I’ve failed a few times recently.
I failed to not be gut-wrenchingly hungover the day after the office Christmas party, during which I also failed at not falling over in high heels. I failed at getting to IKEA for opening time the other day, like I’d so idealistically planned to. I failed at taking photos in nice lighting for a blog post like I’d intended to, and I also failed at feeding myself properly on my day off work – apparently ginger thins don’t count as a balanced lunch, but I’ll leave that discussion for another time.
To articulate just how those failures made me feel, I’d like to invoke this fitting gif of one of my least liked celebrities:
Rather than give a damn about these missteps, I’ve decided to embrace them. Getting things wrong shouldn’t be cause for shame or regret; it should be a positive, learning experience which you can own.
Sounds easy enough so far, right?
Some failures, though, are more significant than others. Like the time five years ago when I planned and paid for a holiday, but pulled out of going at the very last minute. Or how I wrote all about participating in NaNoWriMo this year, only to fail pretty catastrophically at getting much writing done whatsoever. And what about the gym membership I’m paying for every month, despite having worked out just a handful of times?
Now I’m a little embarrassed.
It’s pretty difficult to find anything positive to take away from those more serious failures, let alone to embrace them. Just recalling them here makes me want to curl up into the foetal position, bury myself in blankets and wake up in a couple months or when everyone’s forgotten, whichever comes first. I’m upset that I failed on those occasions – these failures abash me, and I just want to forget them. But how would this help me to learn from or, eventually, accept my defeats?
In my experience, failing to do something has been my way of choosing not to do something I didn’t want to do, and deciding instead to follow my gut. I didn’t go to IKEA early like I’d planned because I wanted more sleep. I didn’t complete NaNoWriMo because my ideas lost steam and it wasn’t the right time for me to fight against that. I haven’t been going to the gym because it’s more fun to go straight home after work and chill out, and I didn’t go on holiday that time because my anxiety got the better of me, and I decided I had to let that feeling in to help myself get better.
I didn’t work harder to not be hungover after the Christmas party because, well, the booze was provided, so, sue me.
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Acknowledging defeats – owning them, embracing them – puts you in control of your failures. Hiding from your missteps is not helpful; if you go through life censoring the things you’ve done wrong, you’ll never give yourself the chance to make peace with your mistakes or misfortunes, and you’ll never learn from them. A wise man once reminded us that “To err is human.” We’d do well to remember that sentiment more often.
I’ll leave you with a final pearl of wisdom from one of my least liked celebrities: