Dec 9, 2012

Soul Searching Sunday | How do you handle failure?

Soul Searching Sunday - this may be ongoing, it may not.

"you are a big fat faker"

Do you ever get that? That yucky feeling where your inner voice starts to harp on you that you are a big fat faker and that you really have no business doing whatever it is you do? I think that voice is always there but most of the time my confident inner voice puts a muzzle on the negative one... but then some days, the ugly negative one jumps in front, grabs a megaphone and says some pretty horrible stuff. Especially when I've made a mistake. An honest, human, perfectly imperfect mistake. I have never been able to figure out why it is that I can be so brutally hard on myself when I do make a mistake. I don't know where I ever got the notion that I would be perfect. Logically, I am well aware that there is a high probability that I'll get things wrong now and then but it does and it's as though the sheer shock of the error is enough to knock the wind right out of me.

I don't know about you but I get this horrible, heavy, sour feeling deep in my belly when I make a mistake (say, on a client project) and I am filled with so much shame for doing so that it makes me want to hide forever and never return to my job... the job that I adore... It feels like a horrible failing that undermines the ultimate value in the rest of the things I do that go without a hitch. It's illogically mind-boggling that a single error - regardless of size- can feel like a problem so big that it warrants quitting altogether.

"Why are we, creatives,
  so cruel to ourselves
 when we get something

Why is that? Why are we, creatives so cruel to ourselves when we get something wrong or we make the wrong call on a project. Or we panic while working (deadlines or whatever) and end up screwing something up. Why can't we simply forgive ourselves, make it right with our client/team/supervisor and move on?

It has a lot to do with expectation. Of ourselves and of those we are working with/for. We have these illusions (delusions) of perfection... of getting it all *just right*. I read once that perfectionism is a form of laziness. It can be limiting enough that one never takes chances or attempts the thing that they most want to do... I think it's also a way to limit one's one potential. To strive for perfection only means that the goal is entirely unattainable and that there is no chance for success. Maybe the answer is to aim for joy, happiness, creative pleasure and overall job satisfaction rather than perfection?

"I realize that in general,people are
 very understanding and forgiving."

I know I will benefit from being kinder to myself and allowing more space to A) prevent deadline panic or being overextended with time commitments as well as B) ensure the utmost sincerity when making things right with my clients/team. But there's one small catch... it only sounds easy. Doing it, applying it is very much another. I realize that in general, people are very understanding and forgiving. Those who do respond in a kind and compassionate way are clients/teammates/supervisors to work hard with on prevention in the future... those who do not, well, there's not much you can do to make it right and we all just hope that there are as few of those people involved in our work in general to make ALL our lives better.

To avoid future suffering at the hands of my inner critic (that cranky bitch!) I will do the following:
-limit commitments to allow time for meticulous attention to detail & review of projects
-review offerings to ensure that highly problematic products are no longer available
-improve system for producing, proofing & reviewing projects to eliminate errors

When mistakes happen I will
-forgive myself and be kind to myself until the negative feeling subsides
-meditate/breathe until physical symptoms subside
-as always, apologize and correct problem for client/team/supervisor.

Please feel free to use these steps for yourself, also if you have comments, questions or any kind of feedback you'd like to share on this topic I openly welcome your contributions in the comments section. I know for a fact that I am not alone in this kind of experience and honestly, it'll make me feel much better to receive a little validation :)

Introspective, soul-searching on a Sunday. Why not?



  1. Would you believe that I've been procrastinating on posting a reply because I was looking for the perfect thing to say?? And maybe partially because I'm in denial about the negative effects of seeking perfection.

    I'd like to believe that my quest for perfection and desire to avoid failure is what drives me to work hard, to be committed and to produce results. There can't be anything wrong with that, right? Oh ya...there's the heart burn, dry heaves, and intense desire to avoid whatever activity that I suddenly feel will demonstrate my total incompetence. Thankfully my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is strong and somehow I usually manage to get through the naseauting fear of failure that used to prevent me from trying new things. But that doesn't mean I'm not a sweaty, nervous mess in the process. Or that I'm not keeping mental notes of things I did wrong so that I can try to fix them for next time.

    I know I am way harder on myself than I am on others. I know my friends aren't perfect. I don't expect them to be. I love them anyway. Thankfully I have pretty amazing people in my life that remind me I also don't have to be perfect <3

    Action Items:
    - I will not feel guilty about the number of goals scored on my during a hockey game and realize that there are 6 of us on the ice that share that responsibility
    - I will not less the obsession of not looking perfect occupy my thoughts for the whole day, and I will not let if affect how I feel about myself
    - when I feel like barfing at the idea of trying something new I will remind myself of a concrete example of a time when trying something new was fun.

  2. Your comment couldn't have been more perfectly composed. It's honest and I can hear your voice as I read this. Your action items are fantastic. And your FOMO, I like that. Let's rock the FOMO. Circus classes for sure now!!