I’ve experienced a sense of failure when the difference between where I am and where I would like to be feels much greater than I had hoped. The journey suddenly feels longer, and I become exhausted, ashamed, upset with myself, and I start to contemplate giving up or changing course. These feelings don’t help me reach my goals or accept myself for who I am when it gets to the point that I avoid the challenges or begin to let my inner sense of failure infiltrate the rest of my psychic being.
When faced with failure, I try to remember that growth is not linear, and success is not always so clearly measured. I try to practice self-compassion without letting myself off the hook or continuing to avoid the painful feelings I must wrestle with to keep moving toward my goals. Maybe this time they are more realistic or appropriate and are not as concerned about what others think. Maybe more self-compassion and kindness will make me more open to feedback and help along the way.
In the past, accepting failure and telling myself that I am just not “good enough” or “smart enough” has been a slippery slope when it comes to having the confidence to move forward in areas where I am indeed better suited. I still feed this struggle sometimes, feeling like I have failed if I am still suffering from some of my same old defenses that no longer serve me. Rather than feeling consumed by guilt, shame, and inadequacy when I recognize my growing edges, I must have more compassion for my own healing journey and know that I am committed to the process with all its inevitable failures and follies. Failure is never easy, and some failures hurt more than others, but failure can also serve as guideposts to where real growth can begin as long as we keep our heads up high enough not to miss the trails.
Erika Mitchell, MA, is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #109385, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT 50732. Erika specializes in helping her clients bring mindful, attuned awareness to their sensations and emotions.