Last week I have failed. And I don’t mean failed to buy milk. I mean failed as in failed a major exam. I have spent months preparing and it was really really a bog deal for me.
Such a failure could be devastating.
So, you might wonder, how did she crash and then after burning to ashes picked herself up again? Well, I didn't. I have discovered you don't have to be devastated when facing failure, or fall apart, or start doubting your whole life or your capability, nor do you have to lay down and weep. In fact, this time I didn't do any of that. Instead I remained calm, confident and although somewhat sad and angry, generally in a good mood. Sharing a laugh with the office ladies, I have accepted condolences from friends and family with open heart and they made the anger and sadness better.
So how do you fail without feeling like a failure?
My secret is this: see the failure for what it is - a negative event in one part of your life that has little or no effect on many other parts of your life and certainly not on who you are. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't mean you are totally great and everyone else if wrong. Failure is also a wonderful piece of feedback. It's just not feedback about you as a human being, but mostly about what you did or did not do. So, in order to have confidence that failing in this thing does not mean you fail as a whole, you need to be aware of the parts of you that are not affected by this failure.
So who am I then, if I’m not this failure?
One way of figuring this out is to review the different selves that you carry throughout your life. So for me there is me the mother, me the friend, me the silly girl, me the smart-ass, me the partner, me the psychotherapist, me the project manager, me the woman, me the scientist and plenty more. So failing my exam is uncomfortable and unpleasant, but it only affects one part of who I am. Nothing has changed for me as a friend, a wife and a silly girl who manages major home projects.
If you want to find our who you are, try this simple fun process:
Next year I can try the exam again if I choose to. So we’ll see if I am not too busy focusing on being a good mother or a major smart-ass instead.
I hope you found my story inspiring. Now I would love to hear from you. How do you navigate through failure? What helps you to regain confidence? Let me know in the comments below.
Take care and remember, it's not what happens to us, but how we respond to it, that makes the difference.