Failure: What does it mean? When asked about my #1 fear, failure is always my answer. Not spiders or snakes or drowning. Those things don’t worry me at all. Just the word failure, however, strikes fear into my heart. Appropriately enough, the very first reading assignment I was given in my Master’s class was on failure – and learning to embrace and even celebrate it. The article was “Fail Faster, Succeed Sooner” by Dr. Cheryl Lenz.
The entire time that I was reading I could feel my internal struggle, the desire to proclaim that the author was wrong and to run in the other direction. I have discovered that she is not incorrect, though. Life has taught me that failure cannot be avoided, therefore it should be embraced. I’m not quite there yet, however. Failure is still something I struggle against.
The concept of learning through failures (actually seeking them out, even), is something I vehemently fought against. My mind was screaming that I learned just fine without ever failing. That’s not really true, though. Although I have never, ever received an ‘F,’ I have certainly never achieved perfection, either. In fact, I know that it isn’t even possible. Still, as I was reading my perfectionist mind was finding typos and mentally correcting them (like the word “prefect” instead of “perfect” at the top of page 154 – I wonder if that was intentional to drive people like me crazy?).
When I stop, take a breath, and really think about failure and what we can learn from it, I can see the wisdom in embracing it. It is undeniably true that no one does anything flawlessly the first time. I have also found that sometimes we learn the most from discovering how NOT to approach a problem, task, or process. I used to feel like my failures were something to be embarrassed about, and to hide from the world. That was my perfectionism in full force, telling me that anything less than exactly what I set out to do wasn’t worth anything. As I’ve grown and been faced with less than perfect outcomes, I have also discovered that not all failures can be private. And some that could be maybe shouldn’t be. When I make myself vulnerable and admit my humanity I have found that people relate to me more. No one is perfect, but even though we all know that we still try to keep up the façade.
Walking away from my marriage, admitting that I made a poor choice in a partner, and pursuing divorce was terrifying – probably the scariest thing I’ve done so far. I never thought I would be divorced. I believe in love and marriage. “Giving up” on my marriage was something I didn’t want to do. Sometimes you don’t have control over things, though. I didn’t have any control over my husband’s addiction, his lies, his narcissist personality, or his lack of desire to be honest and trustworthy in our marriage. I am figuring out how to give up control and learning from disappointments in life the hard way (because I’m a stubborn person). Every day I strive to accept that I can’t plan out my life. I can have goals and work towards them, but I cannot predict where life might take me.
A failure is only truly a negative thing when we let it be the end of the road. I have been guilty of seeing a failure coming, and trying to avoid it at all costs, even if it meant giving up and walking away. That has made me miss out on experiences that I could have learned from and grown as a person. It is important to know your limitations, but we shouldn’t allow fear of failure to hold us back from achieving our dreams. Resiliency is a gift, and it should be encouraged and honed. I suppose that is one thing that failure teaches us. 🙂