Life TherapyTM
Psychotherapy & Coaching + Mindfulness & Meditation

Have we forgotten the opportunity in failure?

This is a contribution by Guest Blogger, Sheila Prakash.
It seems to me the more I look around, the more I see how much we have forgotten the possible opportunities and lessons in failure. I feel we live in a world that is constantly advertising the benefits of succeeding and pushing people to do everything in their power Not to fail. The worst part is when we do fail, which is inevitable because we are human, we end up feeling horrible and not good enough because everything around us is telling us how success equates to worth and value. If we look at it that way, it seems impossible to fail and still hold on to our self-esteem. But that just doesn’t seem right to me, especially if we all fail and it is a common way of life, how could our esteem be compromised when we experience such a normal event? Perhaps it’s because we have tied worth and failure inappropriately together, and in turn, forgotten the beauty and lessons in failure.
I remember a while ago how when I quit my advertising job and my life seemed completely upside down, I was trying to figure out how to get my feet back on the ground and what I wanted to do my life. During months of soul-searching, I came to the realization I wanted to go back to school to pursue my life-long dream of helping others. I was six years out of college and the idea of applying to grad school was daunting and intimidating for me. Through my fear, I hesitatingly pushed through and decided to test the waters by going to an information session for a psychological counseling program.
I remember being fully prepared and going in with a positive attitude filled with joy and hope. After the session, I went up to one of the faculty members and shared my wish to join the program and proudly explained my background and deep desire to help. Almost immediately, she told me how I did not have the necessary pre-requisites, I did not have the right experience, and there was very little chance I would be accepted due to the highly competitive pool of applicants. I walked out of the session feeling defeated, hopeless, rejected, and most of all, like a failure. I thought this was my dream, I thought this was my path – how could have I been rejected so quickly and failed before even starting? I focused on how I was clearly not good enough for this career, how could I have thought I would be able to get into a program that other kids were preparing for since high school, and how terrible it felt to be rejected and to fail.
Then something happened over the next few days. I began to think about how that woman could be wrong and maybe there was more to this failure than I had originally thought; maybe this failure was a test to see if I believed in how someone else saw me or if I believed in the way I saw myself. Was I going to allow someone else to dictate my worth, value, and limits in life? I realized how I had been doing that for most of life before that point. I looked to others to tell me how far I could reach and how far I could soar. I looked at my failures as ‘bad things’ that I shouldn’t share with others and part of myself I had to hide; instead, I used to believe I should only show my joys and successes. But I didn’t want to do that anymore.
I wanted to be real and honest and go through my fear of failure. I wanted to look at my failure head-on and see what I could learn from it: how I could stand back up after being thrown down. I wanted to feel the joy in learning how to pick myself up rather than focus on the devastation and perceived personal fault of falling down. And so, I changed my perspective and saw my failure as a chance, an opportunity, to learn more about myself and how I could achieve my goal rather than allow the failure to crush my dream.
If that woman did not come into my life, I would not have learned the necessary lesson to believe in myself and my inner voice beyond all other external things. I also realized how important it was for me to fail and fall down that day because otherwise I would not have discovered my strength, which was hiding inside my fear of failure the whole time. This inner strength allowed me to pick myself up, listen to my intuition and apply to grad schools, receive my letters of acceptance, and begin my journey of achieving my dream. This same strength has been guiding me ever since.
So the next time you find yourself failing, instead of getting down on yourself and feeling worthless, try and find the opportunity in it which may allow you to grow and the lesson waiting to be found through the experience. We all fail, it’s a necessary part of life – wouldn’t it be great if we begin to value the failures as much as the successes because, the way I see it, some of the truest successes are actually hidden opportunities in the failures.

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