Inside: Failure, pain, and struggle are not your identity. They are simply part of your story, not the fullness of it. Here are 7 ways to pick yourself back up.
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.
struggle is not your identity
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.
You’re imperfect, life is messy – this is simply part of being human!
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. These are not your identity, they are simply part of your story.
I watched my beautiful son suffer deeply and die. Severe depression and persistent treatment-resistant suicidal ideation made his life incredibly hard. Maybe this is truly what killed him. But maybe it was also shame and stigma that told him he was wrong and bad and not enough because he suffered. The way we treat people who can’t keep up with our normal 9-5. Or maybe it was that he believed medicating and “treating” depression and anxiety was really another name for turning away and denying the reality of a world that is harsh and unjust and in which there is tremendous pain. Kind of like living in denial or sanctioned numbing-out.
Likely it was all these things shaken together plus bullying and horrific treatment from RCMP and some members of the medical system that drained the last drops of hope from his life.
What I wish he had been able to receive and believe is that struggle, pain, or even “failure” are never our identity. They are simply part of our human story – not the fullness of it. Even if we never find our way to “wholeness” or we never “fix” the pain in our life, we matter. We merit compassion and goodness and dignity and respect.
Failure, pain, and struggle are not your identity. They are simply part of your story. Not the fullness of it.Krista
though you STUMBLE OR fall, you are not a failure. pick yourself back up.
Many years ago 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 woven together with my gifting 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.
In many ways my struggle is tied to being a Highly Sensitive Person. Learning this changed my life.
I refuse to live under shame anymore and I reject shame over my family. 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. Or you need to ask for help and allow others to help pick you back up.
Falling is not the problem. Staying down in the muck is. You need to stubbornly pick yourself back up however many times it takes. Life is incredibly messy and hard at times and struggle in no ways defines you or determines your value or worth.
And in seasons that are too dark and too hard, we can allow others to hold us up when we can no longer do it for ourselves.
I no longer think of “failure” as a dirty word; we’re all a messy tangle of strength and struggle. Our circumstances are different but not one of us will get through this life untouched by pain, or struggle, loss or things we wish we’d known to do differently. We are simply human doing our best to navigate this world without a rulebook.Krista
HOW TO TO PICK YOURSELF BACK UP WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING OR FEELING LIKE A FAILURE
1. FindING a Safe Space To Be Heard IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT WAYS i PICK MYSELF BACK UP.
I am a big fan of meeting with a psychologist or trauma therapist 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). I’m a huge believer in gathering in our support systems.
If the first and second tries don’t feel right – try again. To pick ourselves back up, we need to tell the truth about how we are feeling and be heard. I believe the journey is best made in brave community.
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 mantra 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. It doesn’t “fix” life but it restores my sense of agency (an important component of resilience) and reminds me that I can choose my response even in the wildest storm.
This may sound simplistic but it really does empower me to not quit and to tell the truth about who I want to be and what I need. You can read about my mantras from the past handful of years here.
6. PICKING YOURSELF BACK UP IS EASIER IF YOU 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 messy tangle of strength and struggle. This is simply part of our story as imperfect and beautiful humans in a messy (and sometimes heart-wrenching or painful) world.
Though you stumble or fall, you are not a failure. Pick yourself back up.
NOW WHAT? If you struggle with feelings of failure, overwhelm, or always feeling somehow behind or not good enough (I’ve spent a lot of life there!), please try out one of my 52 Mondays Seasonal Mindfulness Journals. They invite you to tune into and lean into the literal/climatic season you’re in and even more importantly, the emotional season you are in. In either case, my hope is that they will help you be present to and mine for the wisdom and beauty in every season of your life.
I’ve shared some newer posts below to support you in building agency, self-compassion, and resilience.
*Originally published July 2017, updated a bit in 2022