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Posts Tagged ‘Failure’

Overall, I’ve had a rather stressful week and a half (for a taste of last week, see my latest post on The Writers of Ingleside). But last weekend was delightful. Daniel and I celebrated our anniversary late, and went to Winchester for the weekend, which included apple, peach, and blackberry picking, as well as a nice dinner at one of those places where they cook it in front of you, a night at a hotel, and a trip to a very unique winery (focus was on elderberry!). We didn’t even THINK about school. But, come Monday, along with all the normal work stresses, and I was just hit with an overwhelming tide of a sense of failure all over – every single thing I was stressed about and needed to do or hadn’t done just kept pummeling my brain over and over again. And, on top of that, my laptop stopped working on Friday (Saturday?).

So this week I have not been particularly happy, and this morning was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I opened my pantry door, and a broken shelf allowed a bottle of liquid Chlorophyll to drop out and splattered all over the dining room, partially into the living room, partially into the kitchen, and on top of me for good measure. Add to that a very limited amount of sleep, and the thoughts that had been bombarding me all week so far, and – let’s just say it was a very rough morning, and I had a very bad attitude all the way up until about . . .like half an hour ago, when God sent a devotional my way (designed as though it is a letter from God), that literally said, “When My people wear sour faces and walk through their lives with resigned rigidity, I am displeased. . . The more you focus on My Presence with you, the more fully you can enjoy life.”

So, I sat down, and I said, Okay, fine. but I don’t know what to do. The turmoil inside of me is too  great. What should I do? So, long story short(ish), He told me to make a list of literally everything that was stressing and worrying me. Once I had completed that, He told me to write next to it what the lie was behind that stress. That in itself was enlightening. Then He told me to write the truth next to the lie. It was actually a pretty incredible exercise, and by the time I finished, all the turmoil inside of me was gone, and I feel – almost peaceful. So, I am sharing my (extremely long) list below for anyone who cares to see. Don’t feel like you need to read it. It’s just an example of how many lies I was allowing to affect my attitude and my days, and I wasn’t even aware of it. (You may notice a theme. Hint: Failure. I guess that’s an Enneagram 1 for you.)

