Things I learned from 30 Days of Failure
30 days of feeling like shit and how I coped with it
Last month when I joined Medium and decided to start writing/blogging, I set a goal on writing at least one article a week. Easy enough, right? I was stoked to say the least. I looked forward to seeing myself grow. I dreamed incessantly about my potential in this creative field.
But that didn’t really happen.
Instead, life got in the way. I made excuses. I was tired. I was lazy. I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.
I’d tell you what was going on in my life this past month since my last piece, but that really doesn’t matter, does it? Everything I say is just going to sound like an excuse for not being fully committed.
For days I felt like a failure for not working on my goals.
But here I am again. Welcoming myself back to this platform.
I started off writing this article on how I got back to writing again. In the process, however, I’ve unearthed some nasty, rotting skeletons in my closet that I’ve been hiding because of my fears of failure and unworthiness. And let me tell you, they STANK. But I’ve cleaned them out; I can’t say completely, if ever. The smell lingers still, but here’s my step-by-step on how I coped and overcame failure.
1. Accept the shame and guilt
There’s an internal dialogue that goes on in my head when my actions don’t align with my goals, and the underlying tone of that dialogue is usually shame and guilt.
By definition, shame is the painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
I shamed myself for not being strong enough to commit, for not being dedicated or invested enough in myself, and for going back to my same old habits of dilly-dallying and laziness.
This dialogue then makes me not want to work on that goal anymore.
“I guess I’m just not that into it.”
“I’m not a good enough writer anyways.”
“Who am I to compete with all the other creatives and thought leaders in this platform.”
My initial title for this point was “Don’t shame yourself,” but I found that counter-intuitive. Instead, I thought it would be better to just accept it. Yes, I feel this shame. Yes, I feel this guilt. Now what? What am I going to do about it?
This leads us to the next step.
2. Find objectivity from failure
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from spiritual and meditation leaders is to find objectivity from your thoughts. One of the main concepts in Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, is to become a “watcher” of the mind.
Objectivity from your mind detaches you from its narrative of your unworthiness and failure.
I imagine my thoughts and emotions like a busy intersection. I see shame and guilt, two huge trucks barreling down the street, running over cars and pedestrians and wreaking havoc with blood and smoke everywhere and women and children crying. Jesus. What a fucking mess.
Normally I would put myself right in the middle of the intersection, wanting to control and stop these madmen from completely destroying what once was a peaceful intersection. But I learned to imagine myself being a by-stander. Watching them destroy everything, and letting them pass. I see this mess of a mind, and now I’m ready to clean it all up.
Shame and guilt are the most prevalent stories that we tell ourselves when we experience failure. But that’s it. They’re just stories. Fictional stories. I will acknowledge these stories, and move on.
3. Forgive yourself
Now that the madmen have passed, it’s time to forgive. Negative feelings are as much part of our psychology as any other. But that does not mean that that is who we are. I needed to forgive myself for failing.
Fear of failure and taking risks are the biggest obstacles that we face when working towards our goals. I was raised to believe in “playing it safe” and travelling down the well-paved road. That there is a linear way to reach success, and that was to get good grades, get a degree, get a well-paying, blue collar job with good benefits and save up for retirement.
But that’s not the life that I want to live. And I’m sure that’s not the life that you want to live either. We are the generation of humans that want more out of life. That want to find our life’s purpose. To create and inspire. To break those glass ceilings and create change.
So forgive yourself for failing. Forgive yourself for not wanting to be boxed in. There is no shame in becoming the person that you want to be, that you were destined to be.
Working towards your dreams and goals is never a linear process. You will fail, and feel shame, and feel guilt, and you will feel like giving up. You will fall down and scrape your knee and break many bones and bleed. Accept this.
They will turn into beautiful battle scars and sacred lessons. When you’re finally in that place that you’ve always wanted to be in, you will thank yourself for fighting the tough battles, and for refusing to be stay down when the whole world tells you to.
Thanks for stopping by.