When We Fail
Failure. To fail. Failing. These are all words that we’ve come to dread, aren’t they? They make us feel as though we’re not good enough. We’re hopeless. Worthless. Rubbish. In short: we have failed and we will never amount to anything.
Does this sound familiar? In your life, you might feel like you’ve brushed with failure many times, or maybe just a few times as you’ve bulldozed your way to success. Certainly, it’s a feeling that is one of the most common in the world. But what is failure? When we fail, are we a failure? Have we failed? Perhaps…but perhaps not.
Back in August 2017, Cheryl wrote about how there are days when she feels like a failure. Days when nothing seems to go right and when we feel as though we are worthless, hopeless…that we can’t get anything right. It’s almost as if we fail at everything we put our minds to. We can’t achieve. It’s been just over a year since she wrote that post and, in all honesty, it hasn’t been the last time she’s felt this way. There are, however, two sides to every story and I would like to tell you my side.
I’m Only Human
Society has brought us up to believe that failure is bad. If we fail then we haven’t achieved our goal and our efforts have been in vain. Sound about right? Whatever we have failed at – big tasks, small tasks or even something monolithic and almost monumental – we are worthless because we’ve not achieved. That job we’ve applied for that we didn’t get? We’re not good enough. The problem that needed solving that we just can’t figure out? We’re not smart enough. Whatever it is that we haven’t achieved, we’re simply not good enough.
But we’re only human.
As Cheryl said in her post, to fail is human. It’s something we all go through, something we all have to face. Wouldn’t you say so?
“But I’m human. I’m also suffering with mental illness. And I’m not alone. Just from our interactions on Twitter, I know I’m not the only one who slipped and fell into darkness again. Oddly enough, that’s why I’m writing this, it’s why I’m not hiding and avoiding my task of getting my pick of the week posted. To remind everyone who slips that they are not alone. We make mistakes.” – Cheryl, from “Feeling Like a Failure”, August 2017
To fail is human, to fall is natural and we all go through it. Through the shame, the disappointment and everything else that goes on inside of us when we fail, we are only human at the end of the day, and it’s natural.
But our mental illness doesn’t allow for that, does it?
“I Must Be Worthless”
While struggling with a mental illness, our self-worth takes a beating whenever we fail. For those of you who are good at maths (not me, to put that on record), it’s as though our emotions surrounding failure have been magnified by the power of a billion. It’s almost too much to deal with.
We feel worthless.
Cheryl is guilty of this. I am also guilty of this. I’m sure if you are being honest, you are also guilty of this too. That simple acknowledgement can also feel like a failure, as we believe we should be better than this, but we don’t always process it rationally, do we? You see, mental illness has a way of accentuating our feelings, making us feel worse than we actually are. Depression, anxiety, BPD, bipolar…they love nothing more than to prey on our own emotions and make them ten, twenty, a hundred times worse than they are. It can make us feel as though our failure is colossal and that we are completely worthless, for we can’t see the worth we have.
Though there is something I’ve not yet told you. Something that might take this perception and concept of failure and flip it on its head.
A Small Secret
There’s a little secret to dealing with failure. You see, we tend to focus on one very simple, little, insignificant detail:
We did not achieve what we set out to do.
Looking at those words, it sums it up. We set out with a goal in mind and we didn’t achieve that goal, therefore we’ve failed. Despite our best efforts, we haven’t achieved that aim, ergo we are a failure, we have failed, there are no two ways about it.
Except…there are two ways about it.
Who says that your success or failure resides solely in achieving the aim that you set out to attain? If anything, the aim itself is just one part of the journey to success. Because that’s what it is: a journey. Each time we set out to attain a goal, we are on a miniature journey to success and the end result is simply a part of that. To refuse to acknowledge that is to discount the decisions, the attempts and everything else that goes into it.
So what is the reality? What makes a failure not a failure?
The Reality of Failure
Even if you don’t achieve what you set out to do, you have not failed. That’s right, I said YOU HAVE NOT FAILED! Why not? Because you tried. Think to yourself, how much courage did it take to take that first step on your success journey? The decision to try despite all the nagging voices and doubts inside your head (and sometimes outside your head in the form of real people) telling you that you couldn’t do it? You’ve got to take those into account.
The reality is even if you didn’t achieve your goal, you still tried. Against everything telling you why you shouldn’t or couldn’t do it, you still tried. And that, my friends, is a success in itself. You see, failure is only a true failure if you didn’t try. As Lester B. Pearson said, “Failures are made by those who fail to dare, not by those who dare to fail.”
“Failures are made by those who fail to dare, not by those who dare to fail.” – Lester B. Pearson
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