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, nothing, nobody and worthless… And downright miserable to boot.
Of course, it’s true; it is feedback, but watching things seemingly go wrong feels pretty horrible. Sleepless nights might ensue as your mind rattles around like an unbalanced washing machine.
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. Grab your journal and make some notes. Take time to reflect.
Try these prompts:
- How does the concept of viewing failures as feedback resonate with you?
- Think of a recent setback. What valuable feedback did it provide?
- Describe a time when you turned a failure into an opportunity for growth.
- What are your initial reactions to failure, and how can you reframe them?
- In what areas of your life can you apply the feedback mindset more effectively?
I ask you to do that because in feeling it, you will know when those emotional and physical feelings come at you again and the sort of thoughts that will come tumbling into your head in a nanosecond.
Especially if the failure felt like it was delivered by someone who was not careful 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 happens 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 word. Don’t hit save mum; 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 edit the edits she’d done again. I encouraging 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 be the failure that you perceive you are.
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. The playground swirled around me, and my head throbbed.
I felt small and insignificant. In that instance, that teacher condemned and labelled me a FAILURE.
Not long after, my year ran an end-of-year 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 this 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, because of her coaching, patience and kindness, 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. I recall the day that we all gathered to get our results. I passed. Of course, I did, but I can still feel my failure. I walked away, beaten and feeling worthless.
They even put my dissertation in the library – one of the top five. Convinced it was a lie, I took it. I did not want anyone to see the rubbish I’d written.
But that wasn’t good enough, and I just kept taking hard courses. I had to prove that I could and was intelligent and was not a FAILURE. I had a husband who called me stupid, followed by a partner who called my MBA a means bugger all.
Yeah, I know. I knew how to pick them back then…
In 2009, I took my last two major courses at the same time – an 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… 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?
Perhaps I could see that feedback enriches your knowledge, and knowledge is powerful. It certainly does a lot for your self-worth.
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 being kind, compassionate and constructive is also important.
Mind you, a 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.
When I give feedback to a client, I want to ensure that they leave me feeling inspired to continue. That they feel like they can open their wings and fly.
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 does really means to me?
- What are the facts?
- What can I learn from this?
- What needs to change (or not)
- How would I like to feel instead?
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 okay.
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 encyclopaedia of my life and look for patterns around what is currently happening.
This is magical because then I can reframe events coming forward. 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:
- Feel better about who I am, quirks and all
- Feel comfortable with mistakes
- Accept that being imperfect is okay
- Learn my craft better
- Be a better, more understanding and compassionate person
- Swear better (mmm)
- Help my 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, 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 on 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.
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