Falling off a slackline strung across a sandy beach

Gaining success and support: first, admit failure

Failure makes us stronger

Success feels good, but it’s nothing like the sting of failure when it comes to pushing us to greater things. Deep down we all know the steps we have to take in life to succeed, and in most cases, failure is a prerequisite. It’s how we build our skills. We fall, we get back up, and we’re stronger because of it. But often we label those failures with hatred and try to hide them. We save face by sharing only our successes and glossing over those unpleasant failures, even though they provided critical guidance and lessons along the way.

Fear of momentary failure holds us back from enduring success

Sometimes our resistance of failure prevents us from even reaching success. Our egos convince us to protect our reputation — to resist taking a leap unless we’re reasonably sure we’ll succeed. This won’t lead to growth of course, but at least we won’t have to show the world that we’re human…that we’re vulnerable.

But why can’t we do that? Probably partially because we’ve become so used to seeing all the highlight reels of peoples’ lives on social media. Because we’ve grown up in a society that places such unequivocal value on independence and accomplishment and individualism. Those are all valuable, sure, but only so long as they’re tempered with our human needs for connection and support. We’ve placed so much emphasis on protection, retreating so far into our shells that we’ve forgotten the joy of fresh air and connection with the world and the people around us.

Biologically, we’re driven to seek interaction and comfort and connection with others

Mammals have a unique ability to self-soothe ourselves by simple contact with others, unlike other animals who can choose only fight, flight, or freeze. So when we fail, we have a built-in mechanism that can propel us past that momentary mental discomfort, but the prerequisite is showing that vulnerability and seeking genuine connection with others. Otherwise our supportive network remains untapped — they don’t know to reach out and give the support we crave. And believe me, others are there to give it. Time after time when I’ve sought new goals and shared both the success and the failures of my journey — fitness struggles, for example — I’ve found support from unexpected sources. People who knew hardly anything about me, sometimes, became allies and cheerleaders, all because I let down defenses to show the messier parts of life that people can so easily relate to…the failures.

Falling off a slackline strung across a sandy beach

Failure paves the road to success

Beyond gaining emotional support, the admission of failures actually endears others toward us

People are drawn to humility because it peels away a layer of protection; it gives them a human element with which to connect. It gives them a glimpse of ourselves that is becoming more and more rare in our highly-curated lives. We choose just the right Instagram filter to hide our flaws. We share our successes and our highlights, but cache our struggles and disappointments.

Hiding failure perpetuates emotional isolation

Sure, some of us use social media to express frustrations, but even that is done in such a cryptic way that people can’t really relate to us. Ironically, our subconscious is driving us to express things in such a way that we can get the support we crave, but our ego holds us back from giving the whole story, because we deem it as too risky. We put up defenses, sharing just enough so people can tell something is wrong. They can offer superficial displays of support in the form of a thumbs-up or generic words of affirmation, giving us a flutter of relief, but hardly enough to make us feel emotionally supported and satisfied.

When we accept and admit our very human failures, people can finally give us the support that we need; the support they’re so ready to give; the support which drives us to success.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *