When I was in college, I was a sprinter (for you track fans out there, the 400m dash was my main event). Many, many training sessions, pairs of shoes, taped feet, and ice baths later, one of the most valuable things I gained was getting used to failure.
I’m actually pretty competitive, so don’t be misled into thinking I don’t care about winning. (Ha!) But while the drive to win taught me discipline, confidence, and focus, losing taught me freedom.
Regular public failure required me to develop a sense of security beyond success, and once I had it, I was able to freely find the edge of my capacity and risk stepping beyond it.
In my post college years, I have looked back on my experience with failure in athletics as a season of “training wheels.” The risks and failures I ventured into in that season had few real world consequences.
These days, I find that my failures often carry a much bigger ripple effect, affecting the lives of those I care about. It’s challenged me to again develop a sense of security beyond perfection. Really, no system that depends on me to be perfect is very secure, though I think it can have that illusion. “If I could just perform perfectly, things will be alright in my own life and the lives of those I care for.”
But really, things became much more secure when I got honest with myself and others about the reality of failure as part of my existence and my best efforts to help. That honesty allowed me to think of responding to my own failures as part of “normal life.” Not something to be rigidly prevented or defended against, but allowed in as an expected guest.
Allison (Allie) Ramsey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Therapist. Allie works with individuals on a broad range of issues, including anxiety, depression, relational challenges, faith integration, divorce, and aging.