Updated: Aug 4
It's such an ugly sounding word, isn't it?
Drowning with its implications of less than,
The bottom of the barrel,
UGH, no wonder its stinger can be so painful!!
Think about the last time you truly failed at something.
How did you feel? Did it effect you only mentally/ emotionally, or did you experience physical ramifications as well?
Did any old emotions resurface?
Did it motivate you, or did it crumble you?
Did you have a hard time moving beyond it?
What did you do to overcome any feelings of inadequacy?
I ask because I recently failed my motorcycle maneuverability test after a two day intensive skills class where I rocked the first day.
But day 2 was cold (think miserably cold!) and my hypothyroid body doesn't do cold well. I was having a hard time remaining focused, and struggled with freezing cold hands that fumbled to find the ever-necessary 'friction zone.' Still, even with lesser confidence in the way the day's skills practice had gone, I didn't really think I would actually fail; I thought it much more likely I would lose a couple points from scraping a cone but still squeak by with a passing score.
However, when the time came to test, I didn't do well on the first skill set which rattled my cage and got me all up in my head (overthinking every move) and I began panicking. I knew after the second skill set didn't go well that the remaining two sets wouldn't matter...I'd already failed because I didn't make the 90 degree turn sharply enough and then proceeded to put a foot down during the U-turn right afterwards.
I was crushed!
The problem I struggle with is ultimately a complicated one, but the short version is this:
I. DON'T. FAIL.
Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say I don't have a great deal of experience with failure, particularly in my adult life, because as I've recently learned, the disease that is perfectionism (a disease I've fought the better part of my life) is - if I understand correctly - actually something of a defense mechanism...one that 'prevents' (read: averts) failure at all costs.
You see, as a perfectionist either you do whatever it takes to accomplish what needs to happen (no matter how hard it is, how long it takes, or how much of anything else, including sleep, you have to sacrifice) to ensure it, or you avoid putting yourself in situations that hold any real potential for failure in the first place.
Always being some version of your best is what perfectionists do. It's what we know, it's how we operate, how we live, how we survive. It's like taking the 'always do you best' motto to the next level. We want to be and do our best, not only because we have this idea in our head of what that looks like, but also because we want/need to be what we think is the best. We feel best when we know we have given our best. Too, we want others to approve of us and to be impressed because we are people pleasers; we genuinely enjoy making people happy. See? I told you it was complicated. I know what you're thinking, therapy, right? LOL
I've often described myself to others as "the most secure insecure person you'll ever meet." The thing is, this has been my 'modus operandi' for such a long time that doing and being my best is all I know. I don't know how to do it any other way. Over the years my husband and I have frequently argued (usually during home improvement projects) over his use of the phrase, "It's good enough!" It shoots through me like a bullet! And I usually have to walk away...haha.
I feel like I've spent the last decade+ of my life learning how to let go and teaching myself to accept things being less than perfect. Now at 62 years of age I'm getting another taste of letting go and embracing less than perfect... accepting that my best at any given moment in time will change with the circumstances before me, and that's ok. HA, life has a way of sending us what we need to grow, doesn't it?
All of this said, being a perfectionist also means we can be VERY hard on our self when the end result isn't what we want or imagined, or it isn't what we think of as representative of what we are capable of...if it isn't what we want to show the world. Yeah... gulp!
So this motorcycle failure was a HUGE blow, not only to my ego, but also to my psyche as a whole. "How could I allow this to happen," I kept asking myself? Even more enlightening, "How did this happen to ME!?" It wasn't just a blow to my newly acquired confidence in motorcycling, but it felt like a giant step back in my quest to reclaim my fearlessness. In short, it devastated me!
It affected the quality of my sleep, shook my confidence in my overall riding skill (heck, my confidence level in my judgement as a whole!), haunted my daily thoughts (think replay button), impacted my mood, and initially even affected what I was choosing to eat (think self-sabotaging my weight loss). I mean holy crap, ridiculous, right!?
For the entire first week after I failed I found myself questioning everything from my choice to buy a motorcycle in the first place to my decision to 'retire' at the end of this month, and from the headgame I was playing with myself to my overall sanity. Every time my thoughts revisited the actual moment I knew I had failed, ALL the physical manifestations of that moment came whooshing back...my heart would race, my chest world tighten, and my blood would run cold. I'd feel as though I was in a tunnel struggling to hear what was being said, I'd get slightly nauseated, and I'd fight back tears. It's as though I was experiencing something akin to temporary post traumatic stress syndrome! In the second week post failure the feelings began to lessen to some degree, but it was all still very much right there at the surface, raw and overwhelming and yelling at me on repeat!
