01 May All Hail to Fail!
For many people, this is a very difficult time of year. It’s the end of a school year or semester and some are even graduating. Final examinations and final grade reports are about to happen and a lot of students are on pins and needles. Sometimes even the best students get stressed out in late April and early May. For many people though, the whole idea of failure in any form and at any time is terrifying. One of the questions that I often ask in therapy while I’m getting to know a patient is, “What are your fears?”. You might think that the most common answer is the fear of death or dying but much more often people tell me about their fear of failing; of not living up to expectations.
This fear of failure drives people into attempts at perfectionism and, of course, not being able to achieve perfection naturally drives anxiety. Recognizing one’s value despite the inevitability of making mistakes is a common topic in therapy and in my blogs. Sadly, for many people the basic message of “never good enough” that was reinforced in their formative years has proven to be a difficult message to overcome.
If any of this sounds like you, then let me say how sorry I am for the struggle you must be having. What a burden it must be. There are so few outcomes that are good enough in your thinking and when things actually do go just right, your response is more relief than joy. It’s like the famous basketball player who admits that he is more driven by hating losing than by loving winning.
I also know that no simple words from me in this little blog will make the difference but even so, allow me this thought. There is not one great human achievement that was not built on layers and layers of failures. Wherever you are right now as you’re reading this, pause and look up. All around you are amazing things. Your cell phones, computers, lights, cars, lawn mowers, dishwashers, medicines, medical treatments, and on and on and on. I wonder how many tries it took to get the first paperclip to work just right! All these amazing and life changing things and they all share this one thing in common. They are each and every one products of the amazing process of failing and then turning failures into opportunities! Can you imagine what a difference it would make in your life if you could lean into that idea? Imagine how free you would feel and how much joy might be yours to have.