Stress List Lies I am telling myself Truth
My knee still hurts/creaking God cannot/will not heal me He can heal me, and even if He chooses not to in this lifetime, it will not negatively impact my life unless I let it. In addition, I can do more to assist the healing process by doing the exercises I am supposed to.
Elbow still hurts/fingers going numb God cannot/will not heal me He can heal me, and even if He chooses not to in this lifetime, it will not negatively impact my life unless I let it. In addition, I can do more to assist the healing process by doing the exercises I am supposed to.
Ongoing cold sore/canker sore They will never go away They will be gone within a week, and are just a temporary sign of too much stress and not enough sleep
Writing my final paper for class I cannot do it It will be hard work, but I can and will do it, and I know I can write on time. It just takes discipline.
Visiting friends They will not like me We will not cease being friends even if I am boring
Three briefings at end of month I will do a bad job I know metrics no one else does, which is why they ask for briefings. I will provide value, even if I stumble over my words.
My house is a wreck I am a failure as a housekeeper/wife The house was clean on Monday, and other priorities prevented me from cleaning it yesterday, but it will only take about a half hour to clean again when I am able to make it a priority.
Haven’t lost weight in a long time I am a failure at discipline I have worked out on a regular basis for over a month and even if I could decrease my calories, being healthy is better. In addition, saving time to dedicate to school has to take priority right now, which may mean less healthy foods for a time. I have chosen to be disciplined in working out right now instead of food.
Haven’t been writing lately I am a failure as a writer Taking a week off of writing does not mean I am not a writer. It means I had other priorities. And also it means my laptop has been broken.
Haven’t written or submitted short story to contest I’ve known about for months I cannot write a short story worthy of submission If my short story is not accepted, that does not mean I am a bad writer; trying is better than assuming failure.
Haven’t made a chiropractor appointment I am a failure at scheduling Other things have been a priority, like spending the weekend with my husband, a night with friends, and catching up on work after being on a business trip. It has only been a week since I cancelled my last appointment. Waiting a week or so to reschedule is perfectly normal.
Don’t have enough PTO for all my days off There are too many expectations placed on me I have chosen to take that much PTO and it is my responsibility to make sure I am able to meet both work and personal commitments. In addition, my work is usually willing to work with me, and will allow me to go negative if necessary. I should allow myself to look forward to the PTO instead of stressing over it.
Work phone is not working properly I must have my work phone to work properly I am using it as an excuse not to work more efficiently. My mobile work phone is just as usable.
Doing this week’s forum post I can’t do that and the paper too The forum post takes one night of concentrated effort. If that screws up my ability to write a paper, then I have bigger issues.
Didn’t get to go to county fair I never have time for fun stuff because of school I just had an amazing weekend away, have great weekends planned ahead, and giving up ONE SINGLE THING I wanted to do in order to work on my Master’s degree is probably worth the sacrifice.
Need to bake with fruit before it goes bad I don’t have time to do everything I need to do. I need to establish my priorities. Baking will take one night or part of a day on a weekend. Not worth stressing about. On the contrary, it will likely be a nice break from school
Responding to friends, esp. friends’ requests I am a bad friend I need to establish priorities. Friends understand when I am on travel and doing school, and if I cannot meet requests, all I need to do is let them know I haven’t forgotten and choose which day it should be a priority.
Never enough time for devotions/prayer time I am a failure as Christian I just need to establish my priorities. I have not made it a priority because I think God will understand if I push Him off in favor of things like school. I need to reassess my attitude.
Never enough time to read writing books and/or do writing exercises I am a failure as a writer Right now may not be the best time in my life to do writing books and writing exercises. I have chosen to do a master’s course, therefore it is a higher priority. It is likely more important to do actual writing than to read about it at this point. I can still be a writer without reading books about it.
Spending money wisely I am not being disciplined enough because I am spending a lot of money this fall on fun things As long as I am not overspending my income, God does not mind if I use some of the money He’s given me to do fun things with my friends or my husband.
Disorganized desk I am a failure on an individual level I do not use my desk on a regular basis and therefore it does not need to be organized at all times.
Disorganized in general in all of life I am a failure as a person I have competing priorities right now, and need to take time to pray over them to determine which should be higher priority. Having to work through that is perfectly normal and does not mean I have failed.

 

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(Take a breath. Get a drink. This is a long one. But it’s worth it. I promise think.)

When I think of the perfect business woman, a very specific picture comes to mind. Someone who lives in a city, in a perfect apartment overlooking the city in which she works. She has perfect hair, perfect nails, a perfect figure, a perfectly coordinated outfit. She can walk in high heels for hours, and commands attention immediately when she walks into a room. She walks into meetings and has all the right answers, she sells her clients on whatever she needs to, goes on business trips, and makes enough money that she never has to worry about bills or how much she spends when she goes out with her friends. She is intelligent, witty, and held in respect. And, most important of all, she is confident. She knows who she is, what she is doing, where she is going, and how she is getting there.  She exercises every day, has relaxing evenings, and is always at work in tip top shape with all the energy for the day coursing through her. In essence, she is every white collar business woman displayed on every TV show and movie.

Perfect Woman

I have always wanted to be that woman. I have watched all those TV shows and movies and thought, someday – that will be me.

I am 32 years old. I live in a perfect apartment overlooking the city in which I work. I get up early to go to work, and make more money than even I ever thought I could. I have briefed and run meetings for hundreds of people throughout my career. I go to more meetings than I know what to do with. I travel all over the country to meet with clients. I go out to happy hours. I wear suits and heels. In a fleeting moment, one might think – I have arrived. And you know what? I struggle to exercise because I hate it. I struggle to keep my weight down because I like eating. I am exhausted in the mornings as I trudge into work wishing I could have slept in and trying to smile instead of glower at people. I spend most evenings either preparing food for dinner or cleaning up, trying to catch up on correspondence and social media, trying to catch up on errands, or playing on my phone and watching TV while feeling guilty for not being useful. I always watch the price when I’m out because I still have a budget, and we are saving for a house, and I have financial goals, unlike apparently that woman in the movie. I never make time to do my nails, my hair is rarely perfect, I can handle high heels for only about half an hour at a time, and most of all? I have incredibly low confidence. I never know what to say to people, am always confident I DON’T have the right answer, and have totally lost my vision for where I want to go.

Remember that fleeting moment that I looked like that woman? Well, I’m not. I am nothing like her.

But I’m always striving to be her. And you know why? Because she is perfect. And I so dearly, desperately, want to be perfect. I strive so hard for that and always, always fail, and therefore constantly feel like a failure, and constantly lower my confidence because I cannot seem to make myself disciplined enough to climb up to where that perfect woman is.

I know – well, my brain knows – that that perfect woman? She doesn’t actually exist. That actress is in perfect shape because she is an actress. She has money for drinks because the studio pays for it (and it’s probably water anyway). Her hair and nails and outfit are all perfect because an entire team of people came together to make them perfect and probably worked on it for hours. Every  bit of that is fake and yet somehow, makes us still desire it.

I excuse my desperate drive for perfectionism as a good thing. Aren’t we told to strive to be perfect? Matthew 5:48: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It was good to strive for perfectionism in all forms of my life. But I knew I was failing. A deep and utter failure. From not graduating with honors at college to not controlling my weight to not finishing writing that book, to not being confident at meetings or stumbling during my briefings. And I’m so rooted in the fact that I’m failing even as I strive desperately, that I am in constant turmoil if I ever pause to think about it. My husband has tried to talk to me about it. Tried to tell me it’s okay not to always succeed. That I have to fail to learn (a concept I’ve always panicked at). That it’s okay to just be who I am. And I know he’s making good points – but that doesn’t mean I can or will implement them. And then a friend said it in a way that turned my thinking completely upside down.

I think you’ve let perfectionism become an idol.

My entire world reeled at that statement. It’s taken me weeks to process it enough to even write this. Because at that instant, the absolute millisecond I read those words, I knew it was so. But Oh, I didn’t want it to be. No! I wanted, I NEEDED my perfectionism. It is WHO I AM. I am an ISTJ – I do things right. I am an Enneagram 1 – the perfectionist. I am a Green over Blue E-Color – I don’t just do things right – I do them right the first time. 

To take away my drive to perfectionism would be like – not being me anymore. And everyone kept telling me to be me. So how would that work?

Perfectionist identity

But. Striving to be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect . . . is a far cry from striving to be perfect so I can meet my idea of the person I need to be in order for people to admire me and think of me as a success. Because I know that, deep down, my current pursuit of perfection stems from the need to be admired. To be praised. To be looked up to as the example. And above all, oh shudder, above all, so I am not laughed at or derided or looked down upon, or any of the other horrible things that all those who are afraid of  what people think fear the most.

I pursue perfectionism like it is all there is in the world. Most of my thoughts revolve around what I could be doing better. I even criticize my handwriting WHILE I’m writing anything. It’s a constant voice while I’m writing those notes or that story, or a phone number: Why is your handwriting so sloppy? Why haven’t you finished that calligraphy course? People can see you writing, you know. You know what they are thinking right now. They are thinking about how awful your handwriting is. Oh gosh, what if someone sees that word you just wrote? Do even YOU know what you just wrote? What a failure.

Yesterday, I was part of a panel of presenters to a group of over 400 people on a webinar. I was in a room with two senior level people also giving a briefing. We all did our briefings, the webinar ended, and guess what happened? The other two people smiled at me, said goodbye, and went back to work. I sat there, almost stunned. You know why? Because they didn’t look at me and say, “Great job!”. My mind immediately went from Hey, I didn’t mess up!  To Oh, man. The analysis I presented must have been awful. It should have been way deeper. It was definitely too short. Did you see the terminology the other panelists used? Why didn’t you use fancier words? You should have run this by someone – someone other than your manager and the other person who used to do this because they obviously didn’t know what they were talking about. Oh, gosh, I just did a HORRIBLE JOB. I was trembling, I messed up a couple words, no one asked me questions – that wasn’t what they wanted at all! 

I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. It wasn’t until I mustered up the courage to actually ask one of the other senior people if I had done all right and they were like, “Oh, yeah – you were fine! You did a good job.” that I finally stopped the running dialogue (although the term fine came with its own dialogue, of course).

The-Perfectionists-Guide-to-Results

And I knew I had a problem. Technically I’ve sort of known this all along. And technically, I sort of knew it a lot more when I began to think of perfectionism as an idol. But this forced me to face it head on. I need to be perfect so I can be admired. I need to be perfect to elevate myself. And that is where the issue comes in. Because you and I, ladies and gents? You and I are supposed to be elevating God. We are supposed to be striving to do things better to send praises His way, not our way. We are supposed to be praising him, not ourselves.

I am trapped under a burden that will never release me until I allow God to take it from me. Perfectionism is going to choke the life out of me – every bit of joy I have – everything I do and think and strive for – it is waiting to grab that cup of joy I took a sip of and drink the rest. Always thirsty but never full, no matter how hard I try. But that isn’t my job. That’s God’s job. All I have to do is hand this joy-sucker over to him – because He is the only one who can actually fill that empty chasm. Nothing I do will ever fill it up . Only He is large enough to do that. All I am large enough to do is my best with who He has made me – and then let Him fill up everything that I thought perfectionism would take care of.

800px-Water_drop_001

Oh, I’m not saying everything is fixed. I’m not even saying that I’m not sitting here alternately condemning what I wrote and then imagining someone publishing it worldwide and turning me into a star and then condemning it again. No, this is an ongoing struggle and one I am only just beginning to face. I have a feeling it is going to be a difficult time getting these clutches off of me. But I suppose recognizing it enough to write about it is the first step. And hopefully I won’t just bury it away again, thinking this was good enough.

Because – how would it feel, I wonder – to step outside, stretch out my arms, breathe the incredible air, look at the view – and NOT be wondering way deep down inside if people were watching me and what they were thinking and whether I should be better dressed and why I wasn’t skinnier?

It’s my goal to find out what that’s like.

dancing (2)

Photo Credit: Jennifer Regnier on Unsplash

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First things first – head over to my other blog (http://storyidyls.blogspot.com/) and check out my most recent post on fear of failure! Because you all know that is my favorite subject, so I couldn’t resist posting about it on there too and am currently working hard not to regret it.

Second things second: I love you , my readers. Mostly because I don’t know any of you and you still take the time to read my stuff and I don’t have to feel self-conscious because I know if you like it, it is because you actually like it because you aren’t going to have to face me at any point and pretend to anyway. Which means I can be myself around you.

Third things third. I read a lovely little piece in A Lamp for My Feet by Elisabeth Elliot that I am pretty sure God was directly telling me. as many of you know – I have a constant need and impulse to insert my witness in conversations in any way possible – partially because (speaking of fear) I am afraid not doing so constitutes as denying Christ. I’ve been trying to figure out lately the correct balance between being a good witness and allowing people to just talk without my preaching at them. I think this insight has really helped me be at more peace:

The Necessity to Cover

There are things which it is our duty to cover in silence. We are told nowadays that everything ought to be expressed if we are truly “honest” and “open.” Proverbs 11:13 says, “He who goes abroad as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing hidden.” Jesus sometimes refused to reveal the truth about Himself, even when it would have seemed to us an opportunity to witness. He did not always answer questions. He did not always say who He was. He told some of those He healed to tell no one about it. “For every activity under heaven its time . . . a time for silence and a time for speech” (Eccl 3:1, 7), “A man of understanding remains silent” (Prv 11:12). Lord, deliver me from the urge to open my mouth when I should shut it. Give me the wisdom to keep silence when silence is wise. Remind me that not everything needs to be said, and that there are very few things that need to be said by me.

 

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Is it just me or does anyone else find themselves, during quiet times, thinking back over their lives, dwelling on the various times they made mistakes, said something stupid, did something stupid, or, worse, got in trouble for something? This is a particular weakness of mine. I will be minding my own business, and randomly, my brain calls back to my memory some painful or embarrassing time/moment that makes me squirm with discomfort – That time a senior student told me I needed to place more of a priority on a project I was working on for her. That time I was 7 years old and didn’t stop my friend from lying to her mother about whether or not we had eaten breakfast – and – even worse – went along with the lie. That time I asked my now-husband-then-friend to the school’s Sadie Hawkin’s dance after saying that I didn’t think girls should ask guys to dances because they would feel compelled to say yes, and, as he told me later, sure enough, he just didn’t know how to say no. And the most horrible memory of all – that time I didn’t pay the rent on time because I was out of a job and the landlord (a friend’s father) got angry with me and “uninvited me” to their party for July 4th. I was the only girl in our group of friends who didn’t get to go.

Yes, every single misstep or mistake I made in my life is branded in my memory, and no matter how young I was or how well-intentioned I was, I still shudder and get a churning stomach when I think of them. Apparently there are people who can forget their mistakes. And/Or, ask God to forgive them, and move on. I am not one of those. Whether or not I think God has forgiven me, I have a terrible time forgiving myself. I have to be careful not to wander in the past too long, because I get very downhearted and ashamed of all the stumbles, small or large, I have made in my life.

Those quotes about how failure is a precursor to success? My brain agrees, and even understands. The rest of me, however, just crumples up into a tiny ball at failure.

I have been feeling more and more convicted lately that it is time to move on. That I have to stop living in the past and look forward to the future, to learning and moving on. That I actually have to take God serious when He says He forgives me, and when Isaiah 43:18-19 says “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?” When I delve into past missteps, I tend to find myself living as though whatever I was thinking about was a recent mistake, that I can’t do anything right and might as well not even try, and as long as I just stick to myself and never talk, maybe I will never say or do anything stupid again.

Another verse I find very encouraging, yet hard to put into practice, is Philippians 3:13b – 14: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

So, as I find it more and more impressed in myself to let go of the past, during the frequent times I find my mind recalled to a past mistake, whether or not related to something I am currently working on, I have begun to pray that God would take it from me, that He would help me forgive myself and move on, that I stop dwelling on the past.

I think it will improve quality of life – and I don’t believe God ever intended us to let the past keep us from pressing on and moving up – that is why He offers forgiveness. Living in the past is a dangerous habit. I can attest from experience, dwelling on the past beyond learning from your mistakes can prevent you from doing your best in other portions of your life – fear of failure is a powerful force that can weigh you down instead of causing you to put your all in something. And worst of all, it can cause depression where there is no need for it – because if you have learned from a mistake and moved on, you should be rejoicing that you have another building block on your road to success. How’s that for preaching to myself? 😛

Anyway, those are just my random thoughts on living in the past, while I face yet another issue in my life that God is graciously working with me on.

you-past-mistakes-are-meant-to-guide-you-not-define-you

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Sorry I haven’t posted in so long – I have been busy with life: Settling in to my new job, setting up Christmas stuff, recovering from a week and a half with my in-laws . . . all that. 🙂

So, here are my upcoming writing goals. I think it will be significantly harder to keep without a whole community of writers doing it, but I am going to do my darndest anyway.

By the end of this month, I would like to have finished the (extremely) rough draft of my book, since 50,000 words by no means finished the book. Then, by March 2015, I would like to have finished the editing process enough to send it to friends for critique. By June 2015, I would like to have it finalized. At that point, I will decide if I want to actually try to get it published, or just enjoy the fact that I completely completed a novel. Maybe I will even do Nanowrimo’s offer to get two free self-published copies.

In the meantime, I have decided to start entering some of the Writer’s Digest writing competitions. I finally subscribed to Writer’s Digest a few months ago, and am amazed at how inspiring the articles are to me as a writer. I think having goals to work toward (as in, writing contests) will help improve my writing speed and style and whether I win the actual contest or not, I think it will help me move forward, and I am tired of putting off something that I have always wanted because I am afraid of failing.

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