Recovering from feelings of failure

WRITTEN BY: Zoe Share

Failure.

I try not to use the word failure in my life. It’s one of those big bad f words. (I’m sure you can guess which other ones I’m thinking of). In the big wide world of experiences, failure is one of those experiences that forces you to learn. For me, whether in my personal life or in business, the focus should not be on failing, but instead on what you do after you feel you have failed. 

Let me explain. 

A week or two ago, I attended a family member’s funeral. My husband was out of town, so I got a caregiver for my daughter for a few hours and then I needed to be home to put my daughter to bed. That meant I could hear the eulogies, go to the cemetery and give my condolences. Then, I would go home to do my daughter’s sleep routine. I thought my choice and plan would make me feel like I had done enough – time to grieve the loss of someone special and time to go back home and be with my daughter for her routine. Instead, I felt very down for the next 2 days that followed, like I had made the wrong choice, like I hadn’t done enough for family and for myself to take the time to explore my own feelings about loss. I had certainly made a pretty reasonable and measured choice, but I still felt like I had let down all the people I cared about, myself included. Why couldn’t I do better? Why didn’t I have all the answers? 

To be honest, I spent two days feeling pretty crummy. If I’m being fair to myself, of course I would feel sad, but If I’m being honest, it wasn’t just sadness- I felt like a failure. I had failed myself and my family, and then as a result, I wasn’t performing well at work because I was distracted and down. I felt down about how I was living my life. What would people say about me when I am gone? 

Then, I decided to do something about it. I took action to change something that had felt like a failure into an opportunity. I reached out to my family in the way that I was able – I picked up the phone and called my cousin, my parents, I sent messages on Facebook to connect with my more distant relatives. I made my loneliness and feelings of failure into an opportunity to connect with people. I allowed myself to feel sad and told my employees about it….and I decided that it was important for me to spend some time learning more about the family members we had lost so that I can honour them in my life moving forward. I consider writing this blog a part of the opportunity I have to learn from and share with others about my feelings of failure.

As a business owner, I often struggle to recover from the mistakes I’ve made (and the ones I know I’m going to make soon). Since the days of my Masters of Business, I’ve learned that it’s important to fail fast and fail as cheaply as possible. Iterate and adapt, create and put it out there, let go of perfectionism and move forward. It truly is a way of being. 

I’m not afraid of failure. I know when I feel I am failing (or someone else tells me I’m failing) that it’s an opportunity to grow, and fortunately for me, I don’t like feeling down for very long. My advice would be to be kind to yourself; it’s important to give yourself the chance to explore your feelings and get clarity about what you would have done differently, but to focus that on moving forward and not on only looking back.   

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