Chapter 4: Accepting Failure | Kelly’s Story


此采访为中文采访,中英文参访字幕在文末。


In March 2021, CandleX director Xiaojie interviewed Kelly Yang on her experience with bipolar disorder. A year later, CandleX decided to present this interview in five chapters to commemorate World Bipolar Day. This is Chapter 4 of the interview. Check out Chapter 1, Chapter 2, or Chapter 3 if you haven’t already!


In Chapter 4, Kelly uses takeaways from her personal experience to give advice to people like her, the younger generation, and parents. Depression and bipolar disorder are commonly found in perfectionists and high-achievers, which Kelly believes she is. When giving suggestions to these people like her, Kelly emphasizes acceptance – accepting failure, accepting things to not be perfect, and accepting a more ordinary life. When giving advice to teens, Kelly mentions that knowing there are other possibilities in life is a critical aspect to growing a healthy mindset. When addressing parents, Kelly recommends them to not force their kids to complete their own unfulfilled dreams and to learn to see the different methods of child development, which is especially hard with Chinese education. In Chapter 5, Xiaojie and Kelly will talk more about Kelly’s changes after receiving therapy.

Interviewer: Xiaojie | Director of CandleX

Interviewee: Kelly

Time of interview: 2021


TRANSCRIPT

Kelly: There are people around me who have similar experiences to mine. They are considered excellent kids who have always been good, with good families and successful careers. These people also experience symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder. I vividly remember my attending doctor telling me kids like us are extra susceptible to bipolar disorder or depression because there are obvious characteristics. One is how we've never experienced any major setbacks in life. Another thing is how we pursue perfection excessively.

Xiaojie: Perfectionism?

Kelly: Exactly. It's this excessive pursuit of perfection. Actually, the perfectionism you mentioned isn't a derogatory term. Wanting to perfect things is a great quality, but excessively doing it adds a derogative sense to it. It's not like an A+ is good enough; excessive perfectionism means it needs to be an A++ or even more. They are most definitely good enough, but they think they need to be even better. When they're pursuing perfection excessively, they drain themselves and sink into deep emotions more easily. So, instead of giving advice to others, I think it's more appropriate to share what I've been doing myself. I try to reflect on myself more, stop sinking into excessive perfectionism, find my goal and a comfortable state. Then, I look for a goal in a state I feel comfortable in. Striving for wild accomplishments excessively will make you sink into extreme states, which is bad for your mind and body.

Xiaojie: Perfectionists or people who are strict on themselves have lots of trouble dealing with their failure or moments of disappointment. For perfectionists struggling with this, what would you say to them?

Kelly: To be honest, I can't truly accept my own failure yet either. I think perfectionists and people who have a smooth life may have never experienced failure. They can't accept to fail because they automatically put a "no failure" label on themselves. So, I've been slowly trying a psychological state where I accept being ordinary and being less than others. I accept that I just didn't do well on something. I think acceptance is one thing I've been trying to learn. I need to accept the lesser side of myself. I'm not always going to get an A+, be the best, and be better than others. There are also things I can't do well on. Once I accept that side of myself can I truly accept that life is multidimensional. So are other people and myself. My path also has many directions. This way, I see more possibilities in life. If I work towards one single path until I die, I would only see what's in front of me and miss the better things around me.

Xiaojie: There's a good saying that we are our own best friends. When we are our best friend and our best friend fails, how we comfort them is the voice that we should use on ourselves. When we fail, we need to be gentle, accept, and take care of ourselves. This is the meaning behind the saying. Many of our CandleX teens and parents are on this journey; the parents will successfully send their kids to study abroad. What do you want to say to families with kids who haven’t gone abroad and experienced depression or bipolar disorder yet? What would you say to these kids who are still in their teenage years, still in school, and still unexposed to big life setbacks?

Kelly: It's actually like what I previously said. I have the same realization now, which is how we suddenly question why things are certain ways at this age. This is because of something that was established during our teenage years. Everyone back then had this innate sense that I need to do the best, be stronger than others, receive an A+, and be the first in my grade. I need to be better than others in this and that. I need to apply to the top 20 colleges. Setting these goals is good because we need goals in our lives, but sometimes we need to allow ourselves to accept that we may not be able to achieve the highest goal. So, let's take a step back. We don't get it done that way, but what about another way? It's not finding an exit for ourselves, but admitting the other possibilities in life. I think if I could relive my teenage years, I want to be able to see other things aside from my grades or the Gaokao. This is genuinely what I would like to say to the younger generation. I want them to choose from more possibilities before experiencing adulthood.

Xiaojie: That is great. What about to parents? Because Chinese education is quite special in the way that parents tend to put a lot of effort, energy, and money into their child's growth. Do you have anything you would like to say to these parents?

