An Athlete kneeling on a field next to his helmet
Mental Illness

Am I a Failure?

Today, I was planning on watching the store at work. Yet here I am at home, and I’ve essentially called in sick for the week. Have I failed my wonderful boss? Does that make me a failure?

Some context

I have a long history with the words “Fail” and “Failure”. As a perfectionist, these words seemed to plague me for a time, and when I worked at Hope Network, my boss told me to take the word “fail” out of my vocabulary. I think he made a good point. I did a great job there and helped many people. I probably even saved lives. It is unfair to view any of that as failure even if it was imperfect. So I started using the word “Setback”.

I used the word “Setback” for a few years, and it helped, but the word “Fail” remained a very dangerous one for my mind. I had to always replace it with “Setback” to keep my mind well. Recently my therapist suggested that I take this a step further and redefine the word “Failure”. The thing is, a failure doesn’t have to be a final failure. People fail things all the time and get back up and try again.

A new approach

When I was trying to quit smoking my brother gave me some wonderful advice. He said that if I tried to quit smoking, but later picked up a cigarette, be happy because I’ve got one more failure under my belt, and after I’ve gotten all my failures done, I’ll succeed. What an interesting approach! He later mentioned that he’d get “Excited” when he failed a math problem in school because that meant he learned something. He said he’d get about half of his homework problems wrong, but ace the tests. He’s now a very successful actuary, which is pretty much a high level mathematician.

Did I fail? Yes! I did. And I’m proud of it, because it means I tried. I failed, and I’ve got another failure under my belt before I become an even better store manager. I don’t know if I’ll ever do that for a living, but I’m better now than I was before. Now, that doesn’t make this situation go away. Things have gotten pretty rough for my boss, and we’re going to have to deal with this, but I have a lot of respect for him and we’ll get through it.

If I failed, then am I a failure? No! I am an attempter. I gave it a go. This isn’t the end of my story, and there’s no reason to think I can’t be helpful to my boss anymore. I tried, I helped, and I failed, but I’ll try again, and I’ll try other things. I’ll succeed with a lot of things, too. Just watch me!

Image by Fábio Luciano Sorg from Pixabay


Pamela Squire
June 6, 2019 at 2:07 pm

Okay, I’ll keep an eye on you!

Joe Reid
June 11, 2019 at 11:47 am

Dude!!!! Great perspective!

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