That’s right, I said it. Accept failure? Easy. Accept your failures? All right, not so easy. And we know why. Because it means we were not good enough, we messed up, or we were just plain unlucky. There are so many negative thoughts in our head, not just those three. They flutter around our failures and they defeat our future successes. Which is why we have to accept our failures.
So, what do I mean by “accept our failures”? Do I mean forgive yourself? Do I mean work harder? Do I mean give up? No, not really any of this.
First of all, let’s identify what we personally view as a failure. Yes, that is a valid question and each of us could spend more time exploring what failure means to us individually. I’m going to break this down into for realms: societal, familial, workplace (also includes school), and the self.
Differing from the workplace in that it reflects a specific society’s expectations as a whole, this one is awfully insidious. We don’t realize that our perceptions of failure are even a part of this. Our idea of failure might reflect what society views as failure. Like not being married with kids by thirty. Or not finishing college. Or not having a typical job. Or not taking care of your elderly mother. There are all sorts of different expectations society throws out there that we take onto ourselves.
Important note: we do not have to follow out the path society has chosen for us. In fact, we don’t even have to rebel against it. So long as we have our rights we are entitled to do exactly as we please. If that’s being bogged down by the greater populations omnipotent “I SAY YOU MUST” then that’s also on us. It’s just expectations instilled in us by the previous generation.
This one is the easiest to fix. Once we notice which of society’s expectations we view as a personal failure on our part, we can shake our fist at the man and go about our daily life consoled that we are not to blame for this failure. These failures do not need accepting. They need to be considered “non-failures”.
This can be viewed in a way like Buzz. It’s a nasty little buzzing bee in your ear that has brought you what society wants you to do and it’s also brought guilt.
This one is harder because it’s family. A lot of times, unfortunately, family places either responsibility or expectation on us. A few things can happen here. The first, and the only one we’ll look at, is when you’ve let them or have failed in their eyes because their expectation does not match your own. This is important because sometimes we do let people down or fail a completely just goal, expectation, or promise. Other times, not so much.
For those times, we stop, evaluate the situation, and then evaluate our own expectations. If we promise to do something we know we will fail at that’s our mistake. That’s our fault. However, to work on failures within families sometimes we have to sit a family member down and explain a situation.
“Look, this is my life path…my decision” and keep it focused on you. At the end of the day, your choices are your own.
This is where we begin to look at ourselves. Our workplace sets specific expectations and if we cannot consistently (not constantly) succeed, we need to look into a different line of work or change something about ourselves so that we can succeed. There’s no reason anyone should stay in a job they aren’t good at. It’s wasted effort, wasted time! Wasted life. If we want to succeed sometimes we have to cut our losses. And sometimes, we have to change ourselves.
But our workplace sets expectations so when we fail at something at work, it’s what I’m calling “an honest failure” meaning we really have dropped the ball, messed up, failed. Did your boss see it as a failure? Or just you? Did you really fail or was it perceived? What do you define as failure in your work?
Getting to work late? Being reprimanded? Not taking initiative? And so the list goes on. Take a moment, jot it down or just think about it.
4. The Self
This is the hardest one. What do you consider a failure? I’ll tell you mine, and it’s broad and vague. Any time I do not give my all, when I don’t give my 100%, I consider that a failure. Sometimes, my 100% feels like nothing at all but it isn’t. That’s my version. It took me a while to arrive at this. It took lots of lists of what I considered a failure for me to see the common denominator: effort. Figure out yours!
Great. So now we know what some of our failures look like. We’ve thought about what we consider a failure and we’ve thought about why we consider it a failure. What now?
Well, now we accept it.
This is the hardest part. I’ve talked about forgiveness in the past and honestly, that’s all this is. We dwell on our mistakes, on our failures because we are punishing ourselves. We shouldn’t be like this. We should be better. We shouldn’t have done that. We should have known better. Blah, blah, blah. It all revolves around the same idea. I didn’t succeed and I can’t let myself live with that.
Well excuse me but how arrogant are you? You will mess up. You might even make the same mistake a few times. You can’t be perfect; live with that. Embrace that. Just keep living and you’ll be bound to mess up again. Some actions have huge negative consequences and all actions have some consequence good and bad.
Holding onto your faux pas only hinders you. It only keeps you bogged down.
Let it go.
Acknowledge that you made a mistake or that you failed, smile, and say you’ll try it again later. We shouldn’t be mean to ourselves. We need to care for ourselves. Part of that is looking at a failure, shrugging, and embracing it. Be happy you failed. Be happy you tried. Be happy with that failure and it won’t hold you down.