Kelly: Since I don't have kids of my own, it would be a bit farfetched to give any suggestions to parents.

Xiaojie: Then let's change the question to: what do you want to say to your parents back then?

Kelly: Oh yes, that's better. Like I mentioned before, if I went back to my teenage years, I hope to see more possibilities. But if, back then, my parents could tell me, "It's okay to not score such high marks. There is both success and failure in life because it's not possible for you to always be the best in everything you do." and encouraged me to find my true interest and passion, I might be able to open myself up more and be more broad-minded. Because in my knowledge of Chinese education, everyone puts grades as the most valuable thing. They judge you on your grades and your Gaokao score. Actually, the sense that the Gaokao changes one's life is still an idea that needs to be adjusted. This is why our education is headed towards that one goal. As an observer, a small problem many parents have is how they force their own hopes and dreams onto their children. They like to say, "I couldn't do this and that. I couldn't go to a good university." That's why my child needs to attend a good university. By doing this, parents are giving their kids too much pressure. When they make their child live according to what they want in life, parents are ignoring the possibility of their child growing on their own. When you suddenly let go of a sprout you've been pulling up to help grow, saying the sprout is grown now, the sprout will lose sense of how to take root. Though it's been getting better these years, with everyone becoming more internationalized and open, the root problem still exists in China. So, for parents, they need to accept more possibilities to bring their kids more possibilities.

Xiaojie: We also want to remind parents that emotions like being depressed are caused by the lack of nutrition to our internal spirit and a constant search for external things, which are usually things that drain us. For example, I have to study and learn history and math, even though I dislike them. But there are more ways for children to develop. The child may love sports or music. I want them to be able to have more space to do what they love. This way, they stay farther from depression. A great point you mentioned was that we need to not only strive for success and goals, though goals can be helpful, but we also need to accept our chance of failure and see it as an okay part of our lives.


文字稿

诗诗:所谓的就是一路走来就是别人家的孩子,一直都比较优秀,事业包括家庭各方面都还算不错,我身边也有跟我同样差不多经历的朋友,也是经历了抑郁症也好,双相情感障碍也好,其实也有这方面的病例在,我就记得很深,我的主治医生其实有跟我说,像我们这类的孩子其实是双相的,或者是抑郁症一个非常易感人群,因为它可能有几个特征,就是一路走过来都比较顺利,然后没有经历过什么很大的挫折,还有一点非常重要的就是过渡追求完美。

小杰:完美主义?

诗诗:对,完美主义,就是所谓的过渡追求完美,其实之前所说的完美主义,你追求完美其实不是一个贬义词,你追求完美是非常好的一种品质,但是过渡追求完美就有一点贬义的色彩在了。它不是说你追到100分就可以了,过渡追求完美的人他是要追到150分甚至是更多,你都已经追到这儿完全就已经够了,但是不行我还要更优秀,还要更好,其实在你过渡追求完美的过程中就很容易消耗自己,让自己陷入一种情绪的漩涡当中。所以我与其说是建议别人,不如也说是我最近都有在自省自己,不能要让自己陷入到这种过渡完美的状态下,要认清楚自己真正的目标是什么,自己觉得舒适的状态是什么,然后在这个舒服的状态当中去寻找自己的一个目标,而不是说去过渡的追求一些虚妄的成就,反而会让你陷入到一个很极端的情况当中,这样对自己的身心都不是很好。

小杰:因为完美主义的人包括说对自己要求很严格的人,很难去处理自己的失败以及没有办法达到自己要求的那些时刻,对于这种正在处于这种时刻的完美主义者,你有什么样的想跟他们说的吗?

诗诗:其实这个问题就是,我自己到目前为止也不是非常能够接受自己失败的,其实我觉得像是完美主义者,包括像这种所谓的一路优秀过来的人,他们其实一路可能没有经历过很多的失败,他们就觉得自己不能接受失败,我不应该失败,其实是有这样的一种固有的思维在的。所以,我自己现在也有在慢慢的尝试一个心理状态,就是说我接受自己的平凡,接受自己的不如人,我接受自己可能在这方面我做的就是不好,我觉得接受这件事情是我自己现在在慢慢学的一件事情,你要去接受自己不好的那一面,我不是说我永远都是100分,永远都是最好的,我永远都是比别人强的,我也有做的不好的地方。当我接受自己背面的时候,我才能够真正的去接受人生是多面的,别人是多面的,我是多面的,我的路是多条的,这个时候人生的可能性会更多一些,而不是说我们只追求这一条路,我就那一条路走到死,其实这个时候反而你就会一直着眼于自己眼前的那些东西,你看不到周围更好的东西。

