I have known plenty of failure in my life. When I was a kid, having to wear glasses and being the chubby kid made me feel like a failure because the other kids didn’t have to and weren’t. As I got older, my family fell apart when I was 10 or so. (it was broken before that but I didn’t realize it) I always felt some responsibility for my parents falling out of “love.” My sister ended up in rehab when I was 12 and I couldn’t help her or fix her. I let her rehab (and the family meetings that were part of it) be my excuse for not doing well in school. In this story, I haven’t even gotten into high school just yet.
My 20s and early 30s were a series of epic failures. Two relationships that became marriages turned into divorce during that time. A “permanent” move to California resulted in me tucking my tail between my legs and moving home to Chicago after a few years. I never held a job for more than a little over two years at any point in my life before I turned 32.
What I saw as my failures affected how I looked at the world and those around me. I was an angry, miserable, and unhappy human being. I decided that since I was a failure no one would ever want to be around me. I pushed away all of my friends. Turned my back on people I was closest too. Amplified every offense I perceived and used those to justify not talking to people. I lost touch with my extended family and my relationship with my immediate family suffered greatly. My marriages crumbled into nothingness. My career foundered and I felt like I didn’t belong doing the kind of work I’d spent 15 years learning how to do.
Failure is a property of a person. It’s a characteristic that directly touches everything in their lives. Being a failure created more failure. I was a failure. I was broken, beaten, and resigned myself to feel this way forever.
I was wrong.
I say that I woke up one day and decided not to be who I was any more. That’s partially true. It didn’t happen over night. It didn’t happen in a single season. It took about 7 months of focusing on who I wanted to be. There are plenty of things I fixed but, as you may guess, one of the most important changes was that I allowed myself to entertain the idea that I wasn’t a failure. I no longer wanted to define myself as a failure. I no longer wanted perpetuate the myth that I was a failure.
Failure isn’t an end. Failure isn’t something that defines someone. Failure is a consequence of trying. Failure is a consequence of being alive. Failure is as natural as success. Failure is nothing to be afraid of. Failure can be painful.. but it could be fun. Embrace failure. Learn from failure. Stop being afraid of it.
I haven’t completely kicked the fear of failure. That fear is reserved these days for social situations. Comic Conventions or Snark for instance. I psyche myself up to go and spend the whole time hoping no one notices me before I duck out the back door. I fear not being who people think I am or who they’ve gotten to know without the physical being part of the equation. I fear not being good enough. I need to work on that fear. I am working on that fear.