sometimes, it's okay to not be perfect –
At one point in my adolescent life, I discovered the true defeat that seeps through every pore in your being when you experience failure. I felt like I was gripping tightly onto the wheel of a car that was rapidly spiralling out of control; I knew that it was going to crash but I was unable to stop it. Failing made it seem like my dreams were nothing more than hopeless aspirations, and everything that I’d been scratching and clawing for didn’t seem worth it anymore.
But, here’s a fact of life: failure is inevitable.
From the surgeon who’d sewn a tube inside my mother’s chest, after her open heart surgery — forcing them to re-open the wound to release said tube (which was as horrifying to live through as it sounds on the page); to the little boy I taught, who despite passing his exams felt like he fell short as he didn’t do as well as his classmate …. both of them experienced failure in some capacity in their lifetime. And in this example, it’s evident that through various stages of our lives, we experience different layers of failure.
Everyone is bound to be a failure.
We fail in our personal lives and relationships. We fail at school when it becomes too overwhelming. We fail at our jobs when we push ourselves too much to the point where we crash and burn. It is simply unavoidable. The disappointment is crippling and the fear is immense when you’re in that car that’s coiling towards a bottomless pit. Yet, the anticipated crash is something that I would allow to happen again and again and again because it has brought me to the place where I am today.
Have a think about this question:
Have you ever experienced some kind of failure only to find that it guided you to a better path? Make you become more resilient? Taught you something important?
Has a failure in your life turned out to be a good thing in some way?
This, I think is the sometimes disguised gift of failure. Even if everything seems to be falling apart or something you worked really hard for is taken away from you; something good can still happen. Perhaps something even better than what you previously had, as crazy as that sounds.
The challenge of facing a failure is that we are often taught that it is a bad thing. We’re often not encouraged to experiment and practice failing as there is so much pressure on making the right decisions, getting the best feedback and chasing perfection. Failure is so often linked to disappointment, shame, frustration, fear and guilt that it is hard to see the good side of it.
When I look back on my own life, the failures I went through felt awful at the time and at points I couldn’t see past those mistakes into the potential that the future held for me.
But without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today and where I am today is wonderful for me. My life isn’t where I thought it would be at 26, but I like the ways that my failures have shown me what is truly important to me.
Through failed relationships, I learned what I wanted from friends, family and partner. Experiencing anxiety, stress and depression felt like failures at the time but if I had not felt those things, I would not feel so passionate about supporting people with their own mental health. I wouldn’t have started this blog. I wouldn’t have taken a chance on an industry that is notoriously hard to get into (with no prior experience – aside from my accounting credentials).
In so many ways, what I thought was a failure turned out to be just what I needed.
In saying that, when you are going through a challenge or what feels like a failure, it doesn’t feel great. It can be confronting and overwhelming and you might want to avoid thinking about it or talking about it, you might start to doubt yourself and your confidence might take a hit.
So how do you find the positive aspects of failure?
- Look for the lesson in every single failure.
When something doesn’t go to plan, or I make a mistake, I now tend to see these things as a potential point for growth. So I ask myself what can I do well and how do I learn from this? How do I become resilient? How can I problem-solve?
- Talk about the failure in an honest and light-hearted way.
Try to be honest with your feelings and try not to be too hard for yourself. Instead of lying about your feelings and saying, “I don’t care, it doesn’t matter”; try to think along the lines of: “I’m frustrated this didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, but I will be okay.” Statements like this allow you to take responsibility for the true feeling of your failure whilst remaining positive.
- Remember that everyone fails.
Some people have failed in spectacular ways, but they have gone on to become hugely successful. It might help to put your failure in perspective by researching failures that successful, famous people have overcome to be where they are today. It may not necessarily take away the pain you feel for failing but it will help you remember that you are not the only person to have ever failed. When something hasn’t worked out in the past, I felt like I was the only person experiencing this, and I was alone and miserable but it just wasn’t true!
So remember that failures are important in guiding you to finding the right path. So don’t be scared in failing, embrace it.