We All Do It: Living With Failure
We have all had those days when nothing goes quite the way we imagined. Those days when we wake up late, are too rushed to eat a nutritious breakfast, spill our coffee in the car, and then get hounded with unexpected work demands. Those can be tough and trying days. But what if those days occur day after day, week after week, or dare I say it – for months?
It definitely can make us feel like failures; as if we aren’t doing something right, or maybe that we are “paying for something we did” in our past. Sure, we all have those days. But what if your days are filled with other types of perceived failures?
We All Do It: Living With Failure
Time and time again I hear people say that they feel like failures, or have “failed at life”. They look back at their lives and wish they had done things differently. They reflect on their current situations and believe if they had done things differently they would be in a much better place. They look at their futures and become weary and unmotivated. Why? Because they believe they are failures.
Perceived failures such as not going to college, being divorced twice, getting fired from a job one really needed, or feeling depressed and alone – all of these and so much more make us feel like we have not lived up to some sort of predetermined expectation for ourselves.
I am here to tell you that “big” or “small” we all fail. At some point in our lives we all examine who we are, where we came from, and where we want to go from here. It’s healthy to do so. But when you are in a fog of failure, distortions can get the best of us. Distortions that I hear all too often- “It’s too late to go back to school. I’m too old.” “No one’s going to want a twice divorced woman with three kids. I’m going to be alone forever.” “If I hadn’t of done ___________ I would still have my job. Now I don’t know what to do!”
I want to challenge you. I want to challenge you to re-frame the situation. Look at it from another point of view. Have compassion for yourself. Forgive yourself if you need to. Find forgiveness towards others that may have contributed to your situation. Then take the reins and move forward.
You are not a failure. Could you have chosen to do things differently? Sure, we all could look back on decisions we have made and admit that. But – there is a difference between failing at something and being a failure.
Let me explain.
It is healthy and acceptable to examine your past and wonder if you could have done things differently. If you were to challenge yourself to see if from another point of view, instead of seeing your actions and decisions as a failure, see them as an opportunity to change, in the here and now. You have more power than you think you do. And if you see it as an opportunity for change rather than a failure, imagine the possibilities for your future.
On the flip side, if you believe that your actions and choices have made you a failure, then the power has been taken away from you. You cannot see your future clearly because you are in the failure fog. Your choices have defined you and your abilities and the road stops there.
If failure has determined who are, then every turn in the road looks like a dead end. But it is really just a turn. Again, take the reins and move forward.
Here Are Some Pointers On What To Do In The Case That You Are Starting To Feel Like A Failure, Rather Than Recognize That You May Have Simply Failed At Something:
1. Understand that this is not permanent and that “this too, shall pass”. It may just be a turn in your road. The icky feeling of failure tends to hang around longer if you dwell on it and let it define you. Don’t let it. Take the reins and MOVE.
2. Remember that everyone fails. Those who are most successful fail often. It is a vital part of life that enables growth and learning about the self. Learning about what you are capable of, and owning your own power to claim the failure and learn from it.
3. Overcoming failure means that you can give meaning and purpose to others who may feel
like a failure. Once you begin to challenge yourself to see perceived failures as just that- perceived failures, you overcome them and learn from them. You have the opportunity to help others. And that gives purpose to your life and theirs. Win-win.
4. Failure builds resiliency. We are not all born with that golden gift of resiliency but we can earn it- through failing and learning and sharing with others.
So there it is. We all live with it. We all live with failure. Don’t let it define you. Don’t let it take away your power to choose who you want to be. Instead; understand it, be compassionate to yourself about it, learn from it, teach others about overcoming it, and build the resiliency you need to redefine yourself and your successes. Next time when you fail, you will be much more ready to take the reins and move forward.
If you are struggling in living with failure, find some support. You do not have to do this alone.
Katie Porter, M.A., LPC