-quarters new novels, I’ve gained a family at church, the social ladder is unimportant, and I’ve been published by Seventeen, Bustle, and I Am Second.

And yet my audience is growing steadily, I’m making friends with fellow writers, I received a rejection letter that complimented my poetry, I believe in myself as a writer now.

And yet I’m good friends with my roommates, I have incredible people who fight to pay for my lunch because I can’t afford it and they don’t want to see me hungry, I’m being prayed for by people all across the country and the world.

And yet in my darkest hour God revealed himself to me, He gave me hope where there was none, He offered me salvation that I didn’t deserve.

I don’t know what the answer is to my feelings on unworthiness when it comes to life; I don’t know how to forgive myself for all my mistakes; I don’t know how I’ll stop seeing everything as a failure.

When I began this piece, I didn’t know how it would end because I still felt hopeless.

It ends like this: “and yet.”

I’m not the person I thought I would be; and yet I’m proud of who I am.

I’m not the person I thought I would be; and yet I’m proud of who I am.

Maybe another sperm would have been a better person; and yet God chose me.

I screw up every day; and yet He offers forgiveness every second.

I am a failure; and yet He makes me a success.

This is how we succeed: in the “and yet,” the gift of a second chance or a new perspective.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.

For more on overcoming failure, watch Shawn Johnson’s short film below: