I remember my first big failure so clearly in my mind. In 5th grade, I brought home my first B. I recall walking to my grandmother’s house from Catholic School in my little skirt and tucked in button up shirt with the heaviness of that B in my backpack. My heart pounding and sweat dripping off my body, even though there was a cool breeze in the air. Thoughts were racing about all the disappointment that I would witness coming across my grandmother’s face. I had disappointed the family.
When I got to her house, luckily she wasn’t there so I know I had a little bit more time to figure out the best way to break the news to her. I felt my heart sink when I heard the door open. I was sitting upstairs in the spare room and called for her to come up. What I didn’t expect was exactly what happened next…she became so irate, screaming at me and shaking me, asking “what is wrong with you”. I didn’t clearly hear the words stated after that moment because I went into fight or flight mode. And for those of you who don’t know, I flight…and fast. So even though I couldn’t physically flee, I was able to mentally shut down (a technique I had been conditioned to master early on in life). When she was done with her verbal massacre, she left me upstairs. I went into the bathroom and cried, got myself cleaned up, and went back downstairs as if nothing happened. I locked that shit up so tight and was determined to never let anyone hurt me like that again.
So what did this lesson teach me at the tender age of 10? From that time, I began declining even more in Math. My mind doesn’t process math as easily as others and I was ashamed of that. I began forging my mom’s signature to avoid the inevitable screaming match and downgrading remarks-not from my mother, but my grandmother. I learned that it is not ok to fail. How I interpreted that day of failure is that “I am a failure. I am not good enough or smart enough. I am a disappointment to my family. Something is wrong with me”. I fell into the shame spiral.
I share this memory not to throw blame or shed a negative light on my grandmother. I share this memory because I don’t believe I am the only woman with a memory like this. I share it to shed light on the generational and societal patterns regarding failure, especially with women.
As women, studies show that we are judged more harshly for our failures compared to men. Men have the ability to brush off failures and continue to move forward-take Donald Trump for example, who during 1990 and 1991, racked up losses of $517.5 million. Women are so risk aversive due to the harsh criticisms of possible failure that many wouldn’t even consider taking this type of risk, which is part of the reason why 50% of women give up on their dreams and globally, women made up only 5% of the CEOs appointed in 2020.
Women…WE need to change these numbers. In order to do that, we MUST change our beliefs around failure!
Here are some powerful techniques to move past our internal limitations:
1. Life as an Experiment. This Mindset shift creates massive changes. We can become excited about trying different things to see what works and what doesn’t. If you are looking for amazing examples of experimentation, failure and final success, check out Arianna Huffington, Sarah Blakely, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Phil Knight You can read more about some of these world changers in this article: 4 Founders Who Epically Failed Before They Succeeded, and you can also read Shoe Dog.
2. Life as a Great Adventure. Can you imagine waking up every morning wondering what kind of adventure today will bring? For some of us, that might bring a certain amount of terror because we are so conditioned to try to control all aspects of our life. I encourage you to push past the discomfort and just try out this new way of thinking. Our days are filled with endless possibilities and opportunities. What a gift! To find more inspiration with this type of shift, check out The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer.
3. Heal your Inner Critic. You know that experience with my grandmother I talked about earlier? That became my inner critic, always chattering in my head “You are not smart enough”, “You are not good enough”, “You are a disappointment to the family”. This voice was loud and strong for several decades. Luckily, I had wonderful mentors in my life that helped me to heal and see the truth in the situation. I know those are my grandmother’s fears coming out and not the truth about me. I strongly recommend a therapist or coach, or both, which is what I am;)
4. Reconsider the Measurement of Confidence. There are so many different beliefs of what confidence is, and is not. Take a moment to explore your definition of confidence and how you measure this characteristic. Here are some questions to help you gauge your confidence throughout the day: What risks did I take today? How often did I speak up and share my ideas/thoughts? How did I show up for myself today?
5. Fail Forward. Our past is important to reflect upon in a curious manner. We often look at our past mistakes or failures from a framework of shame and inner critic. To shift this, commit to reflecting from a state of curiosity and compassion. Our past behaviors and experiments offer important information. We can use this data to determine our next move and adventure!
So take the leap. Try it on for size. What’s there to lose other than the limiting beliefs that have been holding you back for years and maybe decades.
If you want to be surrounded with amazing, like minded women who will support you and cheer you on during this trial period, join us at the Next Level Life Purpose for Female Trailblazers private FB group!
Sending love and light, LJ
#NOTE: This blog was re-printed with permission from Essentially Zenful. Please visit Leanne at www.ezliving.space. Give her a shout! Sign up for her amazing workshops! And, join her community of trailblazing women!