Some people use failure to propel them forward, others use it as an excuse. Which are you? You are capable of far more than you think!
We’ve all been there. Standing in the yoga or fitness class of your choice preparing for an hour-long break in your routine. The instructor starts with some basic breathing, maybe a sun salutation. You are feeling good. You move to some more difficult poses (warrior two, side angle, etc.). So far you are sure you are in the right class at the correct level. Then, the instructor describes something called flying pigeon pose. It doesn’t sound too crazy until they demonstrate it… Nope. I can’t do that!
Maybe the “I can’t” is just a reflex we fall back on when we are faced with a challenge. But as my mother always said, “If you don’t try, how do you know you can’t?” Sure, that works for trying spinach or riding a bike when you’re 9…
But, now the notion of ‘I can’t’ has taken on a completely different definition: fear of failure…
As a species, we are afraid of failure. No one wants to try something and fail at it because with failure comes embarrassment and shame.
I am brought back to when I was a child. The playground was what everyone waited for each day, but I was not the kickball kind of girl. I was the shy girl who sometimes got bullied and I feared giving those bullies something to use against me. Instead of facing the criticism of my peers, I would regularly say, “I can’t!” followed by some lame excuse like a headache, an injury, or even makeup something more dramatic like my mom wouldn’t want me to get all dirty.
The reality is that I was sure I was not good enough, so I spared myself the emotional trauma of failing by not trying.
Unfortunately, this fear of failure pokes its head out even into our adulthood. The situations are much more significant than playground games, but the emotions are the same. Your boss asks you to take the lead on a presentation. You know you are capable, yet you respond with “I can’t, I’m just too busy with X to take the time needed to give it my all.” On the surface, you come across as a dedicated, focused worker that will make any boss feel proud, but you know that is not the case. Failing in front of your co-workers would just be too humiliating. It is easier to preserve your dignity and make an excuse rather than risking failure.
How did we become so fearful? Where did the wild abandon of childhood go? Yes, we would get nervous at a dance recital or jumping in a pool to the waiting arms of a parent, but…
We did not let that fear stop us from our accomplishments.
What happened to all the risk-takers of the world? Without these trailblazers where would we be? People like Marie Curie or Sally Ride did not let the fear of failure stand in the way of progress or innovation. As women, they didn’t allow a society that systematically questioned their ability stop them. Because failure was just the next step to something greater and stopping where they stood would not only stop themselves but also young women who might follow in their footsteps.
Although many say the next generation is lazy and unmotivated, I do not see that. My son sent a text this morning that said, “Hey Mom, I got 300 lbs. on the bench today.” I know if I asked him 2 years ago to lift 300 lbs. he would have said: “I can’t”. Yet here he is, bigger and stronger. He took all his misses and failures and instead of giving up, he pushed forward while starting a career and working 50-hour weeks.
We can learn from our children and their desire to see more of the world than what is right in front of them rather than being intimidated by a barrage of celebrities who look perfect, executives who excel in businesses, or philanthropists who work to save the world. They seem to make it look so easy which creates a lot of pressure for the average Joe.
It’s no wonder we are feeling inadequate when the bar has been set so high.
But if you spoke with these same people, I doubt their rise to power and prestige was without failure. The biography of Michelle Obama tells the story of a girl who was not handed the silver ring, yet she managed to use what she was given to get the job done. Is she that different than any of us?
We need to put aside our desire to be perfect because it stands in the way of our progress. So what if we are not perfect at kickball, or fall on our butt during yoga, or stutter during a presentation? We are capable of more than we allow ourselves to be. We need to turn our backs on being the best and listen to what Maya Angelou said:
“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”
Reach for the stars or the moon and scream at the top of your lungs “I can!” You might be pleasantly surprised to realize that you have been the greatest obstacle to your own growth all along.
You may also enjoy reading It’s Time to Fly: Facing our Fears and Letting Go by Kristen Noel