I just failed. And I’m okay.
Us Brains never quite measure up to other people. And that makes a lot of sense, because we are not ‘other people’.
Throughout life we’re taught to strive for incorrect and insufficient markers of success and subsequently get punished for not meeting them. For not doing what someone, somewhere at 5am in their pinstripe pyjamas said we should do. For this we are told we deserve to feel shame, regret, like we don’t deserve to ‘be here’. And because we are told that, we do.
Just to show you how ridiculous this idea is, I would like to imagine a world where it’s mandatory for everyone to get up every day and count how many thoughts run through their head in the span of a single minute… Otherwise they’re banned from eating their breakfast. Would that seem fair to most people?
I have ALWAYS struggled with deadlines and submitting work, and, as often happens in school, I got punished for doing so. I was told off, shamed and penalised. Despite all this, I still struggled. Shame is the worst thing that could have happened to my work ethic, and it only made things worse. It’s ‘not a good look’, ‘everyone else can do it… So why can’t you?’, ‘But, what’s going to happen when you fail?’…
And what came out of all of this? From the shame, I learnt nothing. Except to second guess my ideas, my self-worth, to try (unsuccessfully) to conform my appearance, personality and identity, and I learnt to accept the idea of being ‘less than’. The idea of being at peace with never achieving any of my goals. The idea of never setting high goals in the first place.
Maybe to ‘other people’ that would be fine. But I don’t have to explain to you the restlessness of avoiding the true realisation of your potential. It made me miserable. I spent years feeling wounded, unable to meet the same standard as ‘other people’ the same way as ‘other people’, until I realised that my real mistake was my perspective.
‘Other people’ who ask these questions have no idea what it’s like to read a set of ten instructions only to realise you followed about three of them with no idea why. ‘Other people’ have never experienced an intense, satisfying, mind-blowing hyper-focused bender where they committed every single shape, line and curve of their two storey house onto a piece of paper and made several half baked connections between the royal family and the solution to global warming simultaneously.
I just about failed all of my major exams. In times like these, I’m not sure if I’ll ever graduate. But that’s okay because I’m not like ‘other people’. ‘Other people’ fail and worry for their future. I on the other hand have been here many times before. I am a master at failure, so I am under no illusion that it IS my future. And that’s why I know I can handle it. Instead of dwelling in the past, after embracing the way that I am, my brain is simply focused on what comes next. Where’s my next opportunity to try again?
I failed this time. But the things I learnt and the changes I made within myself in the process, that I’m STILL making… These have been monumental. The fact that ‘other people’ don’t see these small victories or praise me for them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And that’s what keeps me going. No number on a piece of paper can ever measure the work it’s taken to get here and how far I’ve come today compared to where I was yesterday.
So, no matter how many people tell me that ‘I don’t belong here’, no matter how many people feel disappointed in me or frustrated with me… They can email me, send me to progress meetings, shake their heads until their lips turn blue… But until they kick me out of there yelling and screaming, I will block out the noise and stay focused on what I can do differently next time, and I’m going to keep working towards that. Fall down seven times, get up eight. Because really, us brains have to fall down about eighteen times and get up twenty. And when you do that every single day, sooner or later something will click.
The fact that we have this amazing, supportive space to share things like this shows just how special this community is. To all the brains out there struggling right now with feeling inadequate, undervalued and incapable, this goes out to you. I just want to say that I see you, I understand you and whatever success means to you in this moment, this week, the next five years… Embrace it, own it, and most importantly CELEBRATE it. Celebrate you. The next time someone tries to tell you that you’ve failed because you can’t do what ‘other people’ can… The only reply you need to give them is to watch you as you do the hundred things ‘other people’ don’t AND manage to survive the process.
As Dr Seuss says:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”