‘fail splendidly. fail comfortably. use
failure as a redirect. not a measure of
your worth or value. fail beautifully.’
Failing beautifully. Now there’s a head fuck.
Anyone else grow up thinking failure was pretty damn awful? Full of the shame and the fear and the the bad feelings?
Failure is one of my greatest fears. Failing as a mum, wife, sister, friend, daughter, teacher, woman, good human. Failing at my job, at my hobbies, at my life. Failing at taking risks and trying new things. Failure equals fear. For me they go hand in hand. It’s the fuel for my anxiety and the food for my shame.
In school we are doing a whole lotta work on mind-set, specifically on developing growth mind-sets, and boy do I feel like a fraud. Here I am sharing with kids the benefits of believing they can do anything they put their minds to, that effort and attitude determine ability, that they can learn to do anything they want, that challenges help them grow. That failure is an opportunity to grow.
But I’m over here all like, ugh…it’s too hard, I can’t, I’ll look stupid, It won’t work for me, I’m scared to fail.
The worst part is that I do believe all of those things that I’m sharing with the kids. I believe them for others. I don’t always believe them for me. But, and you may have noticed a theme here if you have been following my blog, I’m working on it. Because, how stunning is the notion of failing beautifully? Of being comfortable with failure. Of making failure a part of your human experience. Of embracing failure as a part of your make up. For me failure is risk, failure is shame, failure is fear. Or it was.
It’s in my nature to take risks that have a low chance of failure. I set myself up well. I research (and research, and research…). I definitely try things…have a go at things. But I rarely put myself in the position to properly ‘fall on my face’ fail. Or maybe more specifically publicly ‘fall on my face’ fail.
Failure in private is way more acceptable to my ego and my shame-o-meter. But even then. My wee internal voice will have a field day when I fail at something. All those inaccurate stories come creeping out of the shadows to give me a few cheap shots.
But, apparently, I’m not doing fear right. I’m not doing failure right. I’m literally failing at failure. Damn it.
Apparently there is a beauty to failure and a relationship to be had with fear and I’ve kind of been missing the point of it all.
‘I live a creative life, and you can’t be creative without being vulnerable. I believe that Creativity and Fear are basically conjoined twins; they share all the same major organs, and cannot be separated, one from the other, without killing them both. And you don’t want to murder Creativity just to destroy Fear! You must accept that Creativity cannot walk even one step forward except by marching side-by-side with its attached sibling of Fear.’ ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things
Every great person who has ever been quoted about fear has basically said similar things. You can’t let fear take control, moving forward while feeling fear is the epitome of being brave, fear is not real but the product of our thoughts, fear is an indication of an action you are scared to take but probably should be taking. You need to feel fear and do the thing anyways.
I’m thinking of the ideas, plans, activities, hobbies, etc. that I’ve maybe given up on because I let the fear of failure get the better of me. As mentioned in my opening post about vulnerability, I want to live a creative life. Guess that means me and fear of failing are going to have to foster a new relationship. I’m going to have to be nice to that cow. Pffffft.
I’m going to have to learn to get along with or at least live in the same space as fear even though I don’t particularly like her much. Usually when I don’t like someone much I ignore. Ignore, ignore, ignore. Pretend they don’t exist. Ignoring fear hasn’t really worked for me so I’m going to need to try a new plan of attack here. Kill her with kindness maybe? Because what’s the alternative? To play the ‘what if’ game for the rest of my life? Yuck.
So me and fear may not become BFFs but we can at least become polite acquaintances. We can do the smile and wave when in the same room and we can make the small chat. She can be my barometer of what I should be delving into a wee bit deeper and the activities I should be considering with more seriousness. If the fear of failing pops up for a visit it’s probably because there’s something important going on there that needs further attention. There’s something good there.
Rather than fight, hide, ignore, attack or push down that feeling of fearing failure, I need to embrace and invite. ‘Come on in. What’s happening? What’s going on that I need to pay a bit of attention to? What am I missing? What’s important for me?’
What could I have a go failing beautifully at? Imagine! What’s ticking away on that brain of yours that you can’t stop thinking about doing? What keeps catching your eye and occupying your thoughts? What do you imagine doing but that wee voice pipes up with ‘Oh no…not you…’? Lean in and tell her to shut it. Time to delve deeper.
Go for the thing.
Write that blog.
Walk that marathon.
Join that powerlifting club.
Try to be as fit as you can be.
Think up that new business.
Speak to that person you admire.
Make that art.
Be that kind of mum.
Own your shit (with pride).
Say no to things that don’t work for you.
Try the new thing.
Be the person you know you can be.
Go for it. Go for it. Go for it!
Foster that relationship with fear and go for it. And I promise to be over here cheering on your potential failures as much as your successes. I know what it means to face your fear of failure and to go for it anyways. I know what it takes and I know what it feels like. It’s the bravest of brave and I will happily help you clean up the mess if it doesn’t go right, just as I will happily help you drink that prosecco when it does.
So, dream it. Go for it. Fuck it! What could you fail beautifully at next?