What is it about failure that’s so destructive? Why are we so afraid to fail?
Deep within our minds there sits a nagging old man/woman who constantly criticises us. Our inner critic is excellent at reminding us of all the times we have failed – and they do it with pin-point accuracy and with all the definition of a 100 mega pixel camera – in HD and 3D. That old man/woman tells us we’re not good enough and is always ready to remind us of of a time when we tried something new and we failed (more than 80% of our thoughts are negative by the way).
All-in-all we don’t want to fail and we know the best way to not fail is to not try anything new or risky – simples!
If you’ve not seen any of Brene Brown’s TED talks, then shame on you (that’s a pun not a criticism. You’ll have to watch her now!).
She will tell you that the very best of those in innovation have failed repeatedly – and that’s why they become ‘successful’. To bring new and exciting things you have to fail and in order to fail you have to be vulnerable. We are not good at vulnerability.
It seems that our self-esteem is often hooked in to what other people think of us: ‘If they think I’m OK, then I am. If not, then I’m not and there must be something wrong with me’ (you’ll have to come to one of my Mindfulness courses to find out why we think like this). But our deep-seated need is to connect to others; to be accepted and liked and most of us spend most of our time making sure we get accepted by others – no wonder it’s an exhausting world. And that’s why we think we must not/cannot fail because to not be accepted is a shameful experience which alienates us from the people we so desperately want to be with.
Happily, the Gospels tell a different story and my paraphrase is this: God loves you so be nice to each other. Or a bit more poetically, there is nothing greater than to sit in the palm of God’s hand and try to tell God why we shouldn’t be there only for God to hush our anxiety, smile and tell us it’s OK ‘cos seeing us there causes the angels to sing and the trinity to dance. I am grateful to my Methodist circuit for inviting me to fail…