It doesn’t feel good, so we avoid it. We take the easy road. We play it safe.
But, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable to failure in order to learn, grow, and expand in whatever way we chose.
We teach that to our children, and I think we forget it as adults.
One reason that I believe we hold back from failure is because of how we talk to ourselves.
Before we embark on any endeavor that might result in failure, the voice of our inner critic goes crazy.
What do you think you’re doing? You don’t have the skills, knowledge, or experience to take this on. Who do you think you are anyway? You don’t want to put yourself out there like this. What are people going to think and say when you fail? What about your pride? What about your family? What about ______? You’re going to fail, so why bother trying. This isn’t going to end well.
And on and on it goes.
We hear that voice and we pause, we reconsider, and many of us stop right there.
And even for those of us who continue on, that voice continues to jabber away in our heads. Whenever we see a lack of progress, that voice chimes in again.
I told you so. You better quit now before you get in too deep. It’s better to back out now before it’s too late. Before you really fail.
And then, when the final outcome doesn’t go as well as we had hoped, dreamed, and planned, we beat ourselves up yet again.
I told you so. You are such a failure. You are an idiot for even attempting this madness. You were so stupid. Well, at least now you know, so you won’t try something so foolish again. I tried to protect you, but you just wouldn’t listen to me. Better to stick with what you know.
Can you imagine if someone you loved talked to you like that? Yet, we talk to ourselves like that all the time.
Many of us lack self-compassion. We lack the ability to be nice to ourselves. We lack the ability to look at our failures as opportunities to grow, thus allowing our view of failure to hold us back.
I recently took a self-compassion inventory to see where I stood in terms of how I treat and talk to myself about mistakes and failure. It was both surprising and not.
Failure doesn't have to be a dirty word.
If we can shift how we think about failure, and how we talk to ourselves when we fail, we can reach even further.
If fear of making a mistake or fear of failure is holding you back, I urge you to look at how you talk to yourself and how much self-compassion you have for your mis-steps. You can take the same self-compassion inventory I took, that was created by Dr. Kristin Neff. (It is the purple box on the far left of the page.)
When we chose to live boldly, failure is part of the package, and self-compassion better be close behind.