We all struggle and experience failure. All of us. No matter how good someone looks on the outside, how perfect their life appears, they carry around their own self-doubts, their secrets or pain. Your therapist struggles, your pastor struggles, the strong and beautiful woman you see each morning as you drop your kids off to school, she struggles. It is a simple truth of life.
And maybe it is also true that some of us struggle more than others – or work harder just to show up and do this thing called life. Joyfully. With purpose. Without falling apart.
But struggle does not mean we are a failure. Even failing at something does not mean we are a failure. Like having cancer in your body does not mean you are cancer or losing a child does not mean you are no longer a mother.
Going bankrupt, failing an important exam, walking away from an abusive marriage. Living with depression or a child in jail, knowing you are socially awkward, needing help to manage life.
Failure, pain and struggle are not your identity. They are simply part of your story. Not the fullness of it.
And though you fall, you are not a failure.
I asked my psychologist if he thinks I am normal because I have to work so darn hard to keep my mind and body healthy and whole. He hesitated before answering. I am normal in that we all struggle but perhaps, he suggested, I’m abnormal in the sense that not everyone cares about growth or questioning. Refusing to numb.
I want to live fully awake and aware, even in this small, slow, simple life of mine. I want to help build a kinder world by taking responsibility for my 3 feet of influence. I want to wrestle against messages that devalue the worth of a person based on economic status, their ability to perform, or how much space they take up in the world.
My struggle is part of my gifting, you know, in the way it pushes me to challenge and question. To love fiercely and defend the underdog. It does not permit me to turn a blind eye to injustice or suffering. It allows me to live with deeper compassion than I might otherwise. Can you see the gifts in your struggle?
I share some of my story of anxiety, depression and feeling never good enough and how I changed my view on failure in an interview with the crew of The Other F Word Podcast if you’d like to listen in. I always pick myself back up.
I want you to step out from under the shame that keeps you quiet and hidden. That tells you struggle is all there is for you. I want you to understand that you matter and YOU need to do the work to pick yourself back up. Falling is not the problem. Staying down in the muck is.
7 WAYS TO PICK YOURSELF BACK UP
1. Find a Safe Space To Be Heard. I am a big fan of meeting with a psychologist but for you the right choice might be an Al Anon meeting, spiritual or grief counseling, telling the truth to your best friend, getting one on one support for mind-body health (many women who work with me also work with therapists and medical doctors) or even joining an online community like my Brave & Beautiful Community. If the first and second tries don’t feel right – try again. We need community. We need to tell the truth about how we are feeling and be heard.
2. Practice Noticing Your Wins. A simple but powerful exercise I practice each night is the 3/2/1 exercise. Give it two weeks and notice the shift it can make in the way you feel about yourself. Before sleep, as you lay in bed, take a few deep, slow breaths, noticing the rise and fall of your lower belly. Ask yourself: what are 3 things I am grateful for today? What are 2 things I did well today (this part is hard for so many women and I encourage you to take the time needed to identify your “wins”)? What is 1 thing I would do differently next time? This last step is about growth not criticism.
3. Take The Long View. One bout of failure or season of struggle does not determine your entire future any more than one sunshiny day does. Baby steps with consistency matter. Slow & Steady is perfectly acceptable. We are all slowly becoming – you don’t have to join the rat race. Each day, many times each day if necessary, remind yourself of who and how you choose to be and then identify one healthy step you can take to move you forward. All you need today is one.
4. Challenge the Voice of Your Inner Critic. You do not have to listen helplessly as that inner critic of yours rips you to shreds. Not everything you hear is true or helpful. Talk back. Stand up for yourself like you’d stand up for your best friend. So what if there is some truth mingled in with the lies – remember that we are all imperfect, we have all failed in some ways – that does not mean you have to sit there and receive a beating. Stop letting hypothetical stories play out in your brain – you have the power to control your thoughts. You can learn to shift your thoughts and break the cycle of damaging behavior that is borne of those thoughts (getting help to learn this can be life-changing).
5. Choose a Mantra or Verse For the Year. I love to have a guiding message for my year. Whenever stress or fear or a pressure to hustle or perform show up I remind myself of my “mantra” for the year and this offers a calming release valve. My message for this year is “stop trying so hard; just enjoy yourself.” Let me know yours!
6. Unsubscribe From Unhealthy Messages. What comes in through our eyes and ears infiltrates our soul. Ruthlessly unsubscribe from messages that consistently make you feel less than or fill you with fear. This might include media, books, or even toxic people you spend time with that consistently tear you down. I don’t think ditching people is the immediate go-to response (I want to offer grace as freely as I’ve received it) but if you have tried to steer the conversation to a healthier place or to speak up for your needs to no avail, set the boundaries in place that will permit you to heal and live with purpose, health and joy.
7. Embrace Your limitations. We are all messy, imperfect people. Some of us have health issues to contend with or other difficult circumstances in our life that are part of our honest reality at the moment. We have personality quirks, we carry baggage from our pasts, we are all works in progress. Making peace with, or embracing our limitations does not mean complacency or disengaging. But it might mean surrender to what is in the moment. Some of our limitations might be things we work at overcoming while others are simply out of our control. Making peace with this can go a long way to helping us live with peace and joy even in the middle of the storm.
I no longer actually think of “failure” as a dirty word. I am, we all are, a mixed bag of strength and struggle; this is part of our incredible story as imperfect but beautiful created beings.
Though you fall, you are not a failure. Pick yourself back up.
*the astronaut art was made by my talented daughter, Katia Davi-Digui
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