Posts tagged failure
The Courage Within
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I had a really good week.

I made it through a full schedule of classes without my body falling apart, I am getting into a GROOVE with my students at GVSU and I launched my new website. All three are reasons to celebrate, yet the thing I am most proud of is that I am doing them all MY WAY.

As part of the clearing out process that comes with a website/blog switch, some old posts left in my drafts are popping up. I know my last post was also about staying in the wrong place too long and what it does to a person, and normally I would not share two of the same in a row, but I feel compelled to share the message that making change is up to you.

NOTHING, no job, no person, no life situation should ever be allowed to make you feel less than. To make you feel like you constantly have to prove yourself, to make you question your worth, to suck the joy out of you. Life is not meant to be so hard.

Over 5 years ago I found the courage to let go of what was no longer serving me as I set off to follow my heart. It was a scary fantastic thing to do. The result is I now end my days with a smile, a sense of worth/belonging, and knowledge that I make a difference. The dirty feet, messy hair and sweaty clothes I come home with are an in-the-present daily reminder of this. What a difference operating from your sweet spot makes in a person's level of joy. Below is the post from my drafts, I hope my words resonate with the right person today and encourage change.

You are enough. You are worthy and deserving of joy. You have a place in this world that is meant just for you. Find it.

Courage does not mean that you possess the strength to carry on. Courage means that you will carry on when you feel that you no longer have the strength.

This is one of the first statuses I saw when I opened up Facebook this morning. Maybe it was an answer to last night's prayers asking for the strength to get through the funk I am in. Maybe it was just what I needed to realize that I need to find the courage to plow through my current problems and face my fears. After struggling through another sleepless night, and waking up to the same sad, scared, tears-really-close-to-the-surface-feeling I have experienced for the last couple of weeks, I am ready for a change. I do not want to feel like this anymore. It sucks.

I believe in being honest. So I will tell you that my blog has been quiet because I haven't been myself. I don't know what people who suffer from depression feel like, so I won't say that is how I have been feeling, but I think it might be appropriate. I will say I am stressed, beyond stress I have ever felt before. Emotional is maybe not a strong enough word.

It stems from me feeling like a failure. At work. I was hoping by now that I would have achieved a different result, I've certainly tried hard enough. But a year after I began my quest to find my place within a changing industry and a stagnant company, nothing has changed. Honestly it has gotten even worse, for me. Because now that I have tried so hard, and beat myself up every step of the way trying to make sure I was doing the right things, and they haven't worked, I now I feel that I have indeed failed. Not a feeling I am used to.
Lately this feeling of failure is the last thing I think about before I go to sleep, what I think about during the night when I cannot sleep, and what awaits me when I wake up in the morning. It permeates everything I do. It is wrecking one of my favorite times of year. It is wrecking the joy I feel being around my own family.
I hate feeling uncertain, unappreciated, unsure, heck, unwanted. I hate that there is a now a knot in my gut all day long. I was foolish enough to think that people at work would see how hard I was trying. That by me finding the courage to take some chances and think outside the box, it would count for something. That someone in management would appreciate and recognize the lengths I was willing to go to find a solution.
Instead my value to the company is even more in question. So much so, I felt like I was summoned to a meeting to get my walking papers last week. I didn't, at least not yet. That is never a nice feeling to experience, but it is especially hard for me because our family size has recently increased by two. At this moment in my life, my contribution to the family income, is crucial.
Why is it that after doing a job for almost 24 years, my opinion does not matter? Why is it that after continually attempting to share ideas, and implement them, I am questioned about what I really do, what my role is? Whose fault is it that I am in a "grey area"? Why am I, after 12 years with this company, asked to write my own job description to clear up the confusion about what I do?
How can I not be offended by this? And not then take everything said as a criticism? My new boss (who has been at our company for a year) told me he has no idea what I really do. How is that even possible? If someone told you that you needed to start submitting a report every Friday about what you were going to do the next week, how would you take that? I cannot "not be so sensitive". I must be wired differently.
I take it like this, I am a failure. If no one can see any value to what I bring to the table, somewhere I have made a crucial error. Did I fail to advocate for myself? To make sure I achieved recognition? I am not motivated by my personal gain (at least not monetarily). Job satisfaction, passion for what I do, and joy come from feeling that I make a difference. Clearly I have failed to make that difference in my workplace, I have failed to matter. And that is my worst fear realized.
So, I am facing it. I am now going to find the courage to carry on. This blog will no longer remain quiet. I will once again achieve success. My promise to my family is this: I will not be sad anymore. I will fix this.

When one door closes, another opens.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, maybe these quotes will help.
He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he who loses his courage loses all. - Miguel de Cervantes

Have the courage to face a difficulty lest it kick you harder than you bargain for. - Stanislaus

What Kind of Report Card Do You Give Yourself?

