Objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are.
I’ve been thinking about failure a lot lately. You see, my default thought process when I don’t achieve something I’ve worked hard for is:
“I’m not good enough.”
I’ve been telling myself this for years; since 2005 to be exact. It was my first year in the military, and despite being fitter and stronger than I’d ever been, I developed unbearable pain in my legs just 3 months after I enlisted. I went to the doctor, the physiotherapist then the podiatrist and I followed their advice religiously.
Unfortunately, I was still in pain, so I had surgery — twice. Then I followed the rehab plans as best as I could … but both times, I got to a point where I simply couldn’t continue. I was still in pain. The surgery hadn’t taken it away.
Throughout my two years in the military:
I remember being called a malingerer;
I remember a colleague, blind drunk, shouting at me “this is not your Army” and
I remember the surgeon telling me “the surgery was perfect, you shouldn’t still be in pain”.
All I heard was “you must be making it up” and “you’re too weak to be here”.
The truth is, I wasn’t too weak. I had an undiagnosed back injury that no amount of surgery on my legs could fix. It was an injury that was only diagnosed many years after I left the military; an injury I still struggle with today.
But by that time, it was too late. I was already broken.
I joined the Army as a strong and confident 18-year-old who truly believed I could achieve anything I wanted.
At 20, I left as an emotional wreck. Angry, upset, pessimistic and directionless.
Two years of living in a culture that systematically chipped away at my confidence and self-esteem has haunted me for 12 years. I’ve always been angry about my time in the military, but I’ve only recently begun to truly understand the impact my military service has had on who I have become.
More importantly, I’ve realised I have been giving away my power for more than 12 years…
And now I know I can take it back.
A few months ago, I went to London’s West End and saw ‘Bat out of hell’.
In case you haven’t heard of it… Bat Out of Hell is an incredible musical that finally brings Meatloaf’s music to life. It was so good, my partner and I bought the album. We listen to it a lot, mostly in the car, like we did this past weekend.
We were driving along the highway in the pouring rain, the soundtrack blaring loud enough to drown out our terrible singing. One of my favourite songs came on, and I sang along as I always do, but this time it grabbed me with both hands and screamed:
Wake up to yourself!!!
What bought on this metaphorical slap across the face?
It was long ago, and it was far away, oh God, it seems so very far.
And if life is just a highway, then the soul is just a car.
Objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are,
Objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are. — Meatloaf
Although it was 12 years ago, I still remember the anguish of my military service and medical discharge as though it was just yesterday.
Although it was 5 years ago, I recall the devastation upon receiving the email that said I’d failed to achieve my dream of becoming a Federal Agent after a year-long application process.
Although it was just this year, I remember the disappointment of failed launch after failed launch which eventually led me to close my online fitness business.
For the latter two, I remember the negative self-talk:
“Of course, I failed. I’m a failure”.
“I’ve never achieved anything I’ve truly wanted, so who am I to think I deserve it now”.
“I’ve never been good enough, and I never will be good enough”.
All backed up with a lifetime of logical evidence to explain why I’m a complete and utter failure.
A lifetime of negative experiences in my rear-view mirror that well and truly appear closer than they are.
But driving along the highway on Saturday, I realised I have the power to complete one life-altering act:
Tilt the mirror
For 12 years, I’ve been looking in the rear-view mirror through a negative filter. I’ve only allowed objects to come closer if they validated my self-deprecating inner monologue. But now I want to change my self-talk. I’ve realised if I am going to succeed, I have to sprinkle my world with positivity.
But I’m a business owner who just pivoted from a failed business venture, with a long history of telling myself I’m not good enough. I can’t pull a jar of positivity out of my magic carpet bag — I’m not Mary Poppins.
I can, however, actively take a look in the rear-view mirror and pull some positivity out of my past. You can too.
Step 1: On a piece of paper write down all the times you’ve failed in the past.
While this seems counter-intuitive, the point of this process is to data dump all the negative self-talk that would likely arise if you only tried to find positive memories.
Step 2: On a separate piece of paper, write down all the times you’ve succeeded in the past.
Think carefully and write down anything that comes to mind. No achievement is too small. Think: finishing high school, learning to drive, being accepted into university, getting a job or a promotion, having children… write it all down.
Step 3: Read your positivity list every day.
Because a snap won’t make the job a game. When you’ve felt like a failure for as long as I have, it takes time and constant practice to reset your mindset.
I’m not ashamed to admit; I’m certainly not there yet. But I am actively trying every single day, and in doing that, I’ve taken my power back.
That alone is an achievement. I’m off to write it at the top of my list.
What will you write on yours?
Hey, I’m Tara Fitness (yes, it’s my real last name). I’m a criminologist and personal trainer turned freelance writer. I spent 3 years trying to build a successful fitness business but instead, I drove myself to the brink of exhaustion. I refuse to go there again, and I don’t want you to go there either. I write to teach you how to create a successful business while still looking after yourself. So… read on my young padawan.
Originally published at www.tarafitness.com.au on September 26, 2018.