The Funk of Failure… And What To Do About It
My first memory of failure was going for my drivers licence. It was in 1986 and I was 16. I had studied the road rules diligently and had been driving with anyone and everyone I could beg to go with me. Living in rural New Zealand meant I could drive by myself along the internal roads of our farm and sometimes even in the paddocks. It was here my older brother Warren, taught me how to do the mighty hand brake skid.
Although I was nervous on the day I took the local copper for a drive to get my full licence, I fully expected that I would be able to do everything I had practiced. But alas, not stopping fully at a stop sign, panic and unfortunate step on the gas pedal instead of the brake, gave the traffic officer cause to brace himself on the dash. When we turned into the station, he informed me that he would not be able to grant me my drivers licence.
I had failed.
Through gulping tears I told me mother what had happened on the drive home. And with it was with some embellishment (which is typical of the Wright Family Dinner Stories) she shared with the rest of my family the story of my failure. There was much laughter with little regard to how traumatised I felt. It was my Dad who said:
“This is good for you Shells. You don’t often fail. But you will learn from this”
It was true. I learnt early in life I had no gift for sport (a door opener for living in New Zealand) or nor was I particularly good looking (a door opener for girls and women), but I did have good brain and a thirst for learning. Life experience had taught me that I could achieve, but only through diligence and hard work. Except perhaps hill starts in a 1963 Morris Minor. Called Doris.
My car Doris and my eighties perm!
My next memorable failure in life was my first marriage.
Although to be fair, I had no idea that my husband was going to seek another partner, all the while we were planning the birth of our second child. But regardless of the gritty details… to tell folk that I was a “single mum” or “divorcee” stuck in my throat like a large bite of unbaked pastry.
This life lesson taught me that sometimes shit just happens. No matter how diligent or how hard you work.
With two years of serious dedication to therapy, getting myself fit and with the support of family, friends and sometimes, complete strangers; I dragged myself out of a very deep dark hole. However, I was a single mother for 7 years and that allowed me the space to redesign my own life and become very clear on what I was looking for in my next life partner.
Recently, Kylianne Farrell – our 2017 Women’s Health and Fitness Summit Ambassador interviewed me as part of our *Presenter Connect* series.
It was in this interview, I talked publicly and openly about funk of failure I felt around the 2015 Women’s Health and Fitness Summit. Something that I have only shared to those who have been close to me.
You can watch the full interview here:
Before the 2015 Women’s Health and Fitness Summit, only my husband Mark and a few others knew the true reality of the situation. Yet, the show had to go on and stepping on stage for the Opening that day required some digging deep… the parallels between that and giving birth to my second son were incredibly similar. Including the affirmation of depth of human kindness. There were a couple of people who really stood out during this time. And they know who they are.
And like my Dad told me in 1986, failure does teach you things.
And this is what I have learnt:
1. Regardless of your success, no one is immune to feelings of failure
It does not matter what you have achieved in life or who you are, everyone experiences the feeling of failure and self doubt. Whether it is merited or not. And it can be tightly bound up with “imposter” syndrome. Both can be debilitating and can force us to stop in our tracks. Unable to focus on anything but our shortcomings.
Recently, I had a day feeling like this. It was debilitating. It stopped me from working and thinking. I walked through mud, with the funk of failure playing loudly in my head. It added up all the things I had failed at, over my career.
So how did I deal with it? I took some time to be alone (most things / people / emails can wait a few hours) and I listened to some of my favourite podcasts, just to change the voices in my head. It just so happened that I was given the right advice at the right time… it was a Marie Forleo interview and she said that we can’t feel 2 things at once. Meaning that when you are feeling self doubt, there is hardly any room for feeling brave. I am sure you can understand that.
Her advice was that when you perform acts of service or help others, there is no space to feel the self doubt.
I thought about that deeply. It is so true. No matter how I feel, when I serve others, it makes me brave and my self doubt evaporates.
I love nothing more than meeting a new client in my studio and listening deeply to not only her stories, but the words she chooses. I listen with my eyes to her body language and listen with my fingers as I touch muscles and movement. When I am working with my clients, there is no room for self doubt or feelings of failure because I am completely engaged in serving another.
Feelings of failure and self doubt won’t ever stop, no matter how successful you become. But this is a powerful strategy to deal with them.
2. It costs nothing to be kind
Both when my husband left and the immediate aftermath of WHFS15 I experienced enormous kindness by others. People who I knew and those I didn’t, went out of their way to support me personally through a difficult time. They were patient with my tears and listened to my fears. They gave me time and support to pick myself up again. Thank you.
And when I did experience unkind people, and you do, it further re-affirmed how I wanted to live my life. This does not mean that you have to become a door mat and let people take advantage of you… but life presents endless opportunities to do things for others that cost only thoughtfulness.
Through these experiences I have learnt that it really pays off to make regular deposits into the United Bank of Kindness, because you never know when you are going to be in need to make a big withdrawal (in the video I got this mixed-up and said deposit… but I think you know what I mean).
3. It’s not failure if you are realising your purpose in life
However, I know my worst day following my passion is better than any day that I am not.
Creating the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit, has been a natural progression in following my passion and realising my mission. And I am unashamedly on a mission to create change on how women are routinely assessed and trained in the Fitness Industry. I am on a mission to establish protocols that would see fitness and allied health collaborate to create better health and wellness outcomes.
And I firmly believe that the world will catch up to this idea and that Australia has the opportunity to lead the way. The Good News is that I am not alone in thinking this, and even better, it is not rocket science to create change.
But it does initially require curiosity.
And questioning how we have always done things, allows us the space to imagine how it can be different.
Ask yourself these questions:
- If you are a fitness professional – have you questioned your text books? Have you questioned the research that has been conducted on fit and healthy young men and packaged up as your Fitness Qualification? Have you wondered if these training methods may not be 100% suited to your female clients? Especially when they are pregnant, postnatal, peri-menopausal through to post menopausal?
- If you are an Allied Health Professional – have you questioned how you can reach more women with your messages and valuable services? Have you wondered about how you can support more women to remain active for longer periods of their lives, without harming themselves?
- Have you recognised initiatives such as Pelvic Floor First and the other resources that have been used and admired by other countries? Have you ever wondered that with even further leadership and collaboration we could (continue) to be world leaders in women’s health and fitness?
That is what this year’s Women’s Health and Fitness Summit is about:
An opportunity to re-design the landscape of women’s health and fitness in Australia.
And to lead this questioning, I am thrilled to announce our opening panel – a diverse collection of thought leaders:
Our Opening Panel will be moderated by the witty and worldly Moderator is the seriously fabulous Marietta Mehanni:
And I will be joining this diverse group of leaders:
Join us. Not just for the Opening, but the whole event to add your voice to ours. Book today.
If you enjoyed this blog… you might also enjoy these:
This blog (above) features Jessica Drummond *Presenter Connect*