Author's note: This is a post I originally wrote nearly three and a half years ago. It was never published because I ran it by a friend before I clicked 'publish' on my blog, and her opinion stopped me from sharing it. She didn't say anything wrong or anything bad, but her lack of liking it made me doubt myself. And that was enough to stop me from sharing it. Back then I was accustomed to letting doubt creep in at the slightest turn. It was my way of staying safe--of attempting to stay ahead of any possible criticism. Having learned the futility and ultimate failure of this way of thinking, I have since successfully silenced my mean inner critic.

Working with so many highly sensitive people this last year has made me realize that I am not the only one clinging to the false belief that if I do everything perfectly I can remain 'beyond reproach'.  That is straight up crap --and is both exhausting and futile.

Silencing the monster within me took courage and patience. In hopes that a little inspiration may help someone else silence theirs, I am sharing this as it was originally written, without changing tenses or words. Freely. And without expectation. Or inner judgment.

I know it will reach the person who needs it most.


Don’t get caught up in the chase, enjoy what is right in front of you.

How many times have you set a goal for yourself, and then gone after it with gusto. A new diet to shed 15 pounds, a new workout routine to whip your body into shape, a strict budget to save money for something you want to purchase? Whatever the goal you’ve set, it can be energizing and satisfying to have a purpose (and an end) to work towards.

Goals are trackable, achievable and recognizable, both to you, and to others around you. Call me weird but as a kid I always loved getting a report card. It showed me that I was on track. Or that I wasn’t, in some cases. It told me what I needed to work harder on, where my strengths were, and where they weren’t. It was a great way to stay focused and to discern where I stood in the scheme of life.

But what happens to that feeling of being on track when we become adults? Where is our report card? Who tells us if we are on track, or points out our strengths, tells us what we need to work on and gives us recognition for our accomplishments?

No one. We have to do it ourselves. We self evaluate, self analyze, and grade our own performance as mothers, wives, worker bees, friends. And most of us are pretty darn hard on ourselves. How often are we truly satisfied with our accomplishments?

I know I'm not. I always think about what I could have done better, choosing to focus on the areas that need improvement rather than stopping to celebrate what I have actually accomplished. It’s kind of exhausting. Take being a mother, for example. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. Even when I'm right, I feel wrong. And I think about all the things I could have done better to handle a situation. Letting your children make their own mistakes is almost impossible to handle gracefully.

So, how can we stop the madness of focusing on our weaknesses and not our strengths?

How about we all try to appreciate ourselves, and our accomplishments a little more...

Really think about that. The next time we start to knock ourselves for not accomplishing something on our "To Do" list, how about we pause and pat ourselves on the back for what we did do instead.  Cleaned the house, filled the cupboards with groceries, helped the kids with their homework, did the laundry, cooked dinner, picked up the new glasses at the eye doctor, returned the videos and library books on time, sent a birthday card to our mother-in-law, well.... you get the idea, right?

Remember your own awesomeness. Celebrate all the little achievements and give yourself some time to smell the roses along the way, instead of hurtling off headlong toward your next big goal. I know I'm willing to give it a go. How about you?

Perfectionism: The Grand Illusion

Wherever perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun. Perfectionism is not about healthy striving, which you see all the time in successful leaders, it’s not about trying to set goals and being the best we can be, perfectionism is basically a cognitive behavioral process that says if I look perfect, work perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid shame, ridicule, and criticism. It’s a defense mechanism.

— Brene Brown

I'm not exactly sure when my safe world was rocked by the realization that my life wasn't going perfectly, but I do remember the day I hit rock bottom.

For several months my life had slowly been spinning out of control -- and I was helplessly watching it get worse and worse. I had worked for years to do everything right, to be perfect, but it was a grand illusion. A joke. All my worst fears were happening right before my eyes and there seemed nothing I could do to stop them.

I had lived under the false belief that if I did it all perfectly, everything would all work out perfectly. I hadn't yet learned that attempting to control my world would not lead to perfection, it would lead to disappointment, helplessness and eventually a deep sadness. It didn't help me escape the shame, ridicule or criticism I so despised either, no matter how much additional effort I applied to doing it right.

Worse yet I was attempting to do it all perfectly with an expectation-- an if... then kind of a thing. Always pinning my happiness on some future thing meant that I never actually got to be happy or satisfied in the moment, it was just a constant uphill battle that never arrived at perfect.

