By: Abigail Driscoll
Shame. Guilt. Worthlessness. Inadequacy.
These are feelings many of us are all too familiar with, especially when it comes to failure.
Maybe you applied for a job you really wanted and after interviewing, the company decided to move on with a different candidate.
Maybe you started a new business and it just didn’t take off.
Maybe you set a goal and found it impossible to reach.
Maybe you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with someone, but you just couldn’t make it work.
And with that failure comes all of those negative and harmful feelings of shame and worthlessness. Your mind starts telling you about all the reasons why you will never be enough, you will never get it right, and maybe you were stupid to think you could do it in the first place. In our culture, failure is such a negative thing. These feelings have the potential to cripple us and keep us from getting back up and trying again. Our failures can determine how we choose to identify ourselves, and they most certainly have the power to tell us that we are less than wonderfully made.
But what if failure doesn’t truly mean you’ve failed? What if we changed the very definition of the word by changing the conversations we have in our head and with each other? What if we choose to transform the word from a negative to a positive one? Because the truth is, we will all fail. It’s a part of life. Although it can be difficult, and there is always room for grief in the process, I am convinced that failing doesn’t have to be such a negative experience. In fact, we can turn these incidences into very positive realities.
Here are some ways to start rethinking and redefining failure:
Failing is a chance to get creative. Try a different way!
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” This man, who contributed to our world in such huge ways, had 1,093 patents by the time he died. But many of his inventions failed miserably. When inventing the light bulb for example, he made about 1,000 unsuccessful attempts before finally coming up with the product he envisioned, the product almost every household and business in the world now relies on for productivity and livelihood. What if we followed Mr. Edison’s example in the way he viewed failure? Let’s be honest: making messes can be an adventure! It keeps life exciting, requiring us to reevaluate, rethink, stay inspired, and work smarter. So next time you fail at something you wanted to accomplish, remind yourself that you are one step closer to finding what does work… and try again!
Remember that failure is an opportunity to rise, learn, grow, and become better people.
Think of a time in the past when you’ve failed at something. I bet that after some time has passed, you’re now able to see the silver lining that came from the situation. The shame that obstructed your vision has cleared up and you are able to see much more easily than you could at the time the ways in which your ‘failure’ ended up being a good thing. You can see how that relationship would not have allowed you to grow and be joyful if you had stayed in it. Or how there was a more perfect job waiting for you just six months later, which you wouldn’t have gotten if you hadn’t failed the interview process for the one you originally wanted. Or how when you failed that exam it taught you how to work harder and prioritize better. Think about the ways you have grown as a person as you have fallen down and gotten back up. As our friend Brene Brown says, “There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.”
Remember that your failures have no weight on your worth.
My friend, one thing is certain: your failures do not define you. All of the times you have messed up, screwed up, fell down, gotten rejected, or didn’t finish something you started have zero bearing on who you are and who you want to be in the future. The truth is, you are a human being and you are going to mess up.
But you are okay.
You are beautiful.
And your story is a good one.
Your value has been forever secured by the hand of God. No matter your failings, your worth will never change from the time you were first knit together, before this earth ever even laid eyes on you. Take heart in knowing that from Him, not from your successes or failures, comes your entire identity as a flawed, yet perfect, human being. You are free to fail, to fall, to rise again… and through it all, you are loved the same.
So go ahead, keep failing! And then keep getting back up. Get stronger, braver, freer, and more creative. And tell those feelings of shame, guilt, and inadequacy that they’re no longer welcome in your definition of failure.
Photo Cred: Chelsea Steller
Abigail is a writer based in Cincinnati, OH with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and experience in mental health and sales. She is the founder of Freestate (www.shopfreestate.com), a resource that makes it easier for consumers to shop ethically. You can say hi on her blog, www.ritesofasylum.com, or on social media at @abigaildriscoll.