In our recent ‘Celebrating Failure’ Wānanga, I realized how much easier failure is for me to process if I somehow think that my failure ‘qualifies’. If I fall over, or don’t get an interview, or miss a deadline, or get fired, I’m quick to name the situation as a Moment of Failure.
The David Attenborough voice in my head announces it to my whole being: ‘and if you approach carefully enough, you’ll see our subject experiencing the very thing that she has feared. This is how the specimen fails…’
Somehow, believing that an outside eye would call it a failure makes it easier for me to acknowledge it openly to myself and others, and brings me a flash-forward moment to the time when I will look back and tell the story of this very moment with merry hyperbole. Once I’ve named it, I’ve made a miniature grief cycle available to myself. I can then lean into the uncomfortable emotions, the disappointment, the sadness, the shame, in full. Sometimes it’s about sharing this process with people who I trust, and sometimes it’s all about allocating myself time to sit with the loss- which is when I notice how attached or entitled I may have been feeling to a victory. Parameters are my most helpful thing – I think ‘I’ll go home for an hour and fit feeling guttered about it in before rehearsal at 6’. I’m lucky in that I find that if I do lean far enough into the painful feelings, I can plug the hole in my self-confidence bucket with tears, tissues, acknowledgement and courage to move forward, all pretty quickly.
But what about the kind of failure that doesn’t necessarily ‘qualify’? What about the kind of failure that one day looks like an irrelevant judgement call or a paradigm clash that doesn’t ring true to you, and the next day looks like maybe you’ve actually really messed something up and you’re just refusing to acknowledge it? Here you’ll see our subject in a state of confusion. She worries that by too quickly finding the silver linings in her failures, by entering into realms where she is more and more likely to fall, by reframing a loss as some kind of gain she just hadn’t seen yet, she is denying herself the chance to actually acknowledge her limitations or the more longterm-affecting poor decision making that she may start to feel the consequences of later in her life cycle’ says my internal surround –sound Attenborough.
I’m encouraged by what my Dad says about waterskiing: ‘If you don’t have a decent bail then you’re not skiing hard enough yet’. I’m encouraged by the person in the Wānanga who could reframe my entitlement to victory as self-belief and confidence. I’m encouraged by a quote that I stumbled across yesterday – ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm’. And I’m encouraged by the opportunity to practice failure, which I was given by our lovely yoga teacher, Rosie, as I came nowhere near winning at my first crow pose attempt. Rosie said ‘Trust the journey, and send your softest breath to the place where it’s hurting’.