The first time I heard that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback, honestly, I wanted to brain the person who said it.
Did they not know how I felt? Yes, that’s right, a complete failure… And downright miserable to boot.
Watching things seemingly go wrong feels pretty horrible. Sleepless nights might ensue as your mind rattles around like an unbalanced washing machine. How did I get it so wrong???
Feeling like a failure
What happens to you when you see, feel or hear something about you which screams FAILURE?
What is your first reaction? Go there, feel it, now! Grab your journal and make some notes. Take time to reflect.
I ask you to do that because by feeling it, you will know when those physical feelings come at you again. Quickly followed by those yukky thoughts that come tumbling into your head in a nanosecond.
Especially if the failure felt like it was delivered by someone who was not mindful with their delivery.
“How *bleep* dare they!”
“Who the *bleep* do they think they are!”
“Right, I am going to tell them what I think.”
“No one will speak to me again when they see how useless I am.”
“I am a failure. I might as well give up.”
And on and on and on and on…
The same thing can happen even if it is just you on your lonesome. Imagine typing away, you don’t have autosave on, and you haven’t Ctrl S’d your document when disaster strikes, and it all goes…
I remember my mum (technophobe) calling; her book only contained one letter. “Don’t hit save mum” I cried, confident that this would be easily solved, and we could restore it. She wailed. She’d already saved it. A whole book gone – just like that.
Luckily for mum, I back her books up. So all she had to do was re-do the edits she’d done. I encouragingly said, “just imagine, mum, round one was a practice run. It’ll be better this time.”
But poor mum felt like a fool and a failure.
She, like many, hates technology and often gets into a panic when something new comes along. Two of her mantras are – I am an artist, and I was born too early.
Feeling like you are a failure can become a never-ending mantra on a loop. Unless you find a way to reframe and change your mindset, you will continue to perceive yourself as a failure.
I think that is such wasted energy, but it happens to us all at one time or another. I have to work at reframing stuff, which I do in my journal and then reflect on a doggy walk. Dogs are so understanding and forgiving when I tell them my tales of woe.
I am reminded of a time when a teacher destroyed what little confidence I had before I even had the chance to be fabulous.
In the playground, the teacher touched my father’s arm and said, “I am sorry, but she will never go to university.” I wasn’t sure at the time what that was, but I knew that wherever we were being channelled, I wasn’t good enough or clever enough to go there. I can still recall the blur whipping around me. In that instance, that teacher condemned and labelled me a FAILURE.
Not long after, my year ran a competition. I don’t remember what the point was, but there were 50 questions that we had to answer. Some we knew, and some required that you use your initiative, undertake research or ask your mum and dad. Something in me said I will win this, and I did. But getting on stage to receive my prize of a packet of felt pens, I did not feel like a success. I felt everyone was looking at the girl who wasn’t going to university and thinking she must have cheated.
At 16, I was expelled. Somehow, I manifested a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I was bored, classes were too slow, and why would anyone want to spend time helping a disruptive child? Finally, just before getting expelled, one teacher took me under her wing. Oh, how I adored Mrs Macintyre. She made a difference because she saw something in me and knew exactly how to motivate and inspire me. She gave me projects to do, which she gave great feedback on. To this day, I love projects!!!
But it was too late, and not long after, I was out on my ear.
I lurched from crap job to crap job and ended up in the civil service. Mum and dad said you need a safe job. It was mind-numbing work, and I hated it. And there, in the midst of it all, was Mrs Glover. She saw a spark and set me free. I was allowed to study at college, and I discovered how much I loved to learn again. I started to feel that I wasn’t such a failure.
Later in my 30’s, I went to university and got an MBA.
But you see, that wasn’t good enough, and I just kept on taking courses and always challenging ones. I had to prove that I could and was intelligent (I had a husband who called me stupid) and was not a FAILURE.
In 2009 I took my last two major courses at the same time – ILM level 7 executive coaching and mentoring certificate and an NLP practitioners certificate – I passed – of course, I did because I loved what I was learning, had great feedback, and I worked hard… Now I was starting to feel fabulous.
And then, I saw two more master’s courses that I fancied: one in therapeutic writing and one in business psychology. I thought these would make me more successful.
I don’t know what stopped me. Perhaps it was the FEEDBACK I was getting from my peers, customers and friends. Perhaps I had stopped for a moment and smelt the coffee. Perhaps I was starting to believe in myself?
What do you do when you get feedback?
Again take a moment to think about this.
Did you hear, wow, what you did there was amazing, and how you do x, y and z is outstanding?
Did you hear, wow, what you did there was amazing, but it could be better?
How we give and receive feedback is so important.
When giving feedback, it’s important to be honest, of course, it is, but it is also important to be kind, compassionate and constructive.
Mind you, the words performance review is enough to have anyone running for the hills.
Feedback can lead to outstanding performance when done in the right way and with the right intentions.
I know when I give feedback on a client’s book, I want to ensure that they leave me feeling inspired to continue.
I want to focus on how you receive feedback so that you don’t continue to feel like a failure and do indeed walk away feeling fabulous.
It is your responsibility to choose your response, to ask
- What this really means to me
- How to learn from this
- What needs to change (or not)
- Or to simply acknowledge that someone else didn’t like what you did, in their opinion.
I know it takes a brave person to suck it in, let it settle, see the learning to be gained and that this is an opportunity for personal growth.
Honestly, it has taken me years to manage my emotions around feedback. I still occasionally struggle, and that is ok.
My go-to to sort my head out is writing and then walking. But, sometimes, I uncover something that needs deeper healing. This, of course, takes more work. This is when I dig into the encyclopedia of my life and look for patterns around what is currently happening.
This is magical because then I can reframe past events. Try it. It could work for you too. However, if it all becomes too painful, please seek support. For times like this, I head back to my EMDR therapist for a session.
How feedback can help
Everyone who has ever given me feedback, positive and negative, has helped me to:
- Become who I am
- Feel comfortable with mistakes
- Accept that being imperfect is ok
- Learn my craft better
- Be a better, more understanding and compassionate person
- Swear better (mmm)
Help my students and clients in ways I could never have dreamt of because I can put my hand on my heart and say, “yes, me too, been there, done that and got the T-shirt.”
When you get feedback that makes you feel like a failure, reframe that back into feedback, ask what you can learn and then embrace just how fabulous you are.
Remember, feedback is a gift for your personal growth. And remember, the person giving it might be bricking it, just thinking about giving the feedback.
Tips for receiving feedback
- Listen to the feedback given without interrupting
- Be aware of your body language, tone of voice and responses because they often speak louder than words. …
- Breathe and be open. …
- Seek to understand the message and feel into how it is being delivered
- Say thank you, I’ll reflect on what you have said
- Don’t get defensive
- Feedback what you think you have heard and ask for clarity
- Reflect and decide what to do
- Choose how you want to feel
- Journal it out and reframe any yukky feelings and thoughts
- Follow up and share what you have learned
With love, enjoy being fabulous.