I have been wanting to write a post about failure for a while. Fate would have it, this morning I was watching the news and saw a report on the pressures kids, teens, and young adults are facing when it comes to meeting a level of perfection that is unrealistic and essentially unachievable. I had no idea I was bad at failing until I really got out into the world a couple years ago, and was forced to look my failures straight in the eye and deal with them. There is a very widespread misconception among people of all ages that admitting failure is admitting defeat. When in truth, with failure comes success…as oximoronic as that sounds.
I was by no means intentionally raised to meet some crazy high bar my parents set for me. Yes, they wanted me to do my best and, yes, they supported me in all the ways they could. In fact, they are the reason (now that I am a parent I understand…that’s how it works right?) that I am who I am, and love who I am. It was everything else around me that created a silent, but powerful internal need to distance myself from failure and create a persona of constant success.
It always starts with media.
There has always been media. Just as there has always been an ideal image of how you should look, act, and live… which is, more often then not, completely unrelatable to those of us in the 3D living world. However, starting when I was young and exploding its way through the years is this necessary evil we call technology that allows us to view these images daily, hourly, by the minute…or even by the second. According to google, in 1970 the average person saw about 500 ads per day. Today, that number has grown to well over 5000 ads per day! All of that information input tells our brains how to view the world around us, as well as ourselves. Often that world is a slow motion, airbrushed skin, house in the suburbs way of life that leaves no room for addressing failure. It’s no wonder we feel so much pressure to reach perfection.
Covering up failure breeds fear.
I was so in my head with failure that I couldn’t even bring MYSELF to recognize it. Let me give you some examples. We have all heard the stress of success in the world of acedemia is particularly strong, as you are literally judged and scored on every word you write which then ultimately determines the future for the rest of your life (or so they say)…but no pressure. I graduated magna cum laude, I was part of clubs, I was excelling in a male dominated major, and I was determined to get a job right out of school. But for the life of me, I could not even read a teachers comments on an essay I didn’t do so well on, I would wait hours or days to open an email that may contain a less then perfect remark, and I literally avoided test reviews and open question sessions because having someone explain to me my failure was even worse then just accepting I got it wrong and forgetting about it. I was terrified of even acknowledging my failures to allow myself room to grow.
Let down the walls of your comfort zone.
The idea that we cannot do something because it is outside of our realm of familiarity is a common and easy excuse. I used it for years. I still do, but I’m getting better. I don’t go dancing naked in the streets…I’m still uncomfortable with that. But I have recently tried things I have been wanting to do for years. I have always wanted to start an Etsy shop. But making something, selling it, and having the potential to get a bad review was WAY out of my comfort zone. But one day I started one, made a couple sales, then had a baby and it got swept to the wayside. But just doing it the first time allowed me to open a second shop, with a better direction, understanding, and confidence that it may actually have a profitable future! How cool! The point is, if you look on the Etsy homepage all you are going to see is glorious artisan creations that are professionally photographed and exceed most peoples arts and craft skill levels. It’s a lot of competition. And its easy to fail at it. What is not easy to do, is keep adjusting in the midst of failure, even when it may mean venturing further into the unknown.
The art of a good fail.
I think my ultimate wake up call was becoming a mom. There are literally thousands of ways you can “fail” at that. The biggest difference though, is that you don’t have a choice by to try again. Anything that forces you to keep climbing in a rock slide of failure… EMBRACE that shit. It will change your life. Successful people don’t think about doing, they just do. With that said, I believe everyone has their time and their moment. Like many things inviting failure into your life cannot be forced, as you should not search for it but rather learn to acknowledge it first, before you reinvent it. Begin to understand yourself more and allow doors to be opened that were previously barricaded by fears and doubts. Even this takes practice, but you can’t really fail at failing, so might as well give it a go. Good luck 🙂