If you have been on social media for any period of time, you’ll have seen helpful memes and posts about what failure is, and what failure isn’t. Failure, according to social media, is a person with a weak mindset, doesn’t learn, or who gives up. “Don’t be a failure”, they helpfully say, get up and rise again…
Failing however has been posted as a good thing, it’s an opportunity to learn, something that builds character, and a process of getting something right. I think this play on words has potential to damage. It sends a mixed message, and more importantly, it allows for people to walk away from challenges feeling like a failure.
According to dictionary.com failing is:
- an act or instance of failing; failure: His failing is due to general incompetence.
- a defect or fault; shortcoming; weakness:
While failure is:
- an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success:
It’s the same thing. Either way you don’t meet the goal, you fail. Why do we feel the need to redefine words? Why is it so hard to say “I failed” and accept and own failure? Because we hate labels? No, we pretend to hate labels, but we love them as long as they are the right ones. We hate to be labeled a failure, but if someone labels us as smart, witty, intelligent, attractive then we’ll take it. All of it. And more. We just can’t accept a stamp on our head that says “FAIL”, because somehow it labels us for life, and defines us as a person and becomes our identity, and this is the heart of the problem.
The reason we cannot accept failure has nothing to do with labels. It’s because “failure” and “failing” are experiences, not a state of being, characteristic, or attribute. Yet somehow we let these things define us, and the people who helpfully tell us that “As long as we are learning, we are not failing”, are adding to it. If we didn’t meet our goal, we failed. That’s it. The mission was a failure. Period. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it and find good experiences for our next attempt, but this time we failed. We experienced failure, but it doesn’t mean we are a failure.
Here are today’s three takeaways:
1 – You have failed in life. So have I. So has everyone you look at as being successful, and you know what? It’s a good thing. It means you tried something.
2 – When you failed, you experienced failure. You didn’t become a failure. You cannot become a failure.
3 – Failure is an experience. It’s an “act or instance of failing.”
Whether you learned anything or not, you are not a failure. It is not possible for you to be a failure. A failure is a temporary event or action. No matter how many times you fail it can never take away your value as a human.
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