Of course, no one wants to fail. It’s hardly a motivating goal in life. And yet we fail, in small and large ways all the time; in our relationships, our jobs, our health, our dreams, our character.
I’ve been tempted, on occasion, to not even try, just in case I make a spectacular fool of myself. The motivational self-help books I’ve read claim fear is the reason we stop trying. I can relate to that. Fear can be paralyzing. In a society based on judgment, we fear taking the wrong step, or saying the wrong thing, we fear being true to ourselves in case it doesn’t measure up to an ideal, set by whom..? Probably someone I’ve never met.
But I suspect there is more to it than that. It can be tempting to nurse a sense of failure, to wrap your arms around the past like you would a hurt child. Self-pity can become a form of tender, slightly mis-guided love. For some people it might be the only love they allow themselves.
A good question to ask (Carol Look came up with this one: click here) is ‘what happened last time I was successful?’ If the last time you succeeded someone was jealous and said something cruel, or perhaps the success came with a heavy burden, like long hours and stressful work conditions, then you may subconsciously hold yourself back, because we tend to believe that the future is always like the past.
So, if our marriage fails we assume we must be hopeless in that area and probably shouldn’t try again. If our business partner steals from us, we make the assumption that people can’t be trusted. Diets are a classic example of giving up after experiencing repeated failures, especially if there are hidden benefits to staying a certain weight.
Of course, this hurt part of ourselves is well-intentioned; it’s just trying to protect us from painful feelings, or from new failures. But at what cost? We all fail. Michael Jordan failed. Abraham Lincoln failed. And yet, they are shining examples of success.
Perhaps anyone that succeeds, failed first.
I hate failing, like everyone else, but I am willing to make a fool of myself, willing to get it wrong, willing to make mistakes, and hopefully I will come out the other side in one piece, with only a few bruises.