Originally posted on the Brave Pants Blog.
By Sarah Blaikie (M. SpEx (PhysEd), B.SpEx (PhysEd)
Why do we not love failing?
Why do we not talk about failure? Is it because we fear it? Or is it because we don’t focus on the positive side of failure enough? Put on your Brave Pants and brace yourselves, because we are going to dive right into the deep end of the failure discussion. It won’t be as bad as it sounds, I promise!
If we put a definition on “failure”, we would say it’s a lack of success or an inability to meet an expectation…but is that what failure is? Failure as a concept has a bad rap, and it follows us around like a dark, grey cloud influencing how we perceive it. Sometimes, when we hear the word “failure”, we remember tests we haven’t passed, a job we didn’t get, or a relationship that didn’t prosper. Subconsciously, we have built a world where failure is a negative thing…and why? Because we have a bad relationship with failure. Let’s talk about why!
Let me preface this by saying, I am not an expert. I am also aware that the psychology of failure is far more complicated than what I have written about. However, I have taken the time to explore certain aspects of failure in depth and am confident in explaining it to you!
Most of us would say we have a fear of failing. This fear can be deeply rooted and has the power to prevent us from productively processing our failures and moving forward. It can develop or manifest as the result of previous or current tough expectations or a dread of the consequences that may follow failure.
One of the major anxieties we face when it comes to failure is not being accepted by the people we care about. We may struggle to be vulnerable because of our past experiences or focus too much on losing worth in the eyes of others or people perceiving us differently. Worrying too much about what other people think of us can make failure more difficult to navigate and being dependent on the validation of others prevents us from developing our own self-importance. So, may I have to ask…who are we doing this for?
Anything we do to better our own lives should only be done because we choose to...not because we think that someone else in our life is going to respect us more for it. The truth of the matter is, other people admire us when we fight for something we believe in. Those who are important to us shouldn’t give a f*** if we win or lose. Because essentially, losing is also winning with the right mindset. They should respect us for fighting for our journey, and living a life that challenges us enough to allow us to grow. No matter where we start or where we finish, they should care if we're happy. If they don’t, then maybe we need to rethink our relationship with the person rather than the failure itself.
When we talk about our fear of failure, we must also ask if what we deem to be a fear of failing is rather a fear of taking responsibility for our own personal growth. Do we fear the areas in our lives that we don’t succeed in? Do we struggle to accept that we may not always be the best at what we do?
Acceptance is a skill. To accept failure is a step in our journey to being able to use it as a tool and service for our self–growth. Accepting failure and walking away is easy. I’ll be the first to admit that my failures have led to me walking away from my goals without a second thought. Goals that I will never achieve because I couldn’t accept failure and utilize the service it provided me. Isn’t hindsight a beautiful thing?
To accept failure, we need to focus on what we can control. You have the power to control your life in many ways. However, there are things that happen in life that we have no control over.
That job you didn’t get...if you did your best and put forward your authentic self, was it your fault? No, they just didn’t choose you. Someone else performing better than you on the day? Their performance is out of your control.
The only thing we can truly control is our own personal actions and what we do with the internal and external feedback we receive from the world. We must ask ourselves how this feedback served us. Did not getting that job serve you? Not winning that competition, did that serve you? If we are being sensible, we would answer yes to both. Didn’t both of those “failures” make us train harder and fight harder for what we truly wanted? Didn’t they teach us to grow and develop our skills so we can succeed when we try again? Failure can serve us by being one of our greatest teachers of acceptance. By accepting that a failure may have served us in the long run, we might just be able to use it as fuel for manifesting our future successes.
We must, however, be careful how we manifest our own success. For us to succeed, it is likely that others will not, which is just the realistic nature of life. However, we have two choices. Do we choose to hope for others to fail, putting us on top? Or do we choose to focus on using our own failures to foster better outcomes for ourselves? I know which one I would pick...
A note from me: I guess me saying all of this means we can talk about me now. In the past, projecting my negative relationship with failure onto others has never changed my life for the better. Baselessly blaming others for my failures or defeats has done nothing but impact my relationships with people I respected and admired in my life. Did I find true self-value and self-importance by focusing on what other people thought of me and the decisions I made in my life? Definitely not. I found most of my self-worth by failing, and not letting the repercussions of that failure write my story for me. The reality is, I am still and always will be learning to grow from my failures while recognizing other people's success.
A note from our founder: Imagine failing at something in your life and someone being excited for you. How much more progressive is that? Imagine you hear “That’s so exciting, now you get to learn something!” or “Now we get to plan the next steps”. Focusing on the positive outcomes of a failure can help us to change the psychology of it. Let’s start by being excited about being better and surrounding ourselves with people who are excited and motivated by failure. Failure gives us the opportunity to learn something about ourselves, and with that, we can make our next moves. I encourage you to take a step back, reflect on your relationship with failure and think about how you are going to view it moving forward. Becoming more accepting of failure won’t happen overnight but nurturing a positive relationship with it truly could lead us on a journey to our most successful lives yet!
Brave Pants is a New Zealand owned and operated equestrian apparel line. BRAVE PANTS© wants you to feel brave, fabulous and like you are exploring your most stylish equestrian friend’s wardrobe! Learn more about Brave Pants and their equestrian apparel line on Equivont.