In this Pinterest-perfect world we live in, everything is styled and photoshopped beyond reality. Put your best self out there, we hear. Shoot for the moon! All great advice. But you know what’s better?
Failure isn’t something to be ashamed of, nor something to be swept under the metaphorical rug of shame. Failure is the most important tool in our growth. Because when you fail; you learn. And although it’s taken me years and years of acceptance, I now embrace failure a necessary and essential part of life.
Here are three things I’ve failed at, and how I’ve learned from them.
I’m currently married to a man with whom I have a great relationship, not perfect, but solid. We’ve had our ups and downs, been pushed to the edge of the precipice, but each time, we band together even stronger than before. But marriage isn’t easy, in fact, this is my second marriage – my first marriage ended in divorce.
My first marriage was to my childhood sweetheart. We’d been seeing each other since I was 15, and we married just before my 21st birthday. From the outside looking in we had a great marriage, I’m sure others thought we were the ‘perfect couple’. Looking back, it’s not like our marriage was awful, it was just that we simply grew apart. Or more to the point, I grew apart, or grew up. I realised that I’d been ‘settling’. Settling for the comfortable. Settling for the known. Regret became a constant in the back of my mind. Not the regret of getting married as such, rather the regret of not trusting myself, not being able to follow through with things I’d wanted. I’d instead settled for a life that I knew would be comfortable. But I didn’t want to be comfortable anymore. I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to experience life beyond the borders of my relationship. I wanted to travel. I wanted to explore. So I left the marriage. The decision was a long time coming in my head, but very abrupt and seemingly impulsive when it happened.
In leaving my I learned how to be strong. How to trust in my decisions. I learned how to step outside of comfortable. I learned how to open myself up to experience. I learned to demand respect in a relationship, and to stand up for what I believe. I learned to be open and upfront. I learned that I’d be okay on my own. And I learned what it means to really fall in love.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but without experiencing the breakdown of this marriage there is no way I would be the person I am today: strong, self-confident, and resilient.
I remember typing the words ‘The End’ to my first completed manuscript. I cringe now as I think back, as I was so naive – and it was only a touch over three years ago! And although I knew it wasn’t the end of the process, I still thought that draft was so much better than it was. So much in fact, that I sent it off only a few months later to be critiqued. Oh, how I laugh now. But, on receiving the feedback, I was mortified. I almost felt like giving up! I took it harder than I let on, but then, after a few months I was able to put things into perspective. I realised that, no first draft is ever ready for anyone else’s eyes, and that there were still many, many hours of hard work ahead – but I could do it. I was determined to. I wasn’t going to let the reality, dampen my drive.
From failing with my first draft I learned the power of my drive, and realised the passion I have for writing. It would have been easy to give up. To say, well I tried, but it didn’t work out, and move on. But, I want this. I want to write. I want to one day be published, and although I know the chances of that are small, I still want to give it my best shot. I want to be able to look back in many, many years’ time and know I put everything I had into it.
From failing I learned that I am resilient. I learned to take on board feedback, and how to see it as a positive. I learned to take the good and work with it, and learn how I can change the negatives. I learned that the road ahead will be filled with more failures and many more rejections, but I also learned that I’m willing to take those hits along the way.
Oh to be a 21st century woman! We have so much at our feet, yet still so many obstacles. So many more opportunities, yet so much more stress. I tried to have it all, be it all, and do it all. I really did. Sometimes, I even felt like I was succeeding with the work/life balance thing – being a great mum, a loving wife, a determined business woman, a great home-maker, a reliable friend, and a healthy, fit individual. But I was so exhausted! That balance was a myth. You see, balance implies that everything can be kept in check, and that everything can always be under control, albeit with a little juggling. Well I’m calling bullocks to that!
I’ve learned that being superwoman isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be, in fact, it rather sucks. It’s stressful, tiring and like hitting your head into a brick wall, suffering concussion and then doing it over and over again. Failing at the superwoman enigma was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Failing taught me that I don’t actually want it all! I don’t want sky-high success in every area of my life. I just want the simple things. A nice roof over my head, a car to get me from a-to-b, a family who loves me and thinks I do an okay job most of the time, a husband who is there for me, and a job that provides. I want time. I want space. I want a content, simple, existence. Which I know sounds boring and unchallenging, but it’s not. By lowering my expectations of myself, I allow myself the choices and opportunities to explore more of what I love to do (in my case – writing!) Being superwoman wasn’t fulfilling, but being me, is. Even if I’m not Donna Hay, Martha Stewart, Arianna Huffington, Janine Allis, or J.K. Rowling! Failing brought me so much closer to me, and I’m thankful it did.
Tell me about a time where you’ve failed and what you learned.