小杰:有一个很好的比喻,就是说做我们自己最好的朋友,如果说我们是自己最好朋友的时候,当你的好朋友失败的时候,你应该怎么样去安慰他,那个时候其实我们要唤醒这个声音,你在失败的时候其实我们更多的是需要给自己一些温柔以及接纳,以及呵护,就是这样的意思。

小杰:其实我们CandleX很多青少年的听众以及家长也是在这个旅程中,他们还在,自己的孩子可能正要面临出国一切都比较顺利,那对于还没有走,这一批孩子还没有首发抑郁或者双相的这一批孩子们和家长们,你想对他们说些什么,我们先来看看你对这些青少年想要说什么,还是十几岁,还在学校里面很努力的念书,还没有什么挫折的这些孩子?

诗诗:其实就像我刚才说的,我自己现在的这个感悟一样,就是所谓的可能到我们这个年纪才突然觉得,为什么会是这样的,其实这个根儿都是在我们青少年时期形成的,那个时候大家就是会有那种固有的印象,就是我要做到最好,我要比别人都强,我要考100分,我要拿年级第一,我这个要比别人强,那个要比别人强,我出国要申到最好的大学,就是会给自己其实定下这样的目标是很好的,因为我们人生需要一些目标,但是有的时候我们也需要让自己接受,我们可能没有办法达到最高的那个目标,让我们退一步好不好,我们不做到这样,我们那样做好不好,不是说给自己找一条退路或者是后路,而是让我们去承认人生的更多可能性,我觉得这个其实是我希望如果我再重活一次的话,我的青少年时期能够去看到除了学习之外更多的东西,而不是只看到分,而不是只看到成绩,只看高考,这真的是我发自内心的希望告诉接下来的弟弟妹妹们,他们能够体验更多人生之前,让他们自己去选择更多的可能性。

小杰:很好,对于,家长这一块儿呢,因为咱们中国式的教育,也是比较有特色的,所以就是家长大部分的时候会花很多的心、精力以及钱财在孩子的成长上。对于这一部分的家长你有什么想要说的吗?

诗诗:因为我自己本身也没有孩子,其实我现在说对家长的一些话,其实也有一点牵强。

小杰:我们换一种方式,你想给当时你的家长说些什么?

诗诗:我觉得这样比较好。其实就像刚才我说的,如果当时我自己回到原来的青少年的时期,我希望能够看到更多的可能性,但是如果我当时的家长,如果能够告诉我说,你不考那么多分也没有关系,你要接受你的人生就是有成功有失败的,不是说你每次都能够做到最好,你要去找到自己真正的兴趣所在,你要去做自己真正想要做的事情,如果我觉得那个时候我的父母是这样跟我说的,其实我有可能会更加的,把自己的心胸打的更开一些。因为据我所了解到的中国式教育,真的还都是分分学生的命根儿,大家都是唯分论,唯高考论,其实高考改变一个人的命运这件事情在中国一直以来都没有得到一些很好的改善,所以这导致我们的教育其实更多的都是朝着那个目标走的。再加上很多家长其实有的时候,我自己旁观者来看他们有一点点问题所在,就是他把自己曾经的一些愿望,和自己的一些想法施加在孩子的身上,我当时没有怎么样,我当时没有考上一个好大学,我就要让我的孩子考一个好的大学。其实这个时候你反而去给孩子过多的压力,你让他过多的按照你的意思去走的时候,你反而是忽略了他自己成长的一个可能性。当你一直在拔苗助长的时候,你突然这个苗松开手了,你大了自己过去的时候他就不知道该怎么扎根了。所以说我觉得我们中国式的家长,其实近些年有点在慢慢的好转,大家也更加的国际化,更加的Open,但其实还是根儿上没有变。我希望如果是在家长这方面的话,他自己要去接受更多的可能性,才能带给孩子更多的可能性。

小杰:而且我们也其实非常想提示我们的家长,所有的抑郁这一类的情绪,都是因为我们没有办法给我们心灵供给营养,因为我们更多的去追寻外界的东西。所谓的这些外界的东西,是在消耗我们可能是我每天不爱念书,我不爱学历史,我不学数学,但是我必须得学,其实我们有更多的成长方式,他可能是一个特别喜欢去运动的孩子,或者特别喜欢音乐的一些孩子,所以也希望他们如果有更多这样的空间去做自己爱做的事情,那他离抑郁就会更远一些,你刚刚也提到非常好的一点,就是说我们要不仅仅说成功是生活中我们要去追寻的一些东西,有一定的目标还是挺好的,但是我们要认可我们每一个人都有失败的这个可能性,而且这个经历也是可以是被接受,也是我们人生中的一部分。