I thought that if I did everything right, beyond criticism, followed the rules, then... I would be accepted, appreciated, and loved for who I was. But that never really happened. The real me was hidden under so many layers of thinking I'm not good enough, even I didn't know who I was anymore. I was always looking ahead and striving to be more, to do it better, to be beyond reproach. That meant that any compliment I did receive was immediately negated by my mean voice, which never even allowed two seconds of time to take in the warm fuzzy feelings a compliment should bring. I was always three steps ahead and thinking about how I could have (should have) done it better. Or how I would get it 100% right next time.

My mean voice eventually graduated to pointing out flaws in things and people around me. Even that felt like rejection--I heard my mean voice giving up on me, as if I wasn't worth trying to "fix" anymore. I easily slipped into the persona of a glass half empty bitch.

Being able to see and sense my own flaws and imperfections made it natural to wait and watch for that same criticism from others. And if I was "right" about my wrongness, it gave my mean voice more fuel.

Deep down I think I knew I could never really be perfect, and yet that fervently remained my goal.

Giving my best effort should have been good enough. Perfection is the great illusion. To think otherwise, to live otherwise, indicates we are operating from an unhealthy place. My need for control, to be right and insulated from criticism caused my perfectionism to spill outward to everyone around me. It crossed boundaries into other people's space. It got ugly.

The worst part is that I could not get off the train. I could not let go, even though I knew that life would be so much easier if I just stopped trying to be perfect. On I plowed, so darn unhappy, so mean to myself, so scared that I would lose control and end up a failure --which in retrospect I kind of did anyway. Because there is nothing quite like an epic fail to grasp the lesson that nothing is ever perfect, even if it sometimes looks like it from the outside.

I know that I am "judged" a little every time I lead a yoga class, by someone like the 'me' I used to be. They will find flaws, mistakes, and truthfully so will I, only now I don't let them stop me from moving forward. When I forget the second side of a series of poses, or call out left when I mean right, or fall over--- I don't dwell on the mistake, I laugh it off. I make a joke.

I am finally able to recognize that I am human and I give myself a little grace. My best effort is all I really have, and that will have to be good enough. Even for me.

Related links:

Are You Stuck on Safe?

If you had a good friend who was all ready to move forward on something, something they believed strongly in but were holding back out of fear or self-doubt, would you do something to help them get started?

Of course you would.

Most people love to see others succeed. It inspires them to move forward with ideas and dreams of their own. And it sparks courage -- have you ever given yourself the pep talk that goes like this "well if so-and-so can do it, then so can I"? Unfortunately, most times the pep talk is as far as we get before our own doubts, fears, anxieties or over thinking creep in and stop us dead in our tracks.

Go back to my original question and imagine that the good friend I asked about was actually YOU. Would your answer be the same? Would you do something to help yourself move forward? Or would you hold back and throw up roadblocks in order to keep yourself "safe" ?

Ah ha!  If helping a friend is easier than helping yourself....a reassessment is needed.

You have to be willing to do at least as much for yourself, if not MORE than you would do for a  good friend, to get moving in the direction of your dreams. Focusing outward, on others and helping them take risks but being unwilling to take your own means you are living vicariously through them. In essence you aren't believing in yourself. You are keeping yourself stuck in order to keep yourself safe from failing. This can eventually lead to dark feelings of self-doubt, anger, guilt, depression, and hopelessness as you watch others around you succeed -- sometimes even succeeding in areas that you also could excel at. The results of keeping ourselves "safe" can actually result in the outcome we fear most ---failure.

So why do we so easily get distracted by others, offering assistance to them via our supporting words or a new connection that will further their ideas, instead of focusing on our own ideas and dreams? Because in helping a friend, we have no ownership of the outcome. We don't have to worry about feeling any shame or stress if they fail, so we can be brave for our friends at no risk to ourselves.

What we really need to do is be brave for ourselves.

So start believing in YOU. Trust in YOU. Support YOURSELF.

I do not say this lightly and I know from experience that this is also not an easy thing for many people to do: you need to put yourself first. It is necessary for our own well being and for those who depend on us to put ourselves at the front of the line. I spent years assisting others, watching them achieve what I wanted to achieve, watching them take risks I was too scared to take....because I was afraid (deep inside) that I might fail. And if I failed, I feared I would come unglued. But I have learned that I wasn't giving myself enough credit. I am strong, I can overcome failure. I can survive it. In fact, it doesn't render me helpless -- it did the reverse, it made me stronger. I am still learning to undo the patterns I once developed to keep myself protected so that I can begin to live life fully and not just go safely through the motions.

I realize now that being stuck on safe made life an uphill battle for me. In essence it made life so much harder than it needed to be. Are you doing the same?

What is stopping you from moving forward?

Are you afraid of failing? Are you stuck in your comfort zone? Or are you listening to the negative people around you, the ones who discourage you because they are afraid of pursuing their own dreams?

Your time is now. Stop thinking about it. Lead by example and DO IT.