Failing Forward

It’s not a new term, persay – just new to me.

I am 22 years old. I am a sophomore. I am a southern girl finding my way in this mitten-shaped state. I am a musician. I am a dog momma. I am a Christian. I am a reader. I am recovering from an eating disorder. I am working towards overcoming mental illness(es). I am an HGTV enthusiast. I am, I am, I am…

I am so many things. And within all these things, I am failing forward.

Failure” is such a dangerous word. It holds such a negative and almost stomach clenching power over our lives. But what is failure?

Failure is composed primarily of the sense that we have lost some level or amount of power in our lives. And Brene Brown suggests that, “we are most dangerous to ourselves and to the people around us when we feel powerless. Powerlessness leads to fear and desperation.” I agree 100%.

I also believe though, that in small doses and up to certain degree, failure is humbling, and when approached correctly, can even be rewarding.

It is through my failures that I learned how to hope. The sense of powerlessness that failure has brought to my life has required me to take a deeper look at the type of hope I am holding on to and ultimately the source of my hope.

Whoever said that “hope is fleeting” didn’t view hope the way that I do. Hope is NOT an emotion. It can ebb and flow in intensity, but hope is a learned behavior. Hope is a cognitive process made up of what C.R. Snyder labels as “goals, pathways, and agency.” The first step towards hope is to set the goals. The second step is to have the determination and perseverance to follow through with the pursuit of the goals. And the third part of hope is to believe in our own capabilities and our own actions.

Hope is a function of struggle. Struggles arise from failures.

There are a LOT of things that my parents taught me that I’m really really proud of. In general, I am very proud of both of my parents for who they are, the things they’ve accomplished, and what they’ve been through and overcome. There are also some things that they (being human and all) neglected to teach me or things that I learned the wrong way and am struggling to relearn correctly. Hope is not one of those things that they neglected to teach me.

Both of my parents have been vital in teaching me to fail forward. My mom especially, has instilled a sense of hope in me that she didn’t even realize she’s been teaching me. When I was 13 I was in her bedroom looking for something (probably like a safety pin or something on her dresser) and I read some of her diary that she’d left out – I know, TOTAL breach of privacy, what was I thinking?! Well, it really and truly messed with my head and even more importantly, it messed with my heart. Cue the care taking, co-dependency, you name it. Even though I totally regret EVER doing that and I wish I could rewind and undo that moment forever – it taught me hope. To see my mom today and to have watched her endure everything she’s gone through; to know just a small sliver of the things she dealt with that I otherwise would have had no idea ever happened/existed…she has quite literally been a living and breathing example of hope and of the strength it takes to fail forward.

It has truly been a pleasure and an honor to watch my parents both “rumble” (a Brene Brown term) with their feelings – both the good and the bad – and to watch them learn and grow together and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

The hope that I have learned from them has made it possible for me to fail forward. Failure, generally speaking, no longer scares me. There are situations where this is not the case, but failure has caused me to open up my heart and my mind to greater possibilities and opportunities which otherwise I might have missed. There is no shame in messing up or making a mistake – the shame comes when we refuse to take accountability for what we’ve done.

I used to view my entire life as one huge failure. I F***** up and I felt like it was all over – there was no “starting fresh” there was no “easy button” to reset my life by…there was only failure. It was all downhill from that point, or so I thought. Viewing failure as a loss of power is an accurate perception – but sometimes I believe that we need to lose our own power over our lives in order to get back on track. Sometimes, we need to take a breather and acknowledge that we don’t “have it all together”, we need help, and we need to take the actions necessary to receive that help.

I’ve gotten to the point where I am (mostly) comfortable feeling powerless over my life. For one reason, and one reason alone: I know that I can not possibly have power over my own life – I see too small a picture, I feel too many things, I am easily swayed and brought crashing down…the only way to turn failure into failing forward is to take that loss of power and realize that God is the one behind the wheel – He is steering our directions and making the turns with and for us. God fills up the gas tank, and He will not hesitate to step on the breaks when needed.

In a small sense, I don’t really believe in failure – rather, failure in the traditional sense – because I don’t believe that I ever held the power that was mine to lose in order to feel that sense of “powerlessness.” I believe that we all make mistakes. I will hurt my friends, I will hurt my family, I will mess up and neglect to show up at times in my life – but there is ALWAYS something to be learned from those moments of pain and even regret. There is no reason to feel the weight of the word “failure” or to even identify with the negativity attached to it. I think it’s a happier way to live your life when you view your “oopsies” as failing forward – you are failing forward into growth, into learning, into strength, and into the hope that we all must learn in order to conquer the demons in our lives.

Because I learned hope, I learned failing forward is the best and only way to fail – it takes the pressure off of me when I acknowledge that the powerlessness people reference in regards to failing was never truly MY power to lose in the first place – all the power belongs to Jesus Christ – and it is through HIM that I am able to use the hope my parents have taught me in ways I never knew were possible.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
Paulo Coelho



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