Why is failure so dang hard?
Sure, there are setbacks and disappointments that lead us to change our plans, but what about those colossal failures that call our worth and belonging and faith into question?
Like losing a job. Blurting out the wrong thing and hurting a loved one’s feelings. Trusting someone who lets us down.
Or worse—the failures we have no control over and have far worse consequences. Like failing to be good enough for our families, friends, tribes. Or failing to be the answer to their pain.
Don’t they rock our worlds?
In truth, it’s not the failures, themselves, that challenge us so. Not really. It’s the traumatized stories we tell about them. I let myself down. I let all them down. I’m not good enough. I’m not as good as they are. I can’t do this. I am a failure.
Let’s nip this in the bud right now. No longer will we carry the toxic shame of our failures. Let’s give ourselves permission to fail. Insert your name at the beginning, then let the words in this permission slip wash over you. Sink into them. Feel them. Or, if you feel inspired, write your own nuanced permission slip!
Dear [your name],
Listen up, you. You’re as awesome as they come. I want you to know this right now—and don’t talk back—yes, you are awesome. You try hard. And do your best. And, of course you freaking fail! You know why? Because it’s actually not failure! It’s you just being your whole, true, authentic self and bumping up against the resistance of someone else and their expectations.
Or it’s you out there trying hard and doing your best and Life School is showing you how to stay on Your True Path. This is the golden path that only you can create and walk. It’s like no one else’s path. And there’s only one way to find it. To try hard and do your best. To be your true self. And in doing so, fall down, encounter obstacles, make choices that don’t quite work the way you want them to, and meet people who don’t like you. It’s hard.
I give you my full permission right now—and you must hear this and take it in and let it permeate your entire being—to be your whole true self, to try hard and do your best, to make all those beautiful mistakes that aren’t really mistakes but just road signs showing you Your True Path. Relish them. Invite them. Celebrate them. They are you. And they will always be your wisest teachers. I love you, Me.
Ahhh … walking Your True Path feels amazing.
Have a beautiful week.
Karyn Shanks MD. How to Empower Your Healing Story (Rewrite Your Failure Stories). 2020.
Karyn Shanks MD. Heal: A Nine-Stage Roadmap to Recover Energy, Reverse Chronic Illness, and Claim the Potential of a Vibrant New You. Heal Literary Press, 2019.
Karyn Shanks MD. I’m Not Feeling Better: Is it Failure? Or is There More to Do? 2019.
Pema Chödrön. Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown. 2015.
More on Empowering Your Healing Story:
Empower Your Healing Story Table of Contents
How to Empower Your Healing Story (A Manifesto)
Let's claim our healing stories. Let’s begin this healing journey. To claim our power and our wisdom to know what’s best, to own our bodies.
How to Empower Your Healing Story (What are Stories?)
If we didn't get stuck we'd all be healed, wouldn't we? Learn to recognize and let go of the disempowering stories that slam the brakes on your healing.
How to Empower Your Healing Story (By Reimagining These Five Stories)
Why can't we heal? Why can't we get unstuck? Learn to reimagine the 5 common stories that get in our way. You'll learn to tell-and live-a healing story.
How to Empower Your Healing Story (Lessons in Story Mining)
Learn to rewrite the stories that get in the way of your healing. Learn the tools, perspective changers, and a self-guided roadmap to set you free.
How to Empower Your Healing Story (Rewrite Your Failure Stories)
Learn to deconstruct the tyranical and disabling stories we tell ourselves about failure. Your failure stories will become stories of healing and freedom.
How to Empower Your Healing Story (Claim Your Emotional Genius)
We. Must. Feel. The stories we tell about our complicated emotions can block our healing. In this article, you'll learn to claim your emotional genius.
Born to Heal: Our Call for a New Healing Paradigm
We’ve got to write a new story of what the best healthcare is, what the best medicine is, and what it takes to live a healing life.
How to Become the Expert on You: Write Your Story of Healing
To become the expert on ourselves we must know who we are. This is our power. The first act of reclaiming this power is telling our story of becoming well.
Every life challenge pushes us toward mastery over our circumstances.
How to Claim Healing as Your Own
Healing is ours. Our birthright. The primary urge of all nature. But we must claim it as our own. Our healing-our potential-rests squarely in our own hands.
How to Use Anxiety as the Empathic Wise Guide Within You
Anxiety is my guide, my inner wisdom, my genius! Anxiety contains wisdom we can all share, and action steps we can take to relieve the burden of it.
We’re not broken. We're … Complicated. Messy. Mean as hell. Heartbroken. Scared. Gorgeous. Amazing. And Beautiful. All these things. All at once.
Learn the art of staying curious as a strategy managing uncertainty. Curiosity is the mother of intelligence and creative solutions.
What Makes Healing So Hard?
Reclaiming our agency and autonomy takes energy, paying attention, learning, action, and taking our power back from the experts we’ve asked to fix us.
Permission to Fail
I give you my full permission right now to make all those beautiful mistakes that aren’t really mistakes but just road signs showing you Your True Path.
How to Survive Storms, Pandemics, and, Well, Everything.
To heal, we have to see all the events of the past year as a call. Not a series of random calamities, not bad luck, not cruel misfortune.
I want you to remember how joyful life can be. And how it’s possible to live both a hard life and a joyful one at the very same time.
Everyone’s Got Stories to Get Out of Their Way
Carrie healed by blasting through the tenacious energy of those old disempowering stories that kept her sick and suffering for five years.