I am a failure!

The advantage – or disadvantage, however you want to look at it – of having a sprained ankle is that i am sitting most of the day. I am not walking around, dancing, or being active. I rest, elevate, and ice my ankle. So, I’ve been reading a lot. And watching a lot of interviews with Brené Brown. I started yesterday with her TED talk. And then went over to her website and blog and read and watched. And started to journal.

Brené researches shame and empathy as the two ends of the connection continuum. “Connection is our ability to forge meaningful, authentic relationships with other people. It’s the essence of human experience.” And what is shame? Brené defines it as “this intensely painful feeling or belief that we are flawed and somehow inadequate and unworthy of connection.”

When i listened to the TED talk, it deeply resonated with me. She mentioned that what underpins shame is the feeling of “I am not good enough,” a sense of unworthiness. I’ve felt this deep shame for a long time, fearing that if people discover this deep dark secret about me that truly shows how inadequate i truly am (and i have no clue what it might be but i am certain that it’s there – that emotional certainty that isn’t really a reflection of reality), they won’t like me anymore. It wasn’t until today that i discovered what this deep dark secret is: I am a failure! Putting Brené’s advice into practice, i have decided to put this into a blog post rather than hiding it in my journal.

Here’s the belief that’s behind my feeling inadequate: I am a failure. I am a failure because i married a guy who turned out to be an abusive alcoholic. I am a failure because i chose a career to make money, which was not reflecting who i really am. I am a failure because i did not manage to convince myself that i loved that job that paid me so well. I am a failure because i didn’t follow my bliss way back when. I am a failure because i am not a successful researcher and story-teller. I am a failure because i am a failure. [Go figure that one out ;-). Actually, i think it's more like this:] I am a failure because i am not successful. I am a failure because there are no YouTube videos of me. I am a failure because i haven’t written a book yet. I am a failure because i have all these thoughts about me being a failure! Actually, i think the bottom line thought is simply: I am a failure. No proof required. It’s just “The Truth.”

Of course all of this reflects cultural messages: To be successful, we need to make a lot of money. We can forsake that definition of success if we follow our bliss but then we’re only successful if gazillion people buy our books, we lecture on TED, are interviewed everywhere, are An Authority. A person is not successful simply by enjoying her life, her journey even if nobody notices and it doesn’t lead anywhere in particular. Success is counted. It’s measured by the number of dollars you have, the number of books you’ve published, the number of fans you have, the size of the audience you reach with your talks. If you only impact yourself, it doesn’t count. One is not a number. [Hmmm. A bit of singlism here, too, maybe?]

I don’t know exactly yet what i’ll do with this discovery. But since my life motto is to “Live authentically me!” i will try to incorporate Brené’s words – “The heart of authenticity is the courage to be vulnerable” – and share my story.

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I am a failure! — 4 Comments

  1. Again, thanks for your sharing. My nickname for my own internal “I’m a failure” monologue is “the accomplishment thing.” If I haven’t accomplished certain things — gotten my book published; made some kind of name for myself doing the things I find meaningful, etc — then I’m a “failure.” When I catch myself doing this, sometimes I have the wisdom to say to myself, “oh, you’re doing the accomplishment thing again.” I find that because of the accomplishment thing, at times I have even dismissed and devalued the best work I’ve done to make a positive difference for others, entirely because the degree of social recognition connected to my actions fell beneath some imagined threshold that would represent finally “counting for something” in this world. I know this is self-defeating and based on a distorted view of reality, and yet I seem to repeat this particular flavor of suffering. Your sharing is a welcome bit of inspiration to keep making the effort to change this pattern. (BTW – your TED talk is probably my Terry Gross interview.)

    • Thanks, Maurice, for sharing! I have this accomplishment thing, too. I have noticed – when i pay attention – that it’s pure fiction. When i go to bed thinking “i haven’t accomplished anything” (or my simpler version “i haven’t done anything”), i sometimes review what i actually did during the day. To my amazement, i accomplished things! Sure, i didn’t get invited to a TED talk or for an inteview with Terry Gross but figuring out how to get WordPress to do something the way i want it is not a small task either! Or just giving a hug to someone who really needed one. I think you’re right: By focusing so much on The Big Accomplishment, we miss all the little things we are doing and don’t give ourselves credit for it…

        • Given the hours i’ve spent trying to figure out to do some things in WP, i’d agree! Congratulations, Maurice! (Though i doubt that Terry will invite you based on this but who knows…)

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