"Seriously? Get it together, Chris!!!"
"What is wrong with you!? You're pathetic!"
"I told you you sucked!"
"What a wuss!"
It's as if my ego had all the power and was trying to swallow me, and I was somehow letting it happen.
The beating I was giving myself was ungodly and extremely unforgiving, a beating I would never have given to someone else, EVER!
The pulling myself back from the depths was proving to be challenging enough that I began to have real concerns I'd have to give up the motorcycle altogether.
The struggle to self-talk myself back to sensibility was real, and hard.
And the thing is, I'm honesty not exaggerating. The effect failure has had on me is beyond anything I can remember in recent history.
Talk about revealing! Clearly, I have been a master at protecting myself from real failure...at least the 'fall flat on your face kind of failure' anyway. Why else would this have been THAT hard for me to handle?
My sweet, wise husband who knows me well was on it though. He got me right back out there, chalked out the exact dimensions for the maneuverability part of the exam, and walked me through practicing over and over until I now have most of the skills if not mastered, at least clearly on their way to being so.
Do I feel better? Yes. Am I totally ok? Not really, not yet. Am I afraid to go take the test again? Yep. Have I gotten to the point where I can see the lesson and the learning in the situation? Yes, BUT I've definitely had to force myself to switch the narrative in my head from one of failure to one of opportunity. I had to convince myself there was a reason I needed more practice and a lesson I needed to learn.
Perhaps I was getting overconfident and needed to slow down. Perhaps the extra practice to master maneuverability was actually going to protect me at some future point in time. That one was playing its own mind game in my head for a couple of days too.
Or, perhaps, I thought this morning, I needed to be reminded what failure feels like in order to remember the sweetness of success. Or maybe I needed to be knocked down to show myself the strength I have for getting back up. Because, isn't the getting back up once we're down where ALL the learning really lives? Isn't failing so often a gift in disguise?
Or perhaps I simply needed to be reminded that there is a learning curve and oft bumpy road with any new adventure, and that in my case a part of this new chapter in my life is re-learning the simple fact that with more risk comes more possibility for failure. Then, too, doesn't more risk also mean more possibility for greatness (more joy, more living fully, more being in the moment, less regret)?
Furthermore, isn't forgiving our own shortcomings what teaches us compassion for self and others? I don't know about you, but I find understanding and compassion for others to be far easier to find and disperse than finding and giving any to myself. Why are we so quick to offer it to others and so critical of our self and our own shortcomings?
Now 3 weeks in here's where I am.
I reminded myself that in every situation there is always a choice to be made.
So I'm choosing that this is not how my story ends...quite the contrary; in fact, I'm choosing for this to be just the beginning...the beginning of more successes and failures, of more life and learning, of gains, losses, ghosts and demons, losing, winning, pushing past, and overcoming. Because life is about learning, and if we aren't learning we aren't really living, are we?
The whole reason I wanted a motorcycle in the first place was to reclaim my sense of fearlessness... to rediscover that part of me that once welcomed spontaneity and adventure, who wasn't afraid of risks (or at least could always push past it), and who unabashedly seized life by the handfuls. In the 7 and a half months I've been riding I've tasted all of these things again, and there's no way I'm letting any of them go!! I will take that maneuverability test again and again until I pass, and I'll celebrate every achievement toward that goal along the way no matter how small because it's the consistent baby steps in the direction of your goals that adds up to success. It's far easier to give up than to jump back in the game and keep going. And I'm not a quitter!
So failure or not all I can tell you with certainty is that we are never too old to fail and never too old to learn something new about who we are and what makes us tick, all of which in turn teaches us how to better love our self so we can then better love others.
What I know (but needed to remember) is that life is beautifully and perfectly designed, even when it feels like it isn't.
What I know is this is only the beginning of soooo much more living and learning for me. I'm turning the page past failure and sitting perched with pen in hand (and feet on motorcycle floorboards...lol) ready for what's next.I
I hope you'll join me...or at least choose to stay tuned.
Sending so much love to you all,
P.S. Today, I conquered - no slayed - The Tail of The Dragon in Deals Gap, North Carolina (see picture below for details). Big deal, you ask? Yep!!! You can now officially call me a bad ass biker chick!! LOL 😆
P. S.S. Never forget that EVERYDAY is a new day to start again! ❤😘
Right before I rode the Tail of the Dragon!