“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
I remember the ride home after taking my state board exam for massage therapy. I had chosen to go back to school even with a full time job and three children because I wanted to change direction in my life. But now I was questioning that decision.
I was a wreck. My stomach was a big ball of knotted mess, my mind raced, my palms sweat and I couldn’t stop flipping back through my anatomy books. I was sure I failed.
So what if I failed? I said to myself. You can re-take the exam. It’s not the end of the world.
How embarrassing, my mind whispered back, what if you are the only one in your class?
Failure sucks. But even worse is showing your face again after you have failed. Looking people in the eye and saying you weren’t good enough, smart enough, strong enough or woman enough is a real test of character. We all mess up at times, why is admitting defeat so hard?
A friend of mine is an excellent yoga instructor. She’s one of those teachers that seem to know intuitively what is best for each student. Many of her classes have various students in different poses depending on their needs at the time and she doesn’t make you feel like an idiot about it either. She’s well-trained, and has been practicing yoga for years. She’s professional and approachable. Yet she is terrified about her upcoming exam for yoga certification.
“So what if you fail?” I say to her one day after class. “I know,” she answers “It’s not brain cancer.” But by the look on her face I get it. The idea of coming back and telling your students (or maybe worse, your peers) that you fell short is humiliating.
What is it that drives us to perfection? Is it the media enforced image of an idealistic lifestyle? It seems every program on television anymore is aiming to be more extreme and more shocking. Everything and anything is scrutinized from your house and countertops, your wardrobe, your diet, your relationships and even your neuroses. The world appears to be begging you to jump in and join this race to be bigger than life.
Even the fail is not just a fail. It is an epic fail. You can’t just mess up, you have to royally screw up.
Maybe this fear stems from a need to fit into an image we create ourselves? This self-made portrait of a person that we put on display for everyone to see, but then we don’t quite measure up to it.
So what if you don’t want to play this game? Suddenly, you take a step outside the drama and the self-imposed criteria for success and realize that maybe it’s not that important if you don’t pass an exam. Maybe it’s okay to make a mistake, and in that mistake is a lesson. Because those around you can see how to get back up after you have fallen.
Did you know:
- Ashton Kutcher went to school to be a biomedical engineer?
- Mariah Carey was studying to be a makeup artist, and dropped out.
- Tim Allen was a former drug dealer before becoming an actor.
- Oprah Winfrey was fired as a news anchor for being “unfit for TV.”
- Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and was labeled by one of his college professors as “lazy.”
The reason we know these names is not because they failed. It’s because they weren’t afraid to.
So what if you fail? You are not alone. Getting back up after you have fallen and admitting it is part of the journey.
Think about it: how many times does a toddler fall before she walks? How many scrapes and bruises did you get as a kid before you figured out how to ride a bike? It’s how we learn and it’s all part of the process of success.
Two weeks after taking my state boards, I received a letter in the mail. I was terrified and excited at the same time to open it. The envelope was thin and I had told myself a thin envelope couldn’t be good news. I tore open the side, and peeked in. I just barely made out the word “Congratulations!”
I passed, and surprisingly, I did really well. I remember the high I felt from seeing my scores and registered license number on that letter. It wasn’t an easy journey, and there were many mistakes made along the way, but I passed.
This time was a success. This time I made it. I did it because I threw caution to the wind and took a risk.
So what if you fail? Get back up and do it again.
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Ed: Sara Crolick