I want to write about “Does it make you happy”, but honestly, I just can’t and something I have always strived to do is be honest (I have not always been perfect at this, but I have always tried my best to be honest). When I haven’t been honest, it’s out of fear. The fear that I will let you down, that I will let myself down or worse, that I will fail.
But what is failure?
Is failure not meeting an expectation?
Not meeting a goal?
Who set’s the goal? Do you? Does someone else?
Is failure death? Or is it not fully meeting the goal? Or is it only partially meeting the goal set?
But surely there is some “success” in each of these options? Is it even possible to be a complete failure? How can you be a success and a failure? Is it even possible for the two to coexist?
Confused yet? I know I am, and this is only a small insight into my working brain (sorry!).
The dominant gremlin dark part of my brain is screaming at me right now that I am a failure.
I have turned 40 this year, and currently, I weigh in at the heaviest I have ever been. My adult acne is kicking my arse; I feel like a fraud as my brain identifies with being an Ultra Runner, but I haven’t run an ultra in over three years, and financially things are tough. Combined, these things make for a nasty negative cocktail. I don’t feel like me. That terrifies me, and it makes me embarrassed and ashamed, and worse, like I have let myself and you down. The logical part of me knows this isn’t the case, but whoever said that being human and my main thought processes were logical?
It is also a big reason as to why I haven’t wanted to put myself out there in front of you. Simply because I am afraid. I am embarrassed, and I am so frozen with fear of not only seeing myself as a “failure” but that others like you will see me as a failure, a fraud, or a phoney.
I can honestly say that running 10km weighing over 15kg more than I should, puts a big toll on my body. My muscles hurt more, my hips hurt more, and I fatigue a lot quicker. The gremlin in me goes see, you failed. You gained weight. Not just a little weight but a lot of weight. Reluctantly I feel a challenge over this; deep in the far back crevices of my mind is that inner voice. Is it really a failure? You are showing up. You are doing the sessions to the best of your ability. For me, my goal around exercise should never be about weight loss or punishment (I go to some really dark and nasty places when I focus on that viewpoint). It should be about achieving a goal or making progress towards a physical, healthy outcome. Being faster, running under a 2-hour half marathon, running under a 30 min 5km, running that 100km. Not I need to run at this pace or for this long to burn this many calories to lose that much weight. For me, that isn’t healthy, so I work hard with my psychiatrist and my coach to not train that way.
I am currently working hard on my relationship with food too. I currently feel like I have failed as I let myself eat what I wanted in an attempt to emotionally soothe my soul and not what was or is best for me. I feel blah on the inside physically, which makes me feel more emotionally blah, which makes me comfort eat and repeating the cycle – sound familiar to anyone? Does this mean I have failed? That I am a failure? Weight can be lost (and for my health physically, mentally and emotionally, I am working on this), but losing weight won’t make me a success. It simply means that I have achieved a goal. What is my goal? Being comfortable in my own skin, feeling like me and being healthy is my goal. Because right now, I know I am not healthy. For me, in this case, to fail, I acknowledge the issue but take no steps to resolve the issue or make no conscious choice to solve the issue. Because I am making the conscious choice to work harder at it. To be healthier, to move towards the goal of how I want the food on my plate to look. Simply changing one thing, my mindset or what I eat, or my attitude surrounding it, or the decision to make small attainable healthy steps makes me NOT a failure. By shifting the view of the goal, I am not a failure if I don’t lose weight. I am only a failure if I don’t try. If I don’t make a conscious decision. The power of the failure is then removed. As is the pressure of success.
I find my adult acne embarrassing. It’s painful, cystic, and “ugly”. I find it hard to look people in the eye when it’s bad, as it currently is, and believe me when I say every zoom call is a nightmare right now. Why? Because I am ashamed. I am embarrassed, and I feel like a massive failure because my body does something of its own accord that I can’t consciously control. A logical and saner than me person might say that is CRAZY! How can you feel that way? No one is looking at it or even notices it. But I do, and because I am being 100% honest right now, that is how I feel.
When I break it down and address it ultimately, where is the failure? If I do nothing, make no conscious choice to either work towards fixing it or let it get worse, isn’t that where the failure lies? If I choose to leave it be and let nature and my body do its thing, and that is what I do, isn’t that a success? If I choose to get medical help, and that is what I do, then isn’t that a success too? Why should I let it make me feel ashamed? My body is just doing what it does (producing crazy amounts of deep tissue oil). If I am working towards something like feeling more comfortable about it, being able to work towards looking people in the eye and not dreading every zoom call, isn’t that a success?
I have distant goals for my running. One day I want to run 100km as part of GOW.
It wasn’t going to be this year; even before the event was cancelled, after catching COVID early in the year, I made the decision then that I wouldn’t run it this year. I made a choice, so that makes it a success, NOT a failure. Likely, it won’t even be next year. But possibly the year after. I say possibly because I want to feel like me again first. I want to feel like the Ultra Runner I know I am before I start working towards this goal.
To me, that doesn’t make me a failure. I am making a conscious choice. I have the right to continually reassess and use new information at hand to make a new decision. A new choice. To decide on a new success measure. Each time a decision is made, aren’t you already succeeding? Haven’t you already turned your back on failure?
It might not be the “success” you were originally after. Does that make you a failure? Does that matter? Is it not more important to use all the information as it hits you to constantly evaluate and make new choices? New goals? New chances to learn? New opportunities to succeed? Failure is only failure if you give up without a conscious choice, or worse, don’t even make a choice. Sometimes our bodies choose for us, and that’s ok too. As long as you accept it and don’t fight it (that’s another blog altogether, though).
What I am saying is feel the fear, feel the challenge, shout GERONIMO and do it anyway! If it is something you want to achieve, do it regardless. You determine what makes it a failure. For me, failure is when I give up. When I don’t make a decision and choose the outcome. When I don’t give it my best and try my hardest. That is what failure is for me. Ask yourself. What makes it a failure to you? Then quickly follow this up with, Why should that stop me?
Why can’t we apply this logic to achieving big goals like a PB, Ironman or Ultra? It’s ok for it to terrify you. To be afraid of failure. But ultimately, if you try, do your best, and don’t reach the end goal, isn’t that still something you have learned? Something you have tried? Skills you have gained? Something you have succeeded at? Is that REALLY failure? Or just a chance to try again with a different attitude and perspective? Isn’t the real failure the failure to even try or to not make the decision and let someone or something else decide for you?