We love tossing the word failure around. It’s so easy to say we are a failure at our job, at a relationship, at parenting. Is it being a failure? Or are we all works in progress? My preference is the latter, because if I truly believed I was a failure because of all the things I “failed” at, my mental state would be kaput. Instead of dubbing myself a failure, I’ve decided that I am, in fact, a work in progress. I’ve learned from my mistakes, my failures if you will. And i’m very proud of that. Latching on to what other people have told me is "normal" regarding success is something I have come to realize doesn’t serve me. It probably doesn’t serve you either. Re-framing the word failure (and possibly even success) can do wonders for how you perceive yourself. I’m going to share with you how I used my “failures” to launch me into better results than if I had stayed in the same place. I’m not a failure because I keep learning.
I've Been a Work in Progress from the Get Go!
The 1a definition in Merriam-Webster defines the word “failure”
is “omission of occurrence or performance.” Jumping to 2a it defines “failure” as a “lack of success.” The first one I can totally relate to. I’ve failed at getting somewhere on time. Maybe I failed at wearing the appropriate attire to a party. There are plenty of things I have failed to do, some by choice and some by not being aware. We've all been here. But are we failures? No. You’re a work in progress and so am I. A “lack of success” is also something that I have had at times. I have not had success in dozens of relationships, in friendships, in jobs. But wait. Were these failures or poor fits? Have we outgrown each other or did the relationship, for all intents and purposes, fail? My choice is to dig deep on my failures and figure out what went wrong, and that helps me not make mistakes over and over. Now that we have this out of the way, let’s move on.
How Many People Are Watching You Fail - Zero!
One of my biggest freeing moments was when I heard someone say “no one is looking at you so stop acting like they are and live your life.” When I heard that, there was an immediate sense of freedom that came with these little things I thought of as “failures.” Some people are most definitely looking at you, don’t get me wrong. If you’re reading this, then you’re looking at me. When I realized that I could let go of the judgement others were allegedly placing on me and be my most authentic self, my failures became more palatable. In fact, I enjoy watching what works and what doesn’t. I can only know this through failing. I’ve stepped into my role as a work in progress and I am comfortable enough with myself that I let myself be…wait for it…myself. Hell, I can’t be anyone else but me, so why try? I do care about my friends and the people I love, but I don’t care about making mistakes and falling on my face much anymore. It’s part of my growth now, and they love me for it.
I Can Do Many Hard Things. I Failed the First Few Tries, then Bam!
Some Failures Are Your Fault; Some Not
Being able to differentiate between failing due to your own issues or because it was someone else’s fault is super important. I know people who cannot admit to failing, which immediately makes them fail more. As I have been saying lately, “just because you deny it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Recognize the things that you most definitely can change and improve upon: the things that make you a fellow work in progress and not a perpetual chooser of the same failures. Are you failing at getting out of the door on time every single day? Set an alarm, get up when that alarm goes off, and make your day start earlier to get out of the door on time. Don’t blame your work for starting at the same damn time everyday as if you didn’t know about it when you started said job. If some jerk slams into the back of you on the way to work and you fail to get there on time, clearly not your fault. Don’t become your own worst failure, though. Work through those little things one bite at a time.
The Sun is Setting on My Bad Attitude
Is Everyone Around You a Failure and Not You?
Let’s take a pulse. I need this, too. Somehow, so many people around me continue to fail, yet I am this near-perfect person. How is that? Ha!! Lately, I’ve had to go way deep inside of myself to see just what I am projecting onto the humans around me. If I let my little self-righteous attitude take over, I can be in a lot of trouble. More recently, I’ve started to recognize my projected gripes onto people as learning lessons for myself. Being my own student has given me the ability to be more of a work in progress than labeling everyone else as a failure and my shit as not stinking. You know what my failure in all of this is? Failing to see myself for who I truly am, and that bothers me. I’m imperfect, and that’s ok. It’s not ok to think I am better than other people because of the good decisions I’ve made through life. I’ve also made some horrible decisions. We are all in this mucky life together and it’s been much more joyful to see my fellow humans and fellow works in progress rather than failures. See? I’m learning!
The Way to Live in the Dream is to Fail Fast and Learn
The struggle is real. So many of my friends are in jobs they hate, relationships that have run their course, and they won’t get out. It feels too much like that buzz word: failure. If it’s not good anymore, it’s not good. I get that an investment into years at a job is tremendous, but do you want to die at this job? Failing to take the chance to be happy can most definitely feel like a trap or a hamster wheel you can’t get off of. I’m here to tell you that it’s not a failure to cut ties with a job or a person who no longer brings you joy, or worse, who rocks your nervous system into Mars. The faster you fail, the more of a work in progress you can continue to be. It’s one of the biggest things I told my nephew going into the workplace after college: if you take a job that is draining your soul, get out. You didn’t fail. My former best friend made a comment to me earlier in our lives that I bounced jobs too much. I wasn’t a settler and never will be, so while the comment stuck with me, it didn’t sway me. My calling in life is to learn and to be the best version of myself, and sometimes failing fast is the only way.
There is Good Stuff on the Other Side of the Failure Rainbow
You usually know what’s right for you. More and more, my friends (specifically my lady friends) have been encouraged by professionals to “trust their gut” because it’s smart. As a proud work in progress and occasional failure at something, I’ve realized that it’s very important to really take a hard look at what we know is right or wrong, and if a failure is, in fact, a failure to us. There is a lot of outside noise with family, with friends, with social media. Time to tune it out and figure out what you want to keep at and what you want to get out of, even if others think you’re failing. If I had listened to people who were my dearest people to me about my Roaming with Red, it may have remained a hobby and not something that I monetized and take seriously. And truthfully, what’s the worst that can happen if things don’t work out? They don’t work out! Move on! Work in progress, remember? We are fluid humans, and part of trying new things is “failing” at things, and that is good and normal. Now let’s go find something to fail at…I mean…be a work in progress at.