Last year, I had some experiences that had a normally very confident me doubting myself quite a lot. I had been severely criticized to the point where I felt there had to be something wrong with me.
We all need to be kicked in the butt every once in a while. The problem develops when what is supposed to be feedback turns into nagging. At some point, you lose track of what the person is conveying and probably start thinking ‘what is my problem, why can i not do this simple thing?
I want to put this against the backdrop of the performance acceptance message that we receive so early on in life. At some point, you start to realize that if I do everything right, then people will accept me. If I don’t do everything right, people will not accept me. This idea is so pervasive that our educational and occupational systems are hinged upon it.
I am sure we all have memories of that bright child who was every teacher’s pet and was the only one who received the plaudits all the time. It feels good when you are that bright shining star. But what happens to the not- so- good students? What happens to the late bloomers?
I have recently been thinking about how different people handle themselves in the valleys of life. What message do we take with us when we experience difficult times in our lives? Do we accept the things that happened as part of life and pick the lessons and move on? Do we start to develop a shame based nature or feel like we always have to be the best, the fastest and the most competitive. Do we develop a system of avoidance? Do we put everyone down so that we can look good?
What do you do when you have failed so many times at particular subjects in school? Do you refuse to continue with your education because it’s not worth it? How do we define our failings and weaknesses? Do we acknowledge that we cannot always be perfect and should strive to be the best we can be in spite of our weaknesses?
How do you move on after months and months of depression and being misunderstood.Do you grab every moment of fun life has to offer and refuse to engage in anything that might have an iota of difficulty in it? I want to suggest that we fail forward.
We all go through rough phases in our lives. How do we define these moments so they do not define who we are or become?
I first heard of the concept of failing forward some years ago. What I learnt was that we need to embrace failure as a necessary step. For anyone who beats themselves over every failure, you need to tell yourself that the quicker you make mistakes, the faster you can learn. Failure is one of the fastest ways to cement learning. The trick is to not stay in the place of feeling bad about the failure but to pick the lessons inherent in the mistake and move on.
Are you struggling? Accept the fact that you are. Take stock of where you are and what you need to do to move on. In some cases, it may mean asking for help. It many mean recognizing that you are not gifted in a certain area and working with people who have the particular skill that you lack to balance things out. In doing so, you are more likely to pick up some skills from the other person.
One thing I have come to learn is that try as I might, I cannot be superwoman. I do not possess all the knowledge in this world. I have learnt to focus on my strengths and excel from there rather than making myself miserable trying to do certain things that I am not cut out to do.
The final thing that I encourage is that you separate who you are from what you do. Let’s face it; we all do some pretty stupid things. Things we cringe about each time we remember, things we wish we could go back and change etc. However, the stupid things you have done do not make you a stupid person. Once you understand that your failings do not define you, it’s much easier to get over them.
This also means that you have to know who you are. The fact that you failed in school does not make you a failure. The fact that you were not given that promotion does not mean that you are not a good employee.
It helps to know what specific skills you lack that you can develop. For example, if you lack a skill of time management, you can train yourself to be more time conscious. But if you feel like you are inherently a bad person, everything negative that happens to you will just solidify that belief.
Being rejected is painful, but the fact that you were rejected by one person does not mean that someone else does not value you. It is so important to realize this. Just because your application was rejected does not mean that you will not be accepted elsewhere. It does not mean that you are not good enough!
Like my Kenyan flat mate says all the time, ‘Bad things happen to very good people!’