We’ve spoken before about how failure is not a reflection of who you are as a person—it’s just an opportunity to learn. I thought this was an important enough lesson to spend a whole other blog post talking about it.
I used to be one of the biggest failures I knew. I had failed at acting, singing, dancing, writing—you name it, and I’d probably failed at it. Then I read a blog post by one of my favorite authors and was shocked to find that she too had received dozens of rejections from agents and publishers prior to becoming a published author. She learned never to think of “no” as “no”. Instead, she thought of “no” simply as “not yet”.
Suddenly I wasn’t a failed singer or writer; I just hadn’t yet succeeded.
I challenge all of you to try the same exercise with the word “failure” by replacing it with “feedback”. If you feel tempted to call yourself a “failure”, instead call yourself a “student of life”. When you’re about to say that you failed to get a job, say instead that you learned valuable lessons for the next job you apply to.
Some of this may sound familiar to readers with CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular form of psychotherapy that focuses on exploring relationships among a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. During CBT, a therapist will actively work with a person to uncover unhealthy patterns of thought and how they may be causing self-destructive behaviors and beliefs. Then the person and therapist work together to develop more constructive ways of thinking that will produce healthier behaviors and beliefs.
What I’m suggesting with the word “failure” is very similar to CBT, and I highly recommend discussing CBT with your doctor or therapist if the idea of failure is getting you down. But there’s still a lot you can do on your own if you don’t want/can’t afford a therapist right now. Try to think of the word “failure” as a curse that would get bleeped on network television—you can still hear something when it happens, but the details are meaningless to you.
It is very easy to feel like a failure when you are suffering from a chronic illness. Some days you start your day off with failure, and then there are several more failures from there: failing to get out of bed on time due to pain, failing to get to an appointment on time, failing to do prescribed exercises … the list can go on and on.
That’s why eliminating the word “failure” from your vocabulary is especially important for chronic illness warriors. You are NOT failing. You are trying your hardest and learning valuable lessons as you strive to climb over each and every stumbling block that tries to stand in your way.