Don’t be ashamed of failure

We all get side swiped at some point in our lives, for most of us it happens on multiple occasions. We don’t get a job we thought we were a shoe-in for, a project fails, a relationship fails, we play a part in an error that harms someone. The list can go on and on. In fact if I give you a few minutes you could come up with a long list of the the things you have done or has been done to you that cut you to the core, that make you feel ashamed, embarrassed or idiotic. Our recall for those events is clear even if it happened decades ago.

I remember an event when I was 10 years old (38 years ago). We had just moved to Chester from e Gosport, just after my dad had retired from the Navy. I was playing on the bank which was a tarmac recreation area in front of my Nan’s house on Garden Terrace. There was a few of us playing on the swings, when this girl in our group, started teasing me, I asked her to stop, but she just kept teasing me, so I slapped her in the face. Yes I slapped her (I was not much of a fighter) then ran into my Nan’s house crying. She ran off in the other direction screaming. I went straight upstairs and hid in the front bedroom lying face down on the bed sobbing, trying to block it out. After a few minutes I could hear a commotion outside. I then I heard my mum call me. I went to the front garden and was confronted with my mum, this girl and her mum. Who was shouting at me accusing me of being a terrible bully and being violent towards girl. My mum looked horrified and I was so ashamed and upset, and my emotions just got the better of me. Above all the crying and commotion I screamed “Shut Up!!! Just shut up!!” I ran straight inside fearing the worst and feeling more ashamed than ever. To this day I can feel my heart rate going up thinking about it. The feeling of shame is palpable, the feeling that I had brought shame on my family is still there. Which is irrational and serves no purpose at all. I know the reality was not as bad as what I feel now, and I realise that my mind has twisted it to make it sound worse than it was. But the feeling of shame is still real.

That was a long time ago, but I mind loves keeping old of this stuff just in case it can be used as evidence in the future. The thing is, I have stuffed up so many times that if I don’t keep a check on this stuff it can start to take hold and the shame can get the better of me. None of us a perfect and we all do stuff that we regret or embarrasses us. What we have to remember is that what we do is not attached to our self-esteem or self-worth. Us stuffing up does not make us less of a person. Now I don’t mean deliberately harming people, or malicious intent, I mean, the stuff up when we intended to do the right thing, however stuff happened that prevented the correct, or desired outcome, within or without our control. This will never make us less. We are still enough, we are still worthy.

So when you don’t manage to land that dream job, or you have a blazing row because you got carried away watching Breaking Bad and forgot to do the housework on your day off (I imagine this might happen, obviously this would never happen to me), or you get so frustrated you lash out, remember you are still loved and lovable. Now if you do something wrong it is important. in fact vital that you show accountability. So you admit what part you played, apologise, and make amends. It is right and appropriate to feel guilt if you did something wrong, and it is appropriate to admit guilt and make it right. This does not make you less of a person.

To help you control that feeling of shame that diminishes your self-worth there is something you can do:

  • Acknowledge what has happened
  • Recognise the emotion you are feeling (put a name to it)
  • Be accountable
  • What can you use next time
  • Remember those who love you still love you.

No matter what life throws at you, you are still loved and lovable, you are still enough, this fall has not made you less of a person.

Don’t be afraid of failure, failure does not diminish you. You are loved and lovable!


Published by Matt Smith Personal and Professional Coach

Performance and Life Coach

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