I’m in recovery. No, I’ve not had an illness. I’ve failed.
First, it’s important to understand a little about me when I was growing up. I never failed. This was not because I was ultra-capable or ultra-talented. It was because I (subconsciously) avoided failure.
I’d throw in the towel early so that I could always say “I never really tried”. It took until my early twenties before I realised that avoiding failure had become more important to me than achieving success.
I’ll fight ya!
I then decided to shake off this demon, to tackle failure head on. To stare him in the face and fight to my last breath and beat the lard out of him.
To an extent, this worked (but not really).
I started to succeed, to become more successful. Whether, it was work, relationships, or even a game of Tiddlywinks, I was so determined to win. 9 times out 10 times I did. However, what had really happened was that I had merely replaced one form of avoiding failure with another.
Last year I failed. I had managed to avoid failure for 38 years and I was completely unprepared. I don’t mind telling you it was gruesome.
It happened at the very worst time for me. I had just gotten married, had my first child with another baby on the way. I moved on from the failure early in the year but at that stage it had already infested me.
Blame, guilt, doubt, depression
Initially, I blamed – the economy, the team, the customers, my wife, my circumstances, myself.
Then, there was the guilt. I had let everyone down, my son, my wife, my family, my friends, my colleagues, myself.
Then, there was the doubt. I was no longer the person I thought I was. I had failed, I was failing, “I am a failure”.
Then, there was the depression. I was low. I could not share it with anyone and there was no way out. I’d come through mental turmoil before but this time it was different. When I’d reach the other side, I would remain a failure.
While I would never take my own life, the thought did cross my mind many times. I no longer believed in me and I didn’t expect anyone else to believe in me either.
I struggled, I struggled on. My relationships suffered, I suffered.
“I am a failure”
Finally I gave up, I just accepted it: I was, am and will be a failure. I even accepted that my son would come to view me as a “failure” too. I put on the clothes. It was my destiny.
Then something strange happened. Failure became my university, my sage.
I love my son deeply. I could still love him if I was a failure. In fact, I could love him even more. I no longer felt compelled to have him look up to me, to have him admire me. I could just concentrate on being his daddy.
This was true of all my relationships. I could just concentrate on being a good husband, son, brother, friend, colleague or even stranger.
I no longer need to avoid failure. I no longer needed to be successful. I became free, to be a failure or to be successful. Regardless, I will still be me, a father, husband, son, brother, friend, colleague, stranger, Niall.
Why do some of us go to such great lengths to avoid failure? Why did I?
Why do we, as a society continually rejoice in success and scorn at failure?
Failure is part of life and life is all about failing. It’s as normal as eating, falling asleep or going to the toilet.
In many ways, last year was hell for me. But now as I look back, I can say perhaps my second greatest success may forever be in me accepting “failure”. My first, my beautiful, wonderful son continues to learn through his trial and through his error.
Failure is magnificent.
To those that are going through a tough time, I think your bravery will be rewarded but perhaps not always in the way(s) you might expect so keep going! To those that were there with me – my wife, my family, my friends. Thank you.
Images: ”The hills in the fog. Morning landscape/ Shutterstock.com“
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