The Benefits Of Failure
If I could do my life over I wouldn’t change a single thing. Not the painful elementary school years when I was the butt of ‘four-eyes’ and ‘fattie’ jokes. Not the two car accidents. Not the two divorces. Not my experience with chronic Lyme Disease. Not even my struggles with addiction. Although it may sound bizarre, I am grateful for these things because I believe they have made me the person I am today.
There was a time in my life when I did not look at things this way. Because I was unable to succeed at marriage, because I was ego-driven and friendless, because I was unable to stop drinking – for all these reasons and more I considered myself a failure. I went so far as to think that I was a bad person. The path between feeling like a failure and becoming grateful for the adversity in my life has been long and arduous, but also rewarding. I had occasion to think about this whole issue recently when I read the Harvard University commencement address delivered this past June by J.K. Rowling, acclaimed author of the Harry Potter novels.
Rowling said that what she feared most as a young woman was failure. That statement struck a chord with me. I also had a tremendous fear of failure, but mine was a fear of what others would think of me if I failed. With little self-esteem, I looked outward for approval, which meant that I often made life decisions based upon what was best for others rather than what was best for me. However I am fortunate in that a series of events led me to get clean and sober and begin to examine my life. As my mind cleared and my health returned, I discovered that the way I thought was all wrong. My attitudes, beliefs and behaviors were simply not normal. As I learned healthy behaviors my self-esteem grew and at some point – I really can’t even remember exactly when – I began to look within for approval. And that allowed me the freedom to be true to myself; to pursue a path that may not necessarily meet with the approval of others.
It took a few years, but I left my ‘day’ job and set out to become a freelance writer. Lately I have been struggling with a terrible writer’s block and I was at a loss to explain it until yesterday. During the past year, I have had articles published in a number of local magazines and it is now time to market myself to the regional and national magazines and newspapers. I’ve spent the last month throwing obstacles in my way. I needed to upgrade my hard drive before I could begin to contact these national publishers. There were dozens of small projects that had to be completed before I could take on a new one. Then I decided I had to find a software that would track my writing submissions before contacting potential markets. Yada, yada, yada. My procrastination is fear of failure.
Once I realized what was going on mentally and emotionally, my writer’s block disappeared. The worst that can happen is that I fail. It wouldn’t be the first time and it probably won’t be the last. I have reaped tremendous benefits from my past failures. They have made me a better daughter, sister, friend, employee, and all-around person. Frankly, I rather like myself these days. And if being able to say that isn’t a benefit, then I don’t know what is. Suffice it to say that the words are again flowing with ease.