Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If you could never fail

This blog post asked an interesting question: what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?

The post is geared towards more global thinking, asking what positive impacts you could have on the world, however, I think this question can be asked on a much smaller scale.

For many people, the word "failure" has many connotations. Everything from shame to unworthiness to self doubt to self-defeatism. It's amazing how powerful the word really is. Most times, failure is in relation to achievement, but it can be be viewed in other dimensions of our life such as spirituality or community.

People with eating disorders equate failing in a variety of ways. It can be everything from food to exercise to academics. It can also be seen in their eating disorder like statements such as "I'm a failure at being anorexic" or "I'm a failure at recovery." All this as we know as black and white thinking.

Aside from all this, I think there is a deeper meaning to the word failure--that it reminds us of our fallability, our imperfections, our unworthiness. It allows us to stop dreaming big. I know I may not be speaking for everyone here as there are quite a few eating disorder individuals who do go on to have great success in some area of their life, but I also think there is a proportion of us (maybe I'm only speaking for myself here?) who stop believing too. Not only in their dreams, but in themselves. They become so afraid to unharness their full potential, because the risk of failure feels too cumbersome. This only causes a continuance in rumination, "a spiral of morbid self-involvement that's extremely difficult to shake." (from "Weathering the storm" in Psychology Today)

So what would happen if we could never fail? Certainly, there are positives and negatives to this as we can learn from our mistakes. However, the possibilities could be endless too.

I guess this post reminds me of part of what I've lost through the ED--the ability to dream BIG. I don't know when I lost that ability--the fearless drive to be able to succeed at anything. I've always hated admitting it in the form of fear of failure (and success too), but rather telling myself and others that I learned to be realistic, that the world didn't always work out the way I wanted.

Perhaps, it isn't about never failing or feeling like a failure. Maybe it's more about learning to "fail better" as Samuel Beckett says in "
Weathering the storm" He says: "it's a matter of controlling our motions, adjusting our thinking, and recalibrating our beliefs about ourselves and what we can do in this world."


licketysplit said...

I love this idea. I wonder what it would take to be able to change my mindset, to shift and view the infinite possibilities. Thanks for sharing!

Kim said...

I know what you mean about feeling like you've lost that ability to "dream big." I feel that sometimes. I have so much fear of failing that I think I keep things small and manageable. People always think I'm so accomplished and driven to succeed. I think, "No, I'm driven to not fail." It's a totally different thing. Also, like you said, that whole mentality of failure can be ugly no matter what. As I've been in recovery, I've had many moments of thinkig, "I'm a failure at recovery," which just triggers the same self-hate cycle that saying "I'm a failure at anorexia" triggered. Same beast. Thanks for the post. It's good food for thought...oh no, did I just say "food for thought"? I did...

Tiptoe said...

Licketysplit, I think these types of changes in thoughts start out small very some, big drastic one. But those small changes can grow and adjust to positive ways of seeing ourselves.

Kim, food for thought can be good. ;-) Totally understand the thinking of being driven not to fail. I think a lot of us think that way at times. Hopefully, we can both learn to adjust our thinking about failure and stop stifling ourselves so much.

positively present said...

Absolutely LOVE your blog! I'm so glad I found it today. What a treat. And what a great post...what would I do if I knew I couldn't fail...???? So much to think about!

Lissy said...

i've been saying that i'm going to go back and get my masters degree for twenty years. but i really believed i was incapable - for so many reasons. finally, i'm beginning to apply to schools. but i still feel incapable and unworthy on many levels. i'm really working on my confidence and self-esteem. i want to get the degree, change my career and show myself that i can do something difficult and something i want.

great post, tiptoe. it completely resonated.

Missing In Sight said...


I've got the same question on my blog! It is such a powerful question!

I agree with everything you said about the fear of failure. I think mostly for me it is a fear of success and the responsibility that comes with it. If I succeed then I have the pressure on me to succeed at everything I do and that is too overwhelming.

Great post!

Stay strong and take care.