Have you ever struggled with failure? Yes I know, who hasn't? The only way you truly learn is through your failures—and you have to experience them first hand—to really get that sting that motivates you to grow and get better next time. I've had lots of successes in my life, and I've had lots of failures too.
"It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err."– Mahatma Gandhi
I grew up with a lot of pressure to do the right thing, to get the right grades, to be a 'perfect' child because I was the 'add' on youngest child. I was the only child of my mother's second marriage. My two older siblings have a different father. Talk about sibling rivalry!
Blended families are not the easiest in any birth order. For my older siblings, they had to get used to the loss of contact with their own birth father and embrace a new step-father and a new baby sister. No one talked to children in those days. All I knew was that while my older siblings were being normal kids doing rebellious and normal things, I was the geek who studied, swam and generally felt like an outsider except when studying or swimming (my two great escapes from adolescent growing pains).
I didn't make very many mistakes as a child, but when I got to university it was time to P-A-R-T-Y. I made a few mistakes then, like spending more time in UBC's Student Union Building and less time in the library. I ended up going back to school later in life and completing my undergrad Bachelors degree in Psychology and getting a Masters. But it took me quite a few years and ended up being an anxious time of proving myself, double time, again.
In actual fact, the reason I went back to University was to help women in my pre- and post-natal exercise classes feel psychologically and physically healthy. Having felt an outsider in the morphed family of my youth, I had a vision that if women exercised together and discussed the challenging transitions of early parenthood, more families would thrive.
Pregnancy with all its physical and emotional challenges, lack of sleep, and all the moving targets of change, raises the bar in emotional needs for connection and communication. In the most important job of all, parenting, fear of failure can have a stunning impact in blocking our capacity to work together. Exercise is a well-known conduit for positive supportive emotional connection.
The hardest part is talking about failure. Who knows why? The more imperfect you feel, the more you strive for perfection. And guess what? If you don't talk about failure, there is no growth...just shame (that sinking heavy dark feeling that makes the heart feel heavy).
The interesting thing is that when you share your story, you realize you are just like everyone else, just trying to do your best and knowing that there is a whole long list of things you failed at last year and probably a whole long line up of failures ahead. It is, after all what life is about. Failing, learning, and getting back at it, giving it a try one more time.
In fact your greatest failures can end up being your greatest strengths sometimes. (I ended up making the Dean's List in my undergrad; although, I've never experienced so much test and performance anxiety as in those three years). While doing my Masters Program I finally got this 'sit back and enjoy learning for learning sake' policy. It turns out I love learning; not for the grades but for the knowledge.
My marriage of 20 years ended. But now I am happily married again. And now I've written a book about Learning to Love Again, because guess what, I am not going to fail at marriage this time! And it is totally painful to think of how many men and women waste years of their precious lives being stuck in grief rather than integrating a deeper love for them self. To be fully in relationship with our selves is to be fully embracing of our failures and learning curves. And if you recall your greatest failures, you will also notice they have become your greatest strengths.
Fear of failure is one of the most common reasons clients struggle with sleep. What keeps you up at night? What disconnects you from your relationships in the day? What burns in your belly at times for you to do more and be more? The cycle of perfection is the fastest route to all types of addiction.
Are we humans do-ings where we are doing more just to cover up failure? And well, maybe that is not a bad thing either? There is a lot of good that comes from emotional struggle. So lets start talking about it. Maybe there is no such thing as failure. There is really only impacts and the need to do no harm. Just do your best to get better in your life. Don't think for a second you are the only one who has failed at 'that thing' that happened yesterday. (Also, with the clocks going back an hour for daylight savings, you are normal if you feel a little more fatigued and prone to mistakes).
If you have four minutes, watch Dylan Winter's YouTube of starling behavior. It is an absolutely stunning film of how birds work together, almost as one moving organism, to navigate their flight in a valley in Oxmore. I promise it will take your breath away after about two minutes in.
We are all travellers in this lifetime together. No matter what you are moving through your self, belonging to a community and feeling part of a working whole, may be absolutely the most important mission of your life. If you feel the sting of a past failure, talk it through with your friends, family or trusted other.
- Live consciously;
- Do your best;
- Tell your truth;
- Embrace your learning; and,
- Love all of you (marry you!)
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