Modern day culture has a sick and twisted relationship with failure. Modern day culture tells us that failure is bad. Modern day culture tells us that failure is shame, frustration, self-deprecation, anger, disappointment.
Modern day culture is wrong.
All my life I’ve been trying to avoid failure like a literal plague. Failing to keep my emotions in check or failing to remember my meds or failing to do something perfectly would trigger a spiral of self loathing, which was a failure to check my own negative self talk, which led to a vicious cycle of failure. On my worst days I’d think ‘why am I even trying? I’ll just fail again’.
Then I had my baby, and she taught me something that therapy couldn’t: she taught me that failure is a muscle. Today’s failure isn’t necessarily a predictor of tomorrow, or next week. Failure is training for success, and training is nothing to be ashamed of.
Consider: a baby can’t talk, can’t roll, can’t keep their food down consistently. They can’t even hold their own head up. My newborn in particular would periodically scream bloody murder because she didn’t know how to fart yet.
A baby is, by modern day culture standards, a human failure.
But no one gets mad at a baby because we know that babies aren’t human failures, they’re humans in training. We give them tummy time to strengthen their neck muscles. We give them toys to strengthen their dexterity. We teach them to eat, crawl, put on their shoes and say please and thank you, and they don’t do it perfectly even half of the time.
They get it wrong over and over and over again, but they keep trying and we keep encouraging them, because they’re humans in training. Eventually they learn what they need to learn.
When does that grace and forgiveness we offer to humans in training turn into shaming and disappointment? We need to afford understanding to ourselves and others, too, because we’re all training. Training to have a better handle on our tempers, training to defeat addiction, training to reframe negative thinking, training to have more patience.
As long as we keep trying, we’re training, and no matter what it is, it’s just as valid as someone at the gym training to bench press their own body weight. Practice makes perfect. Failure is training. Practice and training is how you get better. Failing one time just means you’re a little better practiced for the next time.
Success doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn't even happen all the time (everyone has ‘off’ days), but instead of lamenting failure, we should embrace it for what it is: a process towards success. Failure isn’t this horrible thing to avoid or hide from, it’s a necessity for success.
Success requires training, and my baby taught me to never stop training.
Kate Scheer is a guest poster for eMoods
Photo copyright Kate Scheer