The word has always made me cringe. I’m not good at it. Never have been. But despite many failures –- both big and small – it is only since becoming a mother that I’ve learned to understand why I have run, hidden and avoided failure so much over the years.
I watch my two-year old son try to throw a mini-basketball into a pint-sized net over and over again without frustration, and I can see the benefits of the mantra “try and try and try again.” There is no deep thought behind it. He just continues in his attempts over and over until he either gets the ball in the net or becomes distracted by his new toy digger. I also watch my four-year-old daughter -- who used to play and immerse herself in tasks the same way -- now get frustrated when she can’t do things well.
One day she got really upset when she couldn’t complete a simple task and while I tried to calm her down, I had a huge realization: I realized that I never learned to differentiate between failing at a task and failing as a person. Instead of seeing the failure as something outside of myself – either as a result of my actions or other circumstances that I could analyze and learn from – I saw it as a failure of my personality on deep level. I couldn’t see that failing at a task didn’t change the core of me, who I am deep down, and it didn’t make me any less of a human being. It just meant I failed at something. End of story. Learn and move on. But no. Failure to me meant failure in myself. My self-confidence and ability to succeed were so closely intertwined that success and failure dictated how I perceived myself.
Since becoming a mom, I have had a couple of healthy failures and am happy to say that they didn’t define me. On the contrary, these failures have in fact taught me great lessons about myself and helped me become clearer about my life and the path I’m on.
I think that learning to fail is a healthy and important lesson for our kids. And ironically, my kids are the ones who taught